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Vote 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and maybe even 6

If you're like me, and have some sort of knowledge of politics, you vote. I do know (since primary school) that in Australia we use what we call preferential voting. In all honesty, I've always struggled to explain how it works. I'm sure I've previously understood and forgotten how it works, but this time I think it'll stick.

Its more commonly known as Instant Runoff Voting, and clicking on that link provides a pretty good run-down on how it all works.

To save you some clicking time, here's a quick explanation:

When you vote, you get don't just put an X in a box next to a name. You rank the candidates from 1 (winnar!) to however many there are (today there were 6 ... losar!).

When it comes to count up the votes, they first count up all the "1" votes. If one candidate doesn't get 50% + 1 vote (ie over 50%), they get rid of the candidate who got the least amount of votes. Thats where everyone's "2" votes come in. They get added to the "1" votes, and then if one candidate has 50% + 1 vote, then that candidate is the winner. If not, go back and add on the "3" votes. Confusing? Maybe. Click on the link. It'll tell you more.

Here's a couple of excerpts from the article:
"In Australia, the only nation with a long record of using IRV for the election of legislative bodies ... If the first preferences of Australian voters were counted on a First Past the Post basis, their elections would produce the same victors about 94% of the time."

Ever hear of political parties doing "preference deals"? Ever wonder how this works (seeing as how the voter places preferences, not a political party)?

"... in Australia parties even issue 'how-to-vote' cards to the electorate before polling day ... These kinds of recommendations can increase the influence of party leaderships and lead to a form of pre-election bargaining, in which smaller parties bid to have key planks of their platforms included in those of the major parties by means of 'preference deals'."

So, in case you missed that, it means that a preference deal is a smaller party getting their policies included into a larger parties by promising to put the larger party higher on their How-to-vote card. As in, the card given to you as you enter the polling booth. Thats it. Thats a preference deal. * See edit for more info

Righto, thats the House of Representatives in Australia. But what about the Senate? How the hell do they figure out who gets elected where? I can't remember anything about it. It's worth looking up. As far as I know, there are a certain number of Senate seats for each state and territory in Australia. That and half the senate seats are up for election every six years. I asked Paul and even he couldn't provide a straight answer. He did, however make a good joke, but I can't remember it now.

I had to actually show Jess to get her to understand how insanely long (and ultimately, wasteful) the Senate ballot paper is in Australia. Over the course of the last few elections, it has been getting steadily longer, until now it reaches from halfway up the wall of the voting booth, across the flat surface, and halfway up the other wall. On this 4' of paper most people will just put a single "1" for the political party of their choice.

If you're out to be annoying to the counting people (like I did at the last election) you can go through and number each candidate from 1 to infinity. Last election there were 49. I lost count and had to get a new ballot paper.

The Australian senate uses the "Single Transferrable Vote" system. I would dearly love to be able to explain how this works, but this post is already too long and the Wikipedia page linked to above explains it a whole lot better than I ever could. (This page has a concise explanation of how the voting works)

If your brain is now fried from all this voting nonsense, just remember ... there's nothing on TV except vote counting on every channel ... and radio is not much better. Go get some movies or turn on your Xbox/Wii/PS3.

Good night and good luck!

Edit: If you've been keeping an eye on the vote counting, you can see how preferences can make a massive difference to an election. There are plenty of seats where one party is losing on the primary vote, but on preferences are actually winning. In the case of Labor, a lot of these preference wins are coming from a deal they struck with The Greens political party to get their preferences. This means when someone votes 1 for Greens, they are voting 2 for Labor. Just thought I'd let you know. You can go back to Star Wars now.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2007 10:22 am (UTC)
i numbered 1 - 65 today. just to be difficult.
Nov. 24th, 2007 12:01 pm (UTC)
Haha nice one. If you were watching little Johnny's concession speech, he almost shed a tear at the end when he practically conceded his own seat.

Something the media hounds were quick to point out "would make him only the second member of Parliament in Australian political history to lose his incumbent seat as Prime Minister".

I also wanted to include stuff on double dissolution, but that really complicates things.

It'd be nice to have a glossary of terms to understand what the media talks about in regards to politics sometimes.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Steve P

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