In South Australia we are 1 week away from a state election, as usual I’ve noticed the question “Who are you giving your prefences to” asked of candidates and will no doubt get the question when handing out how to vote cards on election day.
The problem is there is no easy answer to that question. If the person is asking it of a lower house candidate then it doesn’t make sense because they do not allocate preferences. As in federal elections, to cast a formal vote the voter must number all boxes themselves (* slight disclaimer below), candidates or parties have no say in what happens to your preference apart from giving recommendations on how to vote cards which you are free to ignore.
If the question is about the upper house then there is still no sensible answer. The most accurate answer I could give is that everyone preferences everyone else because they are required to by law. This is not a helpful answer but that’s because the question is not clear. How else could you answer? You could say who is next on your preference list after your own candidates, but is this really what they want to know? Quite often the very next candidate is already eliminated by the time your preference is distributed anyway. Instead it could be who is higher out of Labor or Liberal, but this might not be helpful either, perhaps another candidate who does have a realistic chance of being elected is higher then both of those in your list. You could try to just give the order of candidates who might be elected but this is impossible, as we saw in the federal election it is impossible to predict who might have a realistic chance of being elected.
So here is what you need to know about preferences:
- In the lower house a formal vote requires you to fill in all preferences yourself, in which case nobody else will allocate your preferences in any way.
- In the upper house you can either allocate preferences to all candidates yourself (this site could help www.clueyvoter.com/) or you can vote for a party or group above the line meaning your preferences are distributed according to their ticket. You are choosing to let someone allocate your preferences.
- The preference tickets are not secret. They are available right now, Antony Green has posted them here www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-03/sa-group-voting-tickets/5294444.
- My recommendation is to decide who you want to vote for in the upper house, and look at their preference ticket. If you agree with it then there is no problem voting above the line. If not, then choose your own preference. Don’t try to predict who is likely to win or where your preference will end up, this is impossible and unnecessary, and advantage of a preferential system is that you are free to put who you like in the order your like without having to predict their chances of winning.
- You can see examples of how preferences work with Antony Green’s calculator www.abc.net.au/news/sa-election-2014/legislative-council/
Finally some examples – what happened to your vote in the 2010 election if you voted above the line? These aren’t necessarily indicative of what will happen this election, they mostly show that preference flows actually did very little at that election.
If you voted Green – your vote elected Green candidate Tammy Franks and then a very small surplus helped to elect Dignity for the Disabled candidate Kelly Vincent over a Liberal candidate (though the Greens surplus was so small as to not really make a difference at this point.)
If you Voted Labor – Your vote helped elect the top 4 Labor candidates and the surplus put Kelly Vincent ahead of the Liberals for the last spot.
If you Voted Liberal – Your vote helped elect the top 4 Liberal candidates and was not distributed any further.
If you voted for Dignity for the Disabled – your vote elected their top candidate at the last stage so no preferences were distributed.
If you voted Family First – Your vote elected their top candidate, a very tiny surplus was distributed to Dignity For the Disabled though they would easily have beaten the liberals for the last spot anyway due to ALP preferences.
If you voted Nationals – your candidate was excluded, your vote moved on to Fair Land Tax party, and when they were excluded it passed to the liberals and was with them when they lost the final spot.
In 2010 Nick Xenophon did not run a group in the state election, however his 2006 result is of interest. His vote was high enough to elect both himself and Anne Bressington, and with a left over quota which looked to put him in the running for a third candidate for a while. In the end his ticket votes were exhausted in the final race between his third candidate and the Greens’ Mark Parnell. Note that Xenophon himself is not contesting this election as he quit his seat to run for the Senate instead, but he is supporting John Darley who replaced him. He is not supporting Bressington who he got elected in 2006 and she is not running for re-election.
Where are ticket votes likely to end up this time? Keeping in mind that accurate predictions are impossible I can still outline some possible outcomes.
Greens – most likely to be used in the attempt to re-elect Mark Parnell. Chances are if he isn’t re-elected it would be at the last stage and your preference would not be distributed, if he is re-elected a distributed surplus is likely to be very small and would most likely go to Dignity for Disabilty (DfD), Xenophon Team or perhaps Labor (at which point it would likely be them against Liberals or Family First).
