It's time to myth bust the misconceptions about Australia's preferential voting system and whether a vote for a minor party will count.
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Fast facts: Preferential voting
How it's structured: There are many ways preferential voting can be structured. In Australia, as per the Australian Electoral Commission, for our Federal elections, a voter must mark a preference for every candidate on the green ballot paper (House of Representatives) and mark a preference for a designated number of preferences on the white ballot paper (Senate).
House of Reps: To win a seat in the House of Representatives, a candidate must receive an absolute majority (more than 50 per cent) of the vote. If no candidate receives this in the first count, the person with the least number of votes drops out and their ballots are transferred on the basis of the second preference on their ballot papers, to the surviving candidates. This continues until one candidate achieves an absolute majority, ensuring every vote counts. Here's an AEC fact sheet that shows you how the House of Reps election works.
Senate: It's complicated. There are 76 senators, 12 from each state and two each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory — but, only half come up for election at any one time unless there is a double dissolution, when the whole Senate is dissolved. That has only happened seven times since 1901. In 2022, it's a Half-Senate election. So, each state or territory elects multiple senators and to get a Senate seat, you need to to win a quota — a set proportion of the electorate’s votes in your State. This is known as proportional representation. Here's an AEC fact sheet that shows you how the Senate election works.
Sting in the tail: Now the bane of major parties because of the opportunity it offers independent candidates and minor parties to influence an outcome, preferential voting was introduced federally in 1918 by a Conservative prime minister Billy Hughes as a way to allow the Country Party to run competing conservative candidates without cannibalising the overall Conservative vote.