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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Will you be throwing your vote in the bin?

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Who wins or loses local marginal seats during the NSW state elections is in your hands – or rather in the way you preference your vote.

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.

Vote death

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.

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  1. Slightly more than 50% of Green voters did preference Labor which was why the count was so close on the night when the notional TPP was Nats/ALP. But it would have still been not quite enough. It was the Labor voters who were more remiss with less than 40% preferencing the Greens. Hence the eventual easy win for the Nats.
    This time Greg Bennett’s name on the ballot promises the same loss by ‘exhaustion’ problem for the Nats.

  2. The same happened in Tweed, with Labor gaining the second highest vote after the Nat’s.
    Many Greens only voted 1 and no preferences flowed on, allowing the National party to just scrape over the line even with a 18.5% swing against the Nat’s. The Greens and Labor must number all boxes and preference each other.
    The vote swing against the Nat’s in Lismore was 21.5% but the Labor and Greens did not exchange preferences they split the progressive vote.
    We cannot allow the Nat’s to fluke anymore wins! Even National party ex-members and voters have a campaign against the party, “Anyone but the Nat’s!
    But do not be complacent every single vote counts, they are in Govt in a position of power, with one of the most corrupted medias in the world protecting them.
    And remember the Labor party needs 47 seats in Parliament to stop the LNP.
    Only the Labor party can do that. The Greens can only ever gain a few seats they cannot form Govt and defeat the LNP on the floor of Parliament, that is what this is all about!
    I took time to see and hear Daley speak in Tweed on Monday and found him exceptionally well spoken and on top of the problems regional NSW face after 8 wasted years of the LNP!

    • Authorised by whom on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, Tweed?

      And I don’t know how anyone could describe the Greens as “progressive”. Their polices are straight out of the Whole Earth Catalogue c.1970. Not for them the 21st century EV buses that can run from one end of the Northern Rivers and back on a single charge of 100% renewable power, and go where people want to travel but a return to trains on the Northern Rivers line. Since no electric train can run more off the grid for more than few kms, that means a return to dirty diesel trains; trains that would run at best half empty because the younger population along the corridor has shown it is not interested in using public transport, and the train does not go where public transport users want to go.

      And which century are the Greens living in that that they are not interested in active recreation, transport and tourism? They have not put forward any proposals for funding to support walking and cycling in our region and are doing what they can to block the key investment to support the new economy servicing active tourism – the rail trial.

      Labor candidates have plans for investment in real public transport and large funding increase earmarked for active transport; Nationals in our area have shown they can deliver on active infrastructure and better bus services. Both are unequivocally committed to our roads as the way most of us travel through the region. If you care about public and active transport, and care about our roads, choose as you will from the two larger parties, but make sure you preference the Greens last.

      Authorised by me on behalf of all of us committed to public and active transport!

  3. You are wrong about the Greens and Labor not campaigning for preference exchange. There was a very loud campaign to “number every square and put the Nats last” and despite this the exhaustion rate was still high. Part of the problem was electoral commission staff telling voters at the last moment as they handed them the ballot paper, “you only need to number one” this advice helped the Nats.

  4. A Green Catalogue is very positive. Briefly – for Lismore I’ve found:

    They put the Earth first / Coal & Gas is out
    Stand for reviving the Richmond River
    Stand for ‘river to sea management’
    Will develop a comprehensive public transport system
    Will stop ‘water mining’
    Will ‘re-envision the CBD’
    Stop logging
    Will transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030
    Will renew libraries [double funded] over 4 years
    Tackle ‘Climate Change’/ Promote Social Justice
    Vote in ‘Music’/ non-violence / no strip searches etc.

    Grassroots Democracy does work. This shortlist says some of it..


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