Category Archives: Politics

Voting Advice For The 2018 SA Election

The voting system has changed (for the better in my opinion), so I want to give a quick post with my recommendations for voting. This post is about how to vote regardless of who you want to vote for, I plan to write another later with my thoughts on who to vote for. That said, I will declare here that I support the Greens so you’re free to decide on any potential bias in what follows.
Also, the electoral commission have lots of info on the election, you can find it here

House of Assembly (Green Paper)

Voting in the lower house is unchanged, you number all of the boxes in order of preference. Remember that when you do so you expressing preferences, so that means you would like 1 best, and then 2 you would prefer in a contest against anyone below 2, 3 against anyone below 3 and so on. It doesn’t matter that you are indicating preferences for candidates you don’t particularly like since your vote can only count for them against someone you like even less. If it comes down to this then it is because most of the other people in your electorate like these candidates, there is nothing you can do about that.

My recommendation is to find out as much as possible about all of the candidates in your electorate. There is some information on the ABC website and you can do further searching like party websites, or candidate facebook pages. You are an adult in a democracy, and regardless of what you do somebody is going to be elected to represent you in parliament, so you should take the small trouble of finding out about the candidates and putting some thought into your vote.

Due to preferential voting you do not have to decide who is likely to win or just choose one of the candidates you think is most popular. If you choose a candidate who is not popular and gets eliminated then your vote will move on to your next preference who is still in the contest and you still get a say.

Generally I recommend against strategic voting – voting in any way other than your genuine preference order to try and get a better outcome – since it usually doesn’t work. The reason it might work is that the preferential system can be sensitive to order of elimination of candidates, this doesn’t really happen in most single member electorate contests in Australian politics because there are two clear leading candidates but in a three cornered contest it becomes more of an issue. Consider a hypothetical seat with 100 voters where the A gets 40, B  32 and C 28. Then as long as 11 or more out of the C voters put A second, then A wins. Now suppose 3 B voters change  to C, so we have A still on 40, C 31 and B 29. Now B is eliminated, but as long as 19 or more of them put C 2nd, then C wins.

What’s going on here is that if your priority is for a certain candidate to lose rather than another to win, you can potentially engineer this by not voting for your favourite candidate. The problem is, it required knowledge of how everyone will vote, so can just as easily backfire. Given that there are likely some three cornered contests in this election then people might try it, but given the general unpredictability (and unreliable nature of electorate level polling) then my advice is to vote for who you like in the order you like them.

One further comment is that you will have noticed some candidates more than others, for example they might have a lot more signs on Stobie poles. Yes this is a sign that they are putting in effort, but it is also usually a sign of who has the most money and possibly who cheated by putting up their signs early before the poll was declared, so I don’t think it is a good proxy for how good a candidate is (but I make the comment because I did see a number of comments about the recent Tasmanian election to this effect).

Legislative Council (white paper)

This is the one which has changed, but the changes are very similar to those for the last federal election so it shouldn’t be too complicated.

If you want to vote for parties then you can vote above the line. This means that your vote will count for candidates for each party in the order in which the party lists them (it’s right there on the ballot so you can see it). It also means that your vote counts for all the candidates for your first party, then all of those for your second and so on. This is a perfectly good way of voting for many people.

There are basically two situations where a below the line vote is better for you

  • You disagree with the party order. For example you like Party A’s 4th candidate best and want to preference them ahead of the first three. Or you want to leave out one of them entirely, you like Party B except you can’t stand their 3rd candidate and don’t want to preference them.
  • You want to vote across party lines. For example your first preference is from Party A and your second is from party B.

In these cases you can vote for individual candidates below the line, and you must vote for at least 12.

Either way, it is actually best to vote for as many candidates as possible. Above the line you can vote for just one party but I think this is bad because your vote is very likely to exhaust and you get no further say. I recommend not just putting preferences for the parties or candidates you like, but for every one which you prefer to another. Letting your vote exhaust when you still have a genuine preference can only lead to the same or a worse outcome for you – never better.

Suppose there is a party which you really don’t want to get elected. Then if your vote exhausts and it comes down to them or someone else, you are no longer in the count and your vote is not there to help stop them. I have written much more about that in regard to the last senate election and also generally about the benefits of full preferential voting.

A good example is the last senate election in Tasmania, there was only about 140 votes between the Greens and One Nation for the last spot (or at least there was before the count was completely changed by some candidates getting caught out on citizenship issues). I would bet that most voters would have a preference one  way or the other for these very different candidates, but many did not get a say because they did not put enough preferences and let their votes exhaust.

Preference Deals

There has been a bit of fuss about preference deals in the papers, this is all a bit silly and nothing to worry about because

only preferences you write on your ballot paper count

The only deals relate to what recommendations parties are putting on their how to vote cards. The only way these count for anything is if you copy down what is on a how to vote. Otherwise the parties have no control over your preferences. There used to be group voting tickets – meaning that if you voted above the line then your vote would count for preferences determined by parties (though even these were public and not secret), this is no longer the case. Even if you vote above the line your vote only counts for the parties you yourself vote for, but this is why it is important to put in as many preferences as possible above the line to make sure your vote does not exhaust.


What Happened In The Senate?

It was my intention to write a post reviewing the outcome of the Senate election once it was finalised, and I may still post about some particular features if they are under discussion, especially if Labor keeps up their ridiculous opposition to the new voting system and continue to blame it for everything (before the election it was going to lock out minor parties and after the election it is responsible for them getting elected!), but otherwise I don’t see much point because Dr Kevin Bonham has written an absolutely superb review of the results of the new senate voting system, covering everything I wanted to say and a whole lot more, and a lot better than I would have, so I just want to point interested people in that direction.

Part 1:

Part 2:

New Senate Terms

It’s really too early to be talking about this, but there has been a bit of talk about it and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion so I wanted to try and clarify the current situation.

Firstly, there is already a great post on this by Antony Green, however being written a while ago it doesn’t cover the actual results of the election. It is here

We are still well short of having the full results of the Senate. So far we just have counts of number 1 votes, and even these are well short of being complete, many are around 60% of the electorate. This is enough for us to know which candidates have a guaranteed quota but we know very little about preferences, especially as this is the first election under this system. Kevin Bonham has an informative post on the state of the count here

There is interest for a couple of main reasons

  • Derryn Hinch has raised the issue
  • Many are wondering whether Pauline Hanson will have a 3 or 6 year term.

Unfortunately an article on the ABC website to answer questions on this actually made some misleading statements and incorrectly claimed that a certain method was advantageous to the major parties – a claim which is demonstrably untrue.

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The Major Parties Do Not Win Because Of Preferences

The purpose of this post is to explain why a common misconception about voting is actually false. The heading is rather general, and by certain interpretations not necessarily true, so I will start by clarifying what I mean precisely. Firstly by “major party” in this post I mean Labor or the Coalition. When I say they don’t win on preferences, I mean that collectively, in the sense that most seats are won by one or the other of them. It happens quite often that preferences will decide which of them will win, but I am saying that preferences are not making it inevitable that one of Labor or the Coalition will win.

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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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