Friday, June 10, 2016

How To Best Use Your Vote In The New Senate System

This piece is written to provide advice on the best way voters can use their vote effectively in the new Senate system.  Many regular readers of the site will already be aware of many of the points below.  I hope the main part of the post will also be useful, however, for those who want to know what advice to give less politically engaged (or more easily confused) voters.  I will vote below the line and number every square under the new system, and I'm sure many other readers will too (at least in the smaller states!), but not everyone is up for that.

Under the old Senate system, you had a very simple choice.  You could vote for a party above the line and your vote would be distributed according to your party's registered ticket, or you could vote for candidates below the line, in which case you knew you had to number nearly all the squares or your vote would not be counted.

That old system has been scrapped.  Voting all the way below the line for sometimes 100+ candidates was too difficult, confusing or time consuming for most voters, and above-the-line voting was being gamed by micro-party preference deals that meant most voters would have no idea what their vote would actually do.  Not only that, but problems with this system meant that the loss of a small number of votes in WA caused the whole WA Senate election to have to be re-run at massive cost.



The new system brings much more freedom - your preference will never go to a given party or candidate under this system unless you actively choose to send it there, so you have complete control over where your vote goes.  This is a fantastic thing, but it's still going to take some getting used to. If you vote carelessly, you might end up helping a party you can't stand beat one you are merely disappointed by.  This guide tells you how to avoid that.

On the Senate voting paper you will be asked to either number at least six parties above the line or at least twelve candidates below.  Here I give some answers to the sorts of questions people are asking or likely to ask about the system.  At the bottom there is a section on tactical voting for advanced players only.  The vast majority of readers should stop when they get to that point.

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Should I vote above the line or below the line?

You should vote below the line if any of the following apply:

1. You wish to vote for a range of candidates across party lines, rather than just putting all the parties in order of preference.  You might be the sort of person who will really like some candidates from a given party and really dislike others, or you might want to preference candidates with a certain background or who you know, whatever party they're running for.

2. You are happy to keep your vote within party lines, but you want to put the candidates for some parties you vote for in a different order to the order their party lists them in.  For instance you like a party but think it should have put someone else on the top of its ticket.  Or you detest a particular candidate and strongly want to put them absolutely last, even if it means numbering three times as many boxes.

3. You wish to vote for an ungrouped candidate (an independent who does not have a party box above their name) or preference one or more ungrouped candidates higher than some other candidates or parties

If none of these apply, and you just want to put some or all of the parties in order of your choice without caring about specific candidates within those parties, then you should probably vote above the line.  It's easier.  And if you are mostly happy to just put parties in order but want to put a specific candidate last, you might want to consider whether it is really worth the effort if that candidate will be elected anyway.

If voting below the line, be extra careful with votes 1-6

If you vote below the line, you'll be asked to number 12 boxes and should ideally number more.  However, if voting below the line make really sure you have put one and only one candidate number 1, one and only one candidate number 2 (etc) up to 6.  If you omit any of the numbers 1-6 when voting below the line your vote won't count.  If you double any of the numbers 1-6 when voting below the line, your vote won't count.  If you make a mistake after number 6, however, your vote will still count up to the point where you made that mistake.  Remember, if you make a mistake while voting at a booth, you can ask for another ballot paper.  (Also, don't use zeros or negative numbers for candidates you dislike - this will cause your vote to not be counted.)

Be extra careful if you like to number a few boxes then number backwards from the bottom up.  It's very easy to skip a number then end up with two 5s.  If you like to do this sort of thing, best to practice at home first.

You might think this sounds simple.  It's amazing how many people still manage to stuff it up.

So I should just number 6 boxes above the line or 12 below?

You can, but I strongly encourage you to number more! Whether you are voting above the line or below the line, the more squares you number, the more powerful your vote becomes.

I've numbered, say, 23 boxes and I don't like any of the other parties/candidates.  Should I stop now?

You certainly can, but it's more effective to keep going.  One of the most important messages in the new system is that while you can stop when you run out of parties that you like, this may result in a candidate you strongly dislike beating a candidate who you think is the lesser evil.  Just voting for the parties you like and then stopping is not making the best use of your vote.

