Editorial - Diving into the preference pool: your choice

You've done the sausage sizzle, negotiated the scrum of party volunteers handing out the how-to-vote cards, stood in line to have your name ticked off and now you're in the booth. You're alone with two sheets of paper and a pen or pencil stub attached to the booth with a string (can't be too careful these days).

Voting is a straightforward process. You make a choice, you register it on the ballot paper and your vote, along with those of your fellow citizens, contributes to the make-up of the next parliament. Every vote counts.

It's the fraught business of preferences, however, that seems to cause the most confusion, yet should be the simplest part of the business: you choose.

Social media lately has been full of questions from people wanting to know where the parties are directing their preferences. The short answer is that you, not the parties, choose your preferences.

The parties will recommend a direction of preferences based on their prior discussions with other parties or independent candidates. These recommendations will be on the how-to-vote cards. However, you don't have to follow these recommendations if you want to direct your second, third or subsequent preferences elsewhere.

The small green ballot form is for the House of Representatives. In Eden-Monaro we have eight candidates, representing Labor, Liberal, Greens, Nationals, Christian Democrats, United Australia and two independents. For your vote to count, you must number every box, with your first choice at Number 1, and then sequentially to eight.

The Senate paper is the large white paper. The party names are across the top above the line, while under the line are the names of the individual candidates for the Senate. For your vote to count, you must number either a minimum of six boxes above the line, if you wish to vote for parties; or a minimum of 12 boxes below the line if you wish to vote for individual candidates.

You can choose to follow the preference recommendations of the party or candidate receiving your Number 1 vote, or you can choose to direct preferences as you feel appropriate.

The order in which the candidates and parties appear on the ballot form was determined by an independent ballot draw.

  • Read more on voting and candidates via the Australian Electoral Commission: aec.gov.au