Be an informed voter (part 2)

In the first part, I pointed you in the direction of information about how the voting system works, but you were not yet able to find out exactly who you could vote for. Now all of the ballot papers are finalised so this post is about where you can get information on the candidates you can vote for.
All of the voting info is available at the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC),
in particular you can find out about the location of polling places, how to do pre-poll votes (you can vote earlier if busy on polling day) and information on the ballot papers for both houses. For ballot paper information I’d recommend the ABC as a better source as the information is set out a little better.

While the press largely focuses on who will be PM, there is much more to it than that. You will elect a local member and some state senators. Who your local member is will have an effect on who forms Government and hence who the PM is, but you need to weigh up various factors beyond just the personality of the PM – what do you think of your prospective local member, what do you think of their parties policies. The Senate is another matter again, many people do not necessarily vote for the same party in both houses. Be aware of the role of the Senate and consider your options. On top of that, remember that you are choosing preferences, not just one candidate, while your choice of number 1 is always important (in particular it determines public funding for candidates), your other preferences may also be important and require serious consideration. Below I address each of the two houses separately:

The House of Representatives

To see you HoR ballot paper you’ll need to know your electorate (do that here). Once you know your electorate then you can go here to Antony Green’s election guide and look at the details. In particular you can see all of the candidates for your electorate, the number of candidates varies between 3 and 11 depending on which one you’re in. There is some candidate info provided there, but not necessarily for all candidates. If you want to know about the other candidates you can try an internet search for them or their party (if they have one). Also look out for info in your letterbox, and watch out for any public forums that take place in your electorate. If you’re not sure of who to vote for then a public forum can be a great way to meet the candidates and here them speak. Keep an eye out in your local paper for any that are advertised. While you should be concerned about what the candidate is like as an individual, also keep in mind that if they represent a party then this will give a very strong indication of how they will vote in parliament so party policy is also important. You may have a candidate who you like as a person, but choose not to vote for them because you disagree with the party policy they are bound to support, or on the other hand you may vote for a candidate without knowing much about them personally just because you want to support their party. If you want to know more about a particular candidate try to contact them directly – the AEC has contact details for all candidates. Remember that you need to rank all candidates in order of preference, so it’s not enough to pick just your favourite, you need to have some idea of what you think of each one. Often this will just be a matter of what you think of their party, and in most cases there are only two likely winners, so you may not be too bothered about who the rest are.

The Senate

To find your candidates for the Senate you just need to know which state or territory you are in rather than a local electorate. Each state will elect 6 senators, and each territory elects 2. Once again Antony Green has the details. In particular note which Senators are continuing (and hence not up for re-election) so you’re not confused when you can’t vote for one you like, or put one you don’t like last. There is a list of all of the Senate candidates for your state and their party affiliations. You’ll see many more parties represented than in the lower house, so you may want to do some research to find out who they all are. Just as in the HoR, when voting you are giving preferences to all candidates, but in the Senate you have the option of an above the line vote, where you number just one party or grouping above the line, and your preferences are allocated according to the preference ticket they have submitted to the AEC. You can see all of the preference tickets here. These can give also give an idea of which parties are similar to others, but you do have to be careful inferring too much from these preferences as sometimes parties make deals which do not necessarily reflect their political philosophies. Who is preferenced last is probably a more reliable indicator than who is preferenced first.

If you want to allocate your own preferences below the line there are a couple of sites that help you plan this in advance (a better idea than trying to work it out on the spot), they are and I strongly recommend reading Antony Green’s comments on these in this post as well.

If you want to gain a better understanding of how preference flows work then you can play around with Antony Green’s Senate Calculator.

One reply

  1. […] Next you need to decide who to vote for, while of course you may already know of a candidate or party you wish to vote for, or have some idea of how your preferences will go for the larger parties, you don’t yet know exactly who will appear on each of the ballot papers you will fill in on election day since the election has not been called and the candidates have not officially nominated – so I’ll return to this in part 2 later on. (UPDATE – part 2 now available) […]

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