A lot of voters - especially a lot of idealistic left-wing voters - are a bit silly about this and worry that if they preference a party they dislike they may help it win.  Well yes, but your preference can only ever reach that party if the only other parties left in the contest are the ones you have preferenced behind it or not at all! If that's the case then someone from that list is going to win a seat, whether you decide to help the lesser evils beat the greater evils or not.

To make best use of your vote, you should only stop when one of the following happens:

1. You could not care less which of the remaining candidates wins (assuming that at least one is elected).
2. You so strongly dislike all the remaining candidates that you feel morally opposed to even helping them beat each other.
3. Although you actually dislike one of the remaining parties less than one or more of the others, you want to exhaust your vote in protest to encourage that party to listen to your concerns.  (To make your point effectively, I suggest you send that party a letter after the election telling them you did this, since they won't be able to work it out from your vote.)

Of course, some voters just "don't have the time" to number more than a few squares.  It's up to you whether voting effectively is a priority for you or not.  I'm just suggesting what you should do if it is.

I want to vote below the line for a candidate, and I want to put a certain party last, but I don't want to number 150 boxes.  Is 
there a shortcut?

Yes!  Bear in mind that with the exception of Labor, the Coalition, the Greens, and NXT in SA, the great majority of tickets have no chance at all of getting more than one seat in any given state.  So there is no need for you to send your preferences to all the candidates for every micro-party, just the lead candidate will do.  Make sure you still preference all candidates from the bigger parties if doing this though (except the party you are putting last.)

Can I vote above and below the line?

There is not much point in voting both above and below the line. Under the old system voters sometimes voted both above and below the line so that if they made a mistake below the line their vote above the line would still be counted.  This still applies, but it's so much easier to just make sure you don't make a mistake in the first six numbers if you vote below the line.

Also (and this is one to watch for when telling confused elderly relatives how to vote!) do not cast a vote that crosses the line (eg a 1 above the line, then a 2 below, then a 3 below, a 4 above etc).  At best this will cause your vote to exhaust very quickly and at worst it will not count at all.

This is all confusing! I just want to do what my party wants!

That's up to you.  If your party is popular and you are voting at a booth, your party will probably hand out how-to-vote cards that tell you how they suggest you vote in the Senate.  If you are voting for a little-known party, you may need to check their website to see what they recommend (if anything).

Be aware that it is possible your party will deal with parties you do not agree with and hence recommend you vote for someone who you would not actually like.  However, this is much less likely in the new system.

I've heard that I can just vote 1 above the line and stop and my vote will still be counted!

That's true, but only to a limited degree.  If you do this then your vote will only count for the party you've voted for.  Once all that party's candidates are elected or excluded, your vote will exhaust and will play no further role in the election.  It might make sense to vote this way (despite what the instructions say) if you only liked one party and couldn't care less about any of the others, but really if this is true you should learn more about the different parties.  You will almost certainly find some of them appeal to you more than others.

(Likewise, if the voter stops after filling six squares below the line, their vote will still count, but it will have reduced power.)

This party I've never heard of has a cool-sounding name.  Should I preference it?

That's up to you, but again I suggest being cautious about parties you don't know much about.  Their name may misrepresent what they are really on about, or some of their candidates may go off on a completely different track if they're elected.

If you don't have time to research parties before voting, then the best place to put parties you've never heard of is probably somewhere between the ones you moderately dislike and the ones you really cannot stand.  If you don't dislike any parties, best to put the ones you've never heard of at the end.

Do you have a video on this?

I don't, but the Vic-Tas branch of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia do.  I'm not associated with them, and I don't agree with all of it (they're very anti-above-the-line, but under the new system above-the-line voters have a greatly increased amount of control over their preferences, even if slightly less than below-the-line voters).  But on the whole it's OK and does at least explain why people should keep filling in boxes, and not just stop when they reach the minimum.

Are there tools to help planning my vote?

Depending on where you live, there will probably be a lot of parties on the Senate ballot, as a large number of micro-parties with no chance of winning have decided to run this time anyway.  (This may be a deliberate ploy by some of them to discourage you from voting below the line.)  If you want to vote below the line and go more or less all the way, you may want to prepare your ballot beforehand so you have something to take to the booth and copy.

