How to vote in the Senate in 2016

Some people are confused about the new senate voting rules, this post gives a simple summary of how to vote – it’s actually easier than ever – and then follows up with much more behind the scenes detail on how it actually works for those who are interested.
While I personally advocate a vote for the Greens, the information in this post is neutral in that it equally applies regardless of who you want to vote for.

1. Basic Voting Instructions

The ballot paper will say to number at least 1 to 6 groups (essentially parties) above the line, or at least 1 to 12 candidates below the line. This is the very simplest description of what to do, either write in number 1,2,3,4,5,6 in boxes above the line, or 1,2,…,11,12 in boxes below the line, or more if you like.

You can see what the paper looks like here, along with the electoral commission’s instructions

These are just the technical requirements, but how should you actually vote based on what you think of the candidates or parties?

The first thing is do you want to vote for parties or candidates. If your choices are purely along party lines (which is perfectly reasonable) in the following ways:

  • You want to vote for party A, then B, then C and so on.
  • You are happy with the order of candidates within each party group

then voting above the line is the best options for you.

On the other hand if you want to order your preferences across party lines, for example you like one candidate from party A best, but your second favourite is from party B, or else you want to rearrange the order within a party group, for example you prefer the third candidate for party A to the first one and want to put them first, then you should vote below the line where you directly select candidates.

The next thing to consider is that you are selecting preferences. This is different to selecting which candidates you like, you may have preferences amongst candidates you don’t like that much but it can be important to express them. The best way to vote is to order as many parties or candidates as possible in such a way that you would always prefer a particular candidate to everyone else below them in your list.

Thus your list may include people you don’t particularly want to be elected, but who you would prefer to some other candidate. This is what your vote should be, you should number every one of these preferences on your ballot. The more candidates you can meaningfully give a preference for, in the sense that you know enough about them to know you prefer them to some other candidate, the better. This ensures that your vote counts as much as possible. It is quite likely that most of these preferences will never be counted, but by voting in this way, you’re not talking any risks, whatever happens in the count your vote will still be counting in a way that supports your genuine preferences.

Update: Immediately after posting this, I found that Antony Green has just posted a guide on Senate voting

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Preference Deal Reality Check

Repost of a comment I made at the Guardian re the press repeating Labor claims of a preference deal without evidence. I don’t know anything of what’s going on within the parties, but I’d like some actual evidence of a preference deal before I start considering the implications of it, many in the press don’t really feel this way though:

So what do we actually know? Kroger has talked about preferencing the Greens ahead of Labor. This is because every election the Liberals hand out how to votes with a full preference ticket, so they need to decide who is last between Labor and Greens. It was an easy choice for them when Labor were the only realistic chance of winning the seat but since Greens started winning seats it has been a vexed issue for the Liberals, particularly in Victoria, and in the past they have gone either way. None of this has anything to do with deals, they are going to put one before the other anyway, and they put Greens above Labor without a deal in 2010 and Labor above Greens without a deal in 2013.

Labor have used this to claim that the Liberals and Greens have done a deal, seemingly a continuation of their strategy of claiming the Greens are close to the Liberals for voting with them occasionally even though the Greens vote with them far less than anybody else in parliament. It’s a win-win strategy for Labor though, either Liberals preference them above Greens and they get the preferences, or Liberals preference Greens above Labor and they claim that they were right there was a deal and try to win votes off that. All of this can happen in the absence of anyone doing any deals at all, especially when the press plays along.

And the press do appear to be reporting this without question. The Greens have said there is no deal. As far as I know nobody in the Liberals has said there is a deal, they have just talked about who they will preference. Has anybody asked Labor for evidence of this deal? If Kroger is supposedly dealing with someone has anyone asked who he is dealing with?

In addition, it is worth remembering that the only preferences that now count are those written on the ballot by the voter themselves anyway.

Countering the smears against Richard Di Natale

As a new election approaches I’ve noticed a number of comments in comment threads of articles and Facebook posts attacking the Greens leader Richard Di Natale. Typically they accuse him of not really being Green or of being right wing or secretly in league with the Liberals. None of these accusations stand up to any scrutiny, but they are clearly part of a campaign to discredit him and drive votes away from the Greens. Let’s take a look at why these claims don’t add up.

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How to get rid of the two party system

It’s quite common to see people complain about the two party system in Australian politics and wish we could get rid of it. The good news is that we can, and that is because our voting system is not actually a two party voting system at all, the two-party aspect is just an artifact of the way most people choose to vote. The way to get rid of then is easy – vote for somebody else.

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