Voting below the line in the Senate gives you control over how your preferences are directed. A new free online tool can make numbering all 86 candidate less daunting.
So the election is looming (or for political tragics, election junkies and sufferers of other similar maladies "2 more sleeps") and I have been informed of the most amazing website to assist you with voting in the Senate, which I thought I'd share with you www.belowtheline.org.au.
As you will recall from elections past, the Senate ballot paper is a massive sheet of paper that could double as a tablecloth albeit not a particularly attractive one. You can either vote above the line marking a "1" next to your preferred party or vote below the line and number all the boxes.
Most people vote above the line because it's a real hassle to number all the boxes below the line and no-one can possibly know all the details of all the parties in contest to be able to order to priority of preferences.
Even if you vote 1 for say the Liberals, they will still be direct preferences to all the candidates below the line according to their preferred order of priority (with the Liberal candidates naturally getting priority over others).
When you vote above the line the party determines the ordering of candidate preferences below the line, but when you vote below the line you determine the order of preferences.
It is better to vote below the line for several reasons:
You are able to control where your preferences are going rather than rely on the preference deals cooked up by the parties especially when many of those deals run contrary to the main political philosophy of the party you're voting for.
You will lower (though not completely eliminate) the probability of complete nut-cases being elected. For example, in the 2004 election Steve Fielding, from Family First, got a senate seat because Labor did a deal with Family First by way of preference allocation (i.e. Family First was put ahead of many others including the Greens in Victoria). If you don't know who Steve Fielding is then you have probably been spared the great misfortune of having to endure his irrational and unprincipled contributions to Australian political life during the life of the last parliament. If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Fielding I check out this piece at Crikey.
You are fully exercising your democratic right rather than out-sourcing it to the parties (remember - when you put a one for say the Greens, Liberals, Australian Sex Party or whoever else above the line they determine who gets the preference votes rather than you).
You select who you'd vote for above the line and it shows you the preference allocation for all candidates who have nominated for the Senate and which has been registered by that party.
By law each party must lodge their Senate preference allocations to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) prior to polling day and rather than you going to the AEC website and working out the preference deals this website has done it for you.
If you like the preference allocations of your preferred party, great, then just vote above the line.
If, as is more likely, you like some but not the whole order of preferences then this website allows you to play around with the ordering of the allocations, and once you are satisfied with the ordering you can print off the ballot which will show exactly how each party below the line is to be numbered as if it were the actual ballot paper (don't worry it can be printed in A4). Simply print it off and take it with you to vote and copy the numbering.
Whilst you may not know all the candidates below the line what this website allows you to do is check whether preferences are being directed in the order you'd be comfortable with.
So for example, if you want to vote Labor but your second preference is the Greens, and you find that Labor has preferenced other candidates ahead of the Greens that you do not wish to allocate your preferences to, you can change the ordering so that the Greens are higher up the list. Similarly you may want to vote Liberal, but not agree with their party allocated preferences, then you can us ethis website to figure how you want to vote below the line.
Or if you want to vote for the Greens, but you see that they have directed preferences to say a group whose philosophies you oppose ahead of other non-communist aligned candidates whose philosophies you prefer, then you can re-order the order of preferences accordingly. The same applies if you want to vote for another one of the smaller parties or an Independent candidate.