It's taken a while at this election, but a few such sites have emerged:

Senate voting card creator
ClueyVoter
mysenatevote.org

These are sites where you can prepare your ballot firstly by rating parties and then ordering candidates within those parties.  I recommend the voting card creator site as the best I've so far seen.  The main advantage of ClueyVoter is that you can give the parties ratings to assist in sorting them, but ClueyVoter is also prone to assign numbers to parties you haven't preferenced, is not very user-friendly on candidate reordering, and above all else don't press the minimise preferences button!

If just planning to vote above the line, donkeyvotie.org has cheat-sheet preparation tools.  (It also has its own assessments of the parties, which I don't necessarily endorse, although quite a few of them are on the money.)

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That concludes the simple questions (but feel free to ask me more in comments).  On to the tricky, slightly naughty bit!  The bit below the line is rated Wonk Factor 3/5 and is mainly for serious election and voting system junkies.

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Tactical Voting

Disclaimer: If you have read this section and are not sure that you completely understand it, please ignore it and pretend you never read it.

Most voting systems are prone to tactical voting of some kind; indeed, in some it's necessary.  Under the first-past-the-post system in the UK it is often necessary for voters to vote tactically for their second or third preference party to ensure their vote isn't "wasted".  Our preferential system is much fairer than first-past-the-post, of course, but there are still ways of voting that can waste part of your vote's value, and ways to get around that if you want.

In this case I am not arguing that voters should vote tactically - I'm just explaining how they can do it if they want to.  The ethical decision involved (since voting tactically effectively reduces the value of other voters' votes) is up to them.

Here is a good example.  A voter really likes two candidates.  One is on top of a major party ticket, the other is in a lowly position and considered in danger of not winning.  They slightly prefer the first candidate, but might it actually be worth voting 1 for the second and 2 for the first instead?

Generally, the answer is yes, but only if not everyone does it, since if everyone did it then the first candidate wouldn't be so safe anymore.  However, it's a fact that not everyone will do it, and you can rely on the party vote being high enough at this election that top-of-the-ticket major party candidates in states will definitely win.

The one principle of tactical voting I recommend to those who really want to do it is do not vote 1 for any candidate who you know will get elected more or less straightaway.  Generally a strategic voter would therefore avoid a 1 vote for the first four major party candidates in a state, and in most states they'd avoid voting 1 for the top Greens candidate.  Voting below the line and starting at the bottom of your preferred party ticket - if you're a major party voter - is a common trick.  But another one is to vote 1 for the second candidate (just to be really safe) of an agreeable micro-party which has no chance of winning at all, and then number the rest of the squares as you would normally. (The possible downside of this method is that your originally preferred party misses out on a few dollars of public funding.  For people who think no parties should be funded, that's a benefit.)

You can also do this above-the-line if you want to, under the new system.  Instead of voting 1 for any party that will poll more than 7.7% of the primary vote, you can deliberately give your 1 vote to a micro-party with absolutely no hope of winning and your second preference to your preferred party (then continue numbering parties in order).    Your vote will flow at full value to the candidate from your party who is most likely to be fighting for the final seat.  However, this does get a bit risky, because if too many people do it and select the same obviously hopeless micro-party, that micro-party might someday actually win!

Here's the mechanics behind all this.  If you vote 1 for someone who is going to be elected right off the bat, you are giving them a vote they do not need.  A portion of your vote is in effect left behind with them when their surplus is passed on, and your ballot paper in effect carries on to other candidates at a reduced value.  (In some cases its value may be reduced to zero, through "loss due to fractions".)  However, your vote also slightly increases the total passed-on value of all your chosen candidate's other votes.  Effectively, 1 vote is still passed on, but instead of it being your vote at full value, it's a mishmash of your vote and bits of the vote of everyone else who voted for the same person.

This can make a big difference if you're voting across party lines.  In some cases, voting 1 for a very popular candidate and then 2 for someone from a different party could actually harm the candidate you put second! (Note: don't do this deliberately to try to harm an opposing candidate, since you can harm them more then by just voting as you normally would.)

