It’s election time again in Victoria. Early polling has already started, and the main event is on Saturday, the 29th of November. As well as voting for Lower House candidates, Victorians will also be asked to vote for what can be called “the House of Review” or Upper House.
Most Victorians will vote above the line on the Legislative Council ballot, but many people don’t know that voting below the line is easier at State level because you only need to fill in five boxes to have your vote count.
Ballot papers for the Upper House (both at state and federal level) have famously been difficult to navigate in recent years; the ballot paper at the last federal election was a metre long and difficult to handle, with nearly 80 candidates listed, and although this was perhaps the longest ballot paper ever, it wasn’t a new problem. To make the voting process easier, a above/below the line system had been introduced. This means that the voter is able to put a 1 in the box of their preferred party, indicating that the party’s wishes for the ordering of the candidates would be their wishes too.
This has lead to ‘back-room deals’ where different political parties agree to direct preferences to each other in a confusing web of deals. Subsequently, candidates from fringe parties have found themselves in parliament, perhaps even having a deciding vote on key issues, without the public knowing that they have in fact voted for them by voting above the line.
Why do people let the party decide their preferences? Why do people vote above the line? Well, with 80 boxes to fill in, and any mistakes rendering the ballot invalid, plus the fact that voting is compulsory in Australia and thus needs to be fairly quick and simple so that everyone can vote, it’s clear that voting above the line looks more appealing.
The good news is that in the Victorian State Elections, only FIVE boxes need to be numbered below the line for the vote to count. (https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/Voting/StateElections.html.) So spread the news, and vote below the line.