Labor – It’s very hard to predict how many preference might be distributed from a major party vote, but after elected a number of Labor candidate any Labor preferences would help the Greens and if distributed further could end up with DfD or Family First (i.e. the could conceivably help FF beat Xenophon or Liberal candidate for a spot). With the majors there’s always a fair chance that the preference won’t be distributed at all as well, it can end up in a losing battle for the last spot.
Liberal – once again hard to know how big an effect the preferences will have and there is good chance the preferences will not be distributed at all as in 2010 but if they are they are most likely to elect Family First, with Palmer United and Xenophon Group as other possibilities.
Xenophon – I have no idea what sort of vote the Xenophon group is likely to get without the man himself as a candidate, but due to their split ticket any preferences are likely to help DfD, and then even split between Labor and Liberal if they flow beyond there. If you want to vote Xenophon and you strongly prefer one of Labor or Liberal to the other, or someone else to both of those then a vote below the line would be recommended.
Family First – If preferences flow they could help Palmer United, and most likely would end up with the Liberals if they go any further. They do filter through a lot of right wing microparties on the way though so if there is any big preference harvest (a la Sports or Motor Enthusiasts in the Senate election) then the FF vote could play a big part in it.
Dignity for Disability – If they get elected they won’t have much surplus, but if they fall short I expect they would have a big preference flow that could decide one of the last positions, in which case they are most likely to help Greens, Xenophon, or Labor (in that order so they would help Greens in Greens vs Labor, or Labor in Labor vs Liberal and so on).
Palmer United – prefences are most likely to flow to FF or Lib, though also a number of micro parties such as Shooter & Fishers could benefit.
Shooters & Fishers – Filters through every small party there is but likely to end up with FF or finally the Libs if they are up against Lab or Green at a late stage in the count.
Fishing & Lifestyle – presumably for people who like fishing but not so into shooting. Prefences go straight to Family First. Could end up with DfD or Libs at a later stage.
Multicultural Party – Don’t know much about them, like many micros their preferences go through lots of others so could get caught up in a preference harvest, otherwise likely to end up with DfD or FF. In fight between the bigger parties their preferences end up with Labor (i.e they would support them against Greens or Libs).
For all the others I’ll point out their top amongst the most likely to win spots (based on who has won previously and done well in recent Federal election) – ALP, Lib, Green, Xenophon, FF, DfD, Palmer. Also I’ll show who they have last, i.e. a ticket vote for them means any of the other big parties will be supported against the last one, and I’ll show who they’d support between ALP vs Lib
F.R.E.E Australia Party – top FF, bottom X, Lib
Liberal Democratic – top DfD, bottom Greens, Lib
Stop Population Growth – top Greens, bottom ALP/Lib, ALP/Lib (split ticket)
Nationals – top FF, bottom Greens, Lib
Katter – top FF, bottom Greens, Lib
Joseph Masika – top DfD, bottom X, Lib
Environment Education Disability – their preferences are complicated with lots of lower candidates on party tickets placed higher, I think the top leading candidate is Green, last Palmer, their ALP & Lib prefs are mixed around amongst individual candidates to the extent that you can’t really say who they’d support, it depends on which individual candidates would be left in the count.
Powerful Communities – top Greens, bottom FF, ALP
No Domestic Violence- top ALP, bottom Palmer, ALP
Legal Voluntary Euthanasia – top ALP, bottom FF, ALP
Mark Aldridge Alliance – top Palmer, bottom X, Lib (slightly mixed up between individual candidates but favouring Lib)
Animal Justice – top Green, bottom X, ALP
Your Voice Matters – top DfD, bottom X, ALP/Lib split
* technical point: as I understand it SA elections differ slightly from federal ones in that candidates are required to submit preference tickets for the lower house which are used to save votes which would otherwise be informal by not numbering enough boxes. If you follow the instructions and submit a formal vote this can have no effect on you whatsoever.