Advanced players may like to engage in a form of preference-running in which they try to strategise their vote so that it never gets caught with anyone who is elected until right at the end, and stays in the hunt at full value.  It is actually really hard to pull this off, because multi-seat elections are so unpredictable.  It often involves making difficult decisions about whether you would rather be sure of your vote reaching a favoured candidate, or take some risk of it not doing so to greatly increase the chance of another candidate you like.  This sort of thing is so easy to misunderstand that I am not going to publicly give any advice on how to do it.

Those interested in some real examples of the principle I recommend should see this old Tasmanian Times article (wonk factor 4/5).  That article covers the Hare-Clark system as used in Tasmanian state elections.  There is a slight difference with the Senate system in that in the Senate, if your vote reaches someone who is elected with a quota at a later count, part of the value of your vote will be passed on (though often not very much).

40 comments:

  1. I follow Antony Green's blog pretty closely, and anytime anyone suggests a tactical vote there he's bluntly opposed. Can you respond specifically to that point of view? I'm considering voting tactically for my favoured party's second candidate over their first.

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  2. The Tasmanian Times article I link to above actually arose out of a debate with Antony so anyone who wants to can check out that debate at:

    http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/archer-wins-on-green-exhaust/show_comments#comments

    Antony is concerned that voters who try to anticipate how the count will go and who vote tactically on that basis will make mistakes. To a degree I share that concern and that is why I do not provide advice publicly on what I've referred to as "preference-running"; it's just too complex and people tend to grasp the basic principle then make mistakes. But on another level I don't agree, because there is one basic principle of tactical voting (as I've explained) that (i) is not rocket science to implement if you are an informed voter (ii) in cases can save a voter from unnecessarily hurting a candidate who they actually want to elect. In a "talkback radio" type situation I would generally not explain these things, but in a web format where there is room to explain issues at length I see no reason not to.

    I also think that the potential (and in cases need) for tactical voting is a weakness in the system and encourage looking for solutions that make it more difficult to achieve.

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  3. According to Anthony Green:
    With the new senate system if the end of the count, vacancies remain to be filled and no candidates remain to be excluded, then the remaining candidates that had the highest partial quotas at the start of the count are elected to the remaining vacancies. It is likely that at least one Senator in each state will be elected with less than a quota by this method.

    My question is, say you’re left-wing and following your advice, you vote tactically, voting 1 for the Greens party’s 2nd candidate and then vote 2 for say the ALP’s 6th candidate. In the event that the situation envisaged by Anthony occurs and Greens party’s 2nd candidate is one of the remaining unelected candidates, could your tactical voting then be a disadvantage because it has reduced the size of primary quota of the Greens party’s 1st candidate that is left over?

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    1. No. Presumably in this case the voter would have voted 1 for Greens #1 and 2 for Greens #2 if not voting tactically. In that case Greens #1 would have one more surplus vote. Most of their surplus will go to Greens #2, so it's probable Greens #2 will gain 1 more vote than if you didn't vote 1 for Greens #1. But in the situation where you vote 1 for Greens #2, Greens #2 is certain to get that extra vote, because you've given it to them directly.

      Also note my suggestion only relates to what someone does with their number 1 vote, and not preferences. So someone doing it for Greens #2 would more likely then vote down through the rest of the Greens ticket, then through the whole Labor ticket, etc.

      It doesn't ever matter if you *preference* someone who you know will be elected right at the start. Your preference never reaches them.

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  4. This is an interesting analysis but isn't it limited to philosophical rather than practical concerns? Surely the number of voters capable of voting tactically for the Senate is so minute that it would make no difference to electoral outcomes.

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    1. One never knows when a single vote might make the difference. :) That said the potential for a very small number of votes to decide a seat is much lower under this system than the old one.

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  5. Can you outline the scenario where a second preference harms a candidate?

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  6. The Tasmanian Times article linked in the final paragraph gives an example from the 2010 Tasmanian state election under Hare-Clark. Voters who voted 1 for a Liberal who got a quota and 2 for the leading Greens candidate in fact contributed almost nothing to that Greens candidate and more (indirectly) to his Liberal opponent, thus assisting the Liberal opponent to defeat him.

    It applies when most or at least many voters for the first candidate preference the second-preferenced candidate's ultimate opponent (who is typically from the same party as the first-preferenced candidate). The increase in preference values flowing down the party ticket from other voters outweighs the value of the preference flowing to the voter's second-preferenced candidate.

