Plan out your vote with this how-to-vote tool


We’ve now got one more week before election day and a few people have been asking me for advice about how to plan out their preferences in the Senate.

There are a few dozen columns on the Senate ballot in the bigger states, and even more boxes if you choose to vote below the line. It’s no longer necessary to number every box for your vote to count (6 above the line or 12 below the line is sufficient) but it’s always a good idea to number more boxes. And the more boxes you number the greater the risk that you’ll miss a number or double up on a number, and your vote would end right there.

Luckily there is a tool you can use to plan out your vote, producing instructions on how to vote fill in your own ballot.

The tool has been made by Tom Clement of Geeklections and you can access it here.

The first step involves picking where you stand on a political compass. All the parties running in the Senate are also marked on this compass, although you can adjust them if you think they belong somewhere else.

You then select your state and it will generate a list of parties in order. You can choose to just get a list of major parties or minor parties only. The former would be useful if you want your vote to have a lot of impact without having to number many boxes. Tom appears to have defined major parties as those which won a seat in 2016 (so no Fraser Anning, but yes to Jacqui Lambie).

Then you can drag and drop the parties if you want to modify the order at all. This would be particularly relevant if you want to change your first preference.

Finally, the tool will generate a PDF showing which numbers to put in which boxes, in ballot order. You can choose to either vote below or above the line. If you vote above the line you won’t be able to vote for ungrouped candidates. If you vote below the line you can choose to vote “tactically” which basically means numbering groups from the bottom to top. This will mean if you vote for a group which receives more than a quota of the primary vote your vote won’t be absorbed to elect the candidates at the start of the candidate, and will remain wholly available to the candidate still in the final rounds of the count. It’s not likely to be a significant effect.

The tool doesn’t let you manually reorder candidates within a party column for your below the line vote, but you could put together a below-the-line HTV and manually swap two of the numbers if there was a particular person you wanted to vote for or preference.

Personally I recommend that most voters stick to above-the-line voting. Below-the-line voting is only relevant if you want to reorder the candidates within a particular party group. This is relevant for the handful of senators trying to win despite an unwinnable ranking, but otherwise it’s not going to matter. Below-the-line voting used to be the only way you could control your own preferences but above-the-line numbering now lets you have total control of inter-party preferences.

But with so many parties to preference above the line, a voter who wants to number a lot of boxes could use the help to make sure their vote does exactly what they want, and for that purpose I recommend this tool.

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  1. I plan my vote on a piece of paper before I leave home and write down how I actually voted and to who. I always vote below the line.

  2. By placing Sustainable Australia next to One Nation on his ‘vote compass’ Tom Clements has uncritically swallowed the Sydney Green’s smears whole. If you check their policies they should be positioned much closer to the centre. William Bourke took part in the anti-Adani convey to Cleremont. Hardly the actions of a far right extremist.

  3. I voted above the line alp/ greens….. then up to 7 for the science party… nothing to libs/ palmer/ hanson/ conservatives etc and nothing to the trot left

  4. I think it needs an explanation of how the parties are placed, which would make it easier for the less-informed user to reposition them if they assess some differently. Anything like this will always have disagreements about how parties are placed but some in this case seem highly subjective. It’s a clever idea.

  5. I agree with Nick and really it should offer their own political test to see roughly how you fall according to their criteria rather than just letting you place yourself.

  6. Graham Askey – why are you surprised that a party that is anti-immigration would have a problem with giving the OK to an Indian mining company? But beyond that, you can be far-right environmentalist (it’s called Ecofascism).

    That isn’t to say that Sustainable Australia is necessarily placed correctly, but your argument for why they should be central isn’t an accurate one.

  7. The ACT card is weird – no version of it lists preferences for Anthony Pesec. Also only numbers to 7 below the line (just doing top candidates after the party I’m closest to.)

  8. Where they place Sustainable Australia anx Pirate Party left me scratching my head. Katter needs to be shifted more economically left as well.

  9. Its a great idea but some of the placements make no sense. To place economic nationalist parties like ONP and FAC, which support protectionism and restrictions on the market (such as foreign investment), to the economic right of the LNP is crazy. And Sustainable Australia should be placed considerably left of centre as their main policies are to “stop overdevelopment”, reduce immigration and to measure GDP by quality of life rather than a by purely economic indicators. The Greens should be placed to the right of SAP economically as they are strong supporters of “Big Australia”, which is one of the core agendas of the business lobby.

  10. Economic left/right isn’t measured by big Australia vs small Australia. It’s one dimension of it, but one that is more philosophical than determinative of left-right political fractures. There are socialists who believe in a globalising world, and monied right-wingers who are (one only has to look to the Brexiteer wing of the Tory Party). We are somewhat seeing a blowback against economic liberalisation, but it’s not at the forefront of the political debate, especially not the development and immigration side of it.

    Hanson is about as economically right as the Coalition, if not more so. She has generally been a reliable vote for the Coalition’s economic agenda (tax cuts etc), and she has not made greater provision of services, redistribution etc part of her agenda.

    Some of the placements are off (the big cluster at the top-left, for instance) as well as some of the minor parties, but it’s more error in details rather the systematic issue that you suggest.

  11. Queensland Observer –

    Where do you think the Pirates ought to be placed?

    IMHO the chart doesn’t differentiate the Pirates on the issues that matter to them because for it’s secondary axis it’s gone for progressive/conservative rather than libertarian/authoritarian.

  12. The far left of the horizontal axis is wrong on my opinion for the Pirate Party. I guess how you view their income tax reform (setting an income level where everything below receives 30 cents per the dollar of the gap in welfare while everything above pays 30 cents tax in each dollar) and removal of of welfare payments influences whete you place them.

    Mind you these things are simplified in many ways. Sure the Greens are progressive on euthanasia abortion marriage drugs but they an authoritarian on guns and gambling and junk food.

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