The NSW state elections use the optional preferential system. That means who you put second (third or fourth etc) on your ballot paper – especially if you put no-one second – can decide who wins a marginal seat (a seat that only needs a small number of voters to change sides) such as our local seats of Ballina, Lismore, and Tweed.
How you preference on the ballot paper can mean the difference between the party you want getting elected (or at least your second choice getting in) – or handing the seat to your least-preferred party.
Who you vote for first, that is who you mark as number one on your ticket, is your primary vote. The first round of counting looks at everyone’s first (primary) vote. For example, let’s look at the seat of Lismore in the last election.
Breaking it down
Primary vote distribution: The Nationals: 19,975; The Greens: 12,435; Country Labor: 12,056.
If you assume that most Country Labor and Greens voters would like the other party to get in as their second choice, then their combined primary votes would have been 24,491, significantly outstripping the Nationals with only 19,975.
So if preferencing is so important, then why didn’t either the Greens or Labor win the seat of Lismore? The answer is that they didn’t swap preferences. They didn’t encourage their voters to put each other second (or third etc) on their ballots.
If at least half of the Greens voters or half of Country Labor voters had preferenced the other’s candidate, then one of them would have won the seat of Lismore. By not filling in your next preferences (putting a number two or three on your ballot paper) the vote dies. Well, the technical term is it expires – but basically it is thrown in the bin. It is only those ballot papers that have that next preference marked that stay ‘alive’ and are passed on to the remaining candidates in the race.
The seat of Tweed also played out much the same way as the seat of Lismore. While the combined total of Labor and Green votes outstripped the National Party, the lack of preferencing between Labor and Greens led to the defeat of both parties and the Nationals retaining the seat.
Now is the time to get your voice heard on issues that are important, so get enrolled to vote before Monday March 4 and let your candidates know what will influence you to vote for them.