    It is only really an issue when voting across party lines.

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  7. Tactical voting is very useful in elections with not so many voters.

    The classic election in my experience was the USYD SRC. Potentially over 50 spots available and probably much less than a few thousand voters (I forget the actual number).

    The election had optional preferential quota. No above the line voting. The quota was, once again IDR, but something like 55 seems about right. Frequently the last spots were won by people with fourteen primary votes and often won by small percentages of a vote.

    How did you vote tactically?
    So many ways.

    Firstly the political groups distributed different how to votes in different areas. So more than one of their candidates got a decent primary vote. They also distributed complex preferential flows.

    The trick was to keep as many of your candidates in as possible in the hope that preferences would accumulate. The risk was very minimal as your top of the ticket candidate and Presidential candidate(usually not the same person) would usually hit quota anyway.

    How did you vote tactically as an individual?

    Vote for yourself if you were running. Even four or five primary votes might be enough to keep you in so just getting some less political friends to vote for you then preference whoever they liked (or better yet just the rest of your ticket) might do the job.

    How does this apply in actual Australian elections?

    Well one vote won't do much. Even one thousand not so much.

    But one good example is the Animal Justice Party in the Upper House in NSW. If you voted Green one then AJP 2 then in reality your vote flowed to the AJP.

    But if the AJP got knocked out then maybe if you preferred another party you like it would have flown there and maybe not based on them being knocked out as well.

    If you genuinely wanted more chance of getting let's say AJP and Greens elected then a few thousand Green voters voting AJP then Greens (and better yet Greens from the bottom of the ticket) would have a higher chance of getting both.

    The risk is that you are pulling votes off the Greens in particular the lower down candidates and raising the chance of say AJP and two Greens versus 3 Greens.

    I'm sure someone can actually do a mathematical proof of the best options.

    As it is your vote makes a small difference so you may as well vote strategically. Vote for you favourite but weakest candidate first and work your way back to your strongest. You are giving them a one in a million better chance.


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  8. Hi Kevin,

    I can follow your tactical advice, and see how it would work for someone starting at the bottom of a party list and working their way up for instance. However, it seems to me that at a DD election (and only a DD) there is a risk that by doing this the voter causes the No. 1 candidate for that party to miss being elected to two terms, i.e. they might be the 7th candidate elected rather than the 6th. Could you comment on this please?

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  9. Order of election in a DD does not necessarily determine who gets 6 year vs 3 year terms. In fact the Senate determines this itself. See http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/04/how-long-and-short-terms-are-allocated-after-a-double-dissolution.html

    The order of election starts with everyone who has a quota on the first ballot, eg suppose Liberal 5.2 quotas Labor 4.3 quotas Green 1.7 quotas Lambie 1.4 quotas. The order of election is 1 Liberal#1 2 Labor #1 3 Green#1 4 Lambie#1 5 Liberal#2 6 Labor #2 7 Liberal#3 etc. So what you mention won't stop a #1 candidate who gets a quota from being in the top 6. Conceivably it might however alter the order of election for the winners lower down.

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  10. Hi Dr Bonham,

    If a voter votes for one candidate in a party but not the others below the line, what happens to the remainder of that person's vote? Does it go to the rest of that party or does it just exhaust?

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  11. A vote below the line can flow as a preference only to those candidates the voter has numbered, and not to any unnumbered candidate whether they are in the same party or not. If a stage is reached where all preferences on a vote are for candidates who have been elected or excluded then the remaining value of the vote exhausts.

    If someone just votes 1 for a candidate below the line and does not give preferences to any other candidates at all then that vote is completely informal.

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  12. Dr Bonham,
    If a voter only votes for 1 candidate below the line, you say that makes the vote informal. If true, this is the most important piece of advice in your post. Please stress it more, as many voters will fall into this trap.

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  13. In the case of an SA seat where Labor has no realistic chance of winning, for example Pyne's seat, the optimal strategy for seeing the removal of the Liberal candidate would be to vote 1 NXT, 2 Labor. That way, the Labor elector's vote passes to NXT and contributes to the demise of the Liberal candidate. The logic behind this tactic is that only a proportion of Labor voters would do that, but enough to raise the NXT primary above the Labor primary. On the other hand, if all Labor voters voted 1 Labor, 2 NXT, Labor would finish above NXT on primaries, and the Liberal candidate would be returned. Please comment.

