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The White Hat Guide to

Voting Below The Line

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The White Hat Newsletter

This short article was first published in The White Hat Melbourne Newsletter - Edition 596 of 9th August 2013

White Hat’s Guide to

The Joys of Preferential Voting

Election time again and if I’m not mistaken you, dear reader, look to me like a below-the-line voter. You’re part of a diminishing band but you recognise it is up to us to keep the faltering flame of democracy alight and I admire the way you approach that sacred task.

The Lower House

OK, you’ve got all the how to vote cards (not that anyone’s going to tell YOU how to vote) and your voting forms, so off to the booth. Remember the system you’ve worked out and this should be a cinch - only 9 candidates in the lower house. Firstly you’re not impressed with either of the major parties at the moment, but in this electorate you know that one of them is going to get in. Send them a message by putting the less worse 2nd last and the worse one last. As for the minor parties, you’re not impressed with them either, and you don’t want it to be seen that their preferences determined the outcome in this seat, so they’ve got to go pretty low down the list. That’s another message you can send and still using just the one vote.

In fact you’ve decided to put the least popular candidate first followed by the second least likely character and so on. That way when the votes are counted you’ll end up on the smallest pile and they’ll have to count your 2nd preference. When that’s done, you’ll be on the new smallest pile and they’ll have to count your third preference. By the time they’re finished they’ll have counted your vote 7 times. It’s still only one vote but at least they’ve had to take notice of your opinion 7 times. Even if there’s a clear winner without allocation of preferences, they still have to go though the procedure afterwards and later publish the two party preferred results which means it’s still important to think through your preferences.

In fact it was only last weekend at a wedding reception you were explaining to the guests on your table that ’two party preferred’ didn’t refer to the two major parties like many people think, (although it works out that way most times), but to the two left standing at the end of preferences, and one of those parties might be an independent and not a party, and wasn’t that fascinating, but you noticed that the fascination level was somewhat low which you put down to their short attention spans.

___________________  White Hat  ___________________

Back with a fresh ballot paper. You thought you had your preferences worked out, but then you remembered the public funding implications. As usual your electorate has the usual smattering of crazies who you had just put at the top of your list. But then you remembered your first preference counts towards their public funding - in fact you looked it up it was $2.49 per first preference and the tinfoil hat brihade is not getting your $2.49 that easily. And as for the Legalise All Drugs candidate, your first preference might tip him over the 4% mark where he’d get his $2,000 deposit back and we all know what he’d spend that on. Time to promote some of the middle players up the order. Ban Apple Imports from New Zealand - that sounds harmless enough, although you’d think they could have come with a few more items of fruit so that they didn’t sound like a single issue party. At least the woman with the purple spiked hair handing out how-to-vote cards could come up with at least 17 things she was against without drawing breath - no single issue there. So here's the revised strategy - the harmless-but-hopeless followed by the loonies then the minor parties then the major parties.

It’s just as well somebody is prepared to think through the implications of their vote.

___________________  White Hat  ___________________

Back with a fresh ballot paper. You thought you had it sorted until you remembered something else. Gee, those queues are getting long out there. You’d think they’d put on more staff. Your partner has finished and is standing with arms folded and foot tapping waiting to leave but Peter Lalor didn’t lose his arm just so that people could mindlessly tick a few boxes and head off for coffee. You see, having double checked your preferences, you found they matched exactly with one of the how-to-vote cards, and you don’t want people thinking you mindlessly copied their prescription. You just have to juggle a couple of numbers but the clerk at the desk wouldn’t let you keep your old form so you had to work it out again, but now you think you’ve got it just about right and with only three forms which is a new record for you.

Now for the Senate . . .

The Senate

The lower house was pretty easy and you only had to go back for a new form twice. But voting below the line for the Senate is what separates the sheep from the goats - the sheep vote above the line while the . . . But maybe it’s not sheep and goats, although looking at the queue out there in the schoolyard waiting to vote, it’s pretty hard to spot a third category. Anyway here you are and you need time to survey the task ahead.

97 candidates in 40 columns. That will sort out who is a serious voter and who isn’t. Look at this list of wanabees. You’ve seen a number of them in action and you’re pretty sure that they couldn’t even count to 97. They certainly couldn’t if they were a graduate of this school judging by what you saw in the corridors - touchy-feely stuff where the right answer to arithmetic questions are determined by brainstorming followed by consensus and what you feel inside yourself - the Enlightenment being dismantled brick by brick. So let’s see what’s on offer.

Ah at least some things don’t change - this lot is back again ,meaning word hasn’t filtered through yet that the Berlin Wall has fallen. And the atheists, God bless ’em. And the fairies at the bottom of the garden party - where would we be without them? And the monarchists - although they’ve never really been able to accept a woman as a monarch - they’d probably prefer George the Third. Given the choices at this election that’s probably what they’ll end up with. Then there’s the live-organically-and -harm-no-living-creature party - they’re the ones who did a preference deal with the shooters party. Let’s see - where have they hidden the Opus Dei candidate - there’s always an Opus Dei candidate - where are the Freemasons when you need them? And the sex party - you’ll put them at 69.

Time to get started. Favourite candidates first then work your way through - there - all done - it’s so satisfying to put in the last number 95. 95? It’s supposed to be 97. You must have made a mistake somewhere along the way. Better go back and get another ballot paper. So here we go - 1, 2, 3, 4 ...

___________________  White Hat  ___________________

Back with a new ballot paper and you realised you had taken the wrong approach. You don’t really approve of any of the offerings so you should be starting at 97 and working back. You know that preference 97 will never be counted but it will be worth it for the look on the scrutineer’s face when they see their revered candidate placed bottom on a pile of 97. That can send a bigger message than who you put at number 1. Time to remind yourself of the candidates again. Ah yes - you start humming your way through the ballot paper. ’The people’s flag is deepest red’, ’Land of hope and glory’, ’Free beer for all the wharfies when the red revolution comes’, ’Kumbuya my Lord’, ’Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay’ - what’s that? No singing in the ballot box? Show me the section in the constitution that says that? Alright, you’ll keep it down a bit.

Those queues are getting long out there. At least it gives them time to work through their preferences. Let’s get started. 97, 96 all the way through to 3. 3? You must have made another mistake. Back for another ballot paper.

___________________  White Hat  ___________________

Back with a new ballot paper and you’ve got it sorted this time. Those queues are getting really long, you think they’d put on more staff. This time you’re going to go 1, 2, 3 as well as 97, 96, 95 and you’ll meet in the middle. You’ve even got the party order sorted into a song

Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay
I hugged a tree today
Free beer for all today
God save the Queen

Just marry who you please
And filter online sleaze
My uncle’s dog’s got fleas
Maintain the rage

Alright, alright, you’ll keep it down a bit and besides your uncle’s dog isn’t running for the senate but if it was you’d put it about number 5 - probably number 1 if it wasn’t for the fleas. So here we go - 1, 2 - 97, 96... You hope they disinfected this hall before polling day - you don’t know what the live-organically-and-harm-no-living-creature party’s policy is on head lice but you’re sure as hell going to bring out the chemicals as soon as you get home. 34, 35 - 76, 75. You know that you can also vote above the line and if your below the line vote doesn’t work out then the above the line bit would be counted instead - 43, 44 - 53, 52 - but if people voted mindlessly above the line who knows what ragbag of senators we might end up with.


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