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Council Election explainer – Preferences – what they are, how they work, how you can vote tactically

Nov 27, 2021


We go to the polls on December 4 – so just a week away, though many have already voted at the pre-poll booths – to elect 12 councillors to Hawkesbury Council.


Preferences are often seen as a confusing and complicated black art, with groups and parties saying they are giving their preferences to other groups.


How does his work, and what do you need to know?


First thing is this – you control where your vote goes, but you need to vote accordingly.


Here’s how – to be elected, a candidate has to meet a quota of votes. In other words, enough votes to get them over the line to get a position on Council. Any ‘extra’ votes over that flow to the next person in their group.


If that next person fails to meet their quota of votes (and this is often the case for independent groups, not so much for the majors Labor and Liberal) and you haven’t made a second choice of group, then your vote is not passed on.


But, if you have marked your second, third or even fourth choice of group, or more – your preferences – then your vote can flow to those choices.


It might mean, for example, that you vote for Group 1, 2, 3 and 4, and if other voters also do that, because of the flow of preferences one person from each of those groups ends up on Council, so giving a broad range of members.


If you’re keen to get a spread of independents on Council, for example, that’s probably the best way to do it.


But if you just want one of the majors in with a majority then you would just vote for them and not give any other preferences – which is what they would like you to do, of course.


So the best way to maximise your vote, if you like, is to mark your second and third choices of groups, if you’re voting above the line.


Why do groups make preference suggestions, if it’s the voter’s choice?


Because most groups want to encourage people to mark their second and third choices, giving them a chance – they may be like-minded, as is broadly the case with independent councillors currently – and it also allows you to maximise your vote.