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  14. This thread is really about Senate voting including tactical voting, but as concerns Reps voting, you're quite correct. The Labor voter who just wants to get rid of the Liberal should tactically vote 1 NXT in the hope that Labor are excluded first, because Labor preferences will more reliably elect NXT than the other way around (unless Labor refuses to preference NXT, perhaps).

    Coalition voters in seats that NXT can win but Labor is not at all competitive in might try to counter this by voting 1 Labor 2 Coalition.

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    Replies
    1. Ya, this might just be a seat after the election which leads to numerous articles on tactical voting

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  15. Hi, I'm in a Territory where the two Senators have been ALP and LIB. I want to do the best with my vote to get a Green elected. There are 10 party groups and two ungrouped candidates. For each party there are 2 candidates. What is the best strategy to make sure my vote has the most impact in achieving my preferred outcome which is one ALP and one Green Senator

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  16. Under the old system the Greens sometimes threatened to bump off the Coalition for the second ACT Senate position but under the new system this is very much harder because the artificial preference flows that made it possible no longer exist. If the Coalition polls a primary vote in the low 30s or above, or can even get to 33 points with preferences from minor party voters putting them above Labor and the Greens, then they will win their seat no matter what and there is nothing anybody else can do about that.

    On the assumption that the Coalition vote might someday crash to well below that level, the optimal strategy for Labor and the Greens is to both be ahead of the Coalition when someone is excluded, and for neither party to have a big surplus on primaries. This means that tactical voters who are happy for either Labor or the Greens to win (and could not care less which) would probably most effectively vote for the Greens first and Labor second, to try to get the two left parties closer together and reduce the loss of votes on redistribution of the ALP surplus.

    It's not a big deal in either territory since the chance of the 1-1 major party split being changed any time soon seems very low.

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  17. Hi Kevin,
    Are official party preferences published anywhere?

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  18. They have no formal role in the new system so there is no reason for the AEC to publish them. There is nothing to stop a party issuing one card one day then another the next, or even the situation in Melbourne Ports where the candidate is handing out a card that his party doesn't endorse.

    It is common for parties to display how-to-vote cards on their website. The Liberals have theirs up (searchable by postcode), as do NXT; I can't find Labors or the Greens'.

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    1. So party preferences (above the line) are not automatically directed?

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    2. They are only directed down the lists of candidates for the specific parties you have preferenced. If you vote above the line, any party that you do not number can never receive your preference. If you vote below the line, any candidate who you do not number can never receive your preference. The How To Vote cards are just parties' advice to voters on how they should vote.

      Partly prompted by your question and the lack of any other online list I have written a piece listing many of the parties' recommended preference flows here:

      http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/list-of-senate-how-to-vote-card.html

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    3. So you are saying that above the line party preferences no longer apply?

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  19. Liberal https://www.liberal.org.au/how-to-vote
    Green https://greens.org.au/htv
    ALP ?????????????

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  20. A question about election funding. Suppose you tactically vote 1 for a party's 3rd or 4th candidate. If the party overall receives over the 4% quota, do they get funding from your vote, or do they only get funding for individual candidates who poll over 4% in the first round?

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    1. The former. The mark for the Senate is based on the total vote for a group calculated over the whole state or territory. For the Reps it is based on the vote by candidate in each individual electorate. See http://www.aec.gov.au/parties_and_representatives/public_funding/index.htm

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  21. Hi Kevin - I'm planning to number all the boxes above the line and would like to know whether in influencing the last few Senate eats to vote it is more effective to vote 1 for a major and then number my preferred parties 2 onwards, or whether I should be voting 1 to something for minors and then numbering my preferred major fairly highly?

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  22. Voting 1 for a micro-party that has no chance of winning is most effective (if you don't mind nobody getting public funding for your vote). After that even if you just put all the remaining parties in order of your preference (which might mean putting a major 2) you're still better off than if you voted 1 above the line for a major. As I mentioned some people try advanced tricks to try to keep their preference going as long as possible (Unachimba's method of ordering the parties you like from weakest to strongest is sometimes a good idea) but it really can be difficult to calculate correctly, and anyone who wants to try working this out for themselves is on their own so far as advice from me goes. :)

    It's worth bearing in mind that after the first count a major party will usually soon be reduced to one competitive candidate, except in Tasmania where there may be below-the-line rebellions going on. So in terms of thinking about a second preference, they're just another party unless you are confident about what sort of spare vote they will have after all the quotas they get at the start.

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    1. Thanks Kevin,

      So if I was to number 1 to 8 minor parties and then 9 my preferred major, will that hurt my preferred major's chances?

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    2. If they are minor parties that are all really uncompetitive then no. They will all just get excluded early in the count and your #9 vote will flow to your preferred major at full value if your preferred major is in the hunt for one of the final seats. If one of the minor parties is competitive for a seat however then the (remote) risk you take is that the minor party you have preferenced might outlast your preferred major party in the cutup. If you actually want that minor party to beat your preferred major party then that's fine. If not, I'd be very careful about it.

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  23. Thanks for this excellent detailed post.

    Pre-Polled today and it helped make up my mind to complete all the boxes (I was considering letting my vote exhaust after I'd voted for candidates I "like")


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  24. Ooh! I'm glad I keep referring back. I like drag and drop vote organisers better and hadn't seen that Finder one. http://www.donkeyvotie.org/ has a party only drag and drop voting tool, okay for above the line voters, that results in a two page print out (as well as an amusing party summary I don't entirely agree with). A friend made http://mysenatevote.org/, which is good for below the line and includes the independents. (There's a bit of a bug in the finder one if you vote ONLY for independents, I've discovered while playing with it.) It also prints to two pages, and in Qld at least, conveniently to fold your ballot in half and transcribe the first page, in a visually clear way. Cluey voter I've used in previous years just to do a preliminary sort into the five categories of two thumbs up, thumbs up, meh, thumbs down, two thumbs down, which is really useful. But the way the next page sets out is confusing to re order, and the print out runs to four awkward pages, so I have a tab with another voting tool ready. Glad to see the baton has been adequately passed from belowtheline and senate.io.

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  25. Thanks for the helpful post, Kevin.

    Last time around it was easy to access a 'true' sample ballot paper for Tasmania on the AEC website. This election they have only published an all states generic sample paper with fictitious candidates. As a below the line voter I find this less than ideal. The available candidates list is simply not as good for mentally mapping out my intended vote. Is there a true sample ballot somewhere online that I haven't found?

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  26. The nearest thing I'm aware of is that the Senate card voting creator site (the first one listed in the tools list above) will produce a simulation of the below-the-line portion, but it will only do so after you've selected a number of preferred parties from the side, and it doesn't let you play around with the numbers at that stage, nor does it all fit on one screen. The other sites I mentioned have similar drawbacks and don't display all the candidates across the page. The clueyvoter one displays all the candidates in ballot order in two rows, so there's the option of picking a random selection of candidates, clicking "minimise preferences" and then manually deleting all the numbers it's put in to get a blank form. However neither of them prints anything that looks that much like the ballot paper - clueyvoter gives you the ballot paper in two rows and it would be possible to print it and then cut out and re-tape bits of it to get something that actually looks like one.

    If I remember, I'll suggest that the AEC restore the sample ballot paper at the next batch of JSCEM hearings. I expect they were so busy this time that a number of possible extra service items got overlooked.

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  27. Hi Kevin,

    Any chance of you doing a post like this for the upcoming ACT election? The intricacies of the Hare-Clark system here are lost on me, and no doubt many others. For example, a former independent minister is urging people to stop preferencing before they get to candidates they dislike so they don't help those folks get elected. I've no idea if this is smart or not...

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  28. I'm busy this week on remote fieldwork - I might have some time to cover ACT if there is a poll to interpret, but perhaps not otherwise. The advice for ACT as concerns numbering few vs many boxes is the same - the more boxes you number the more powerful your vote. Your vote can never help a candidate you dislike beat one you have numbered higher.

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    1. Thanks Kevin, I spread your advice around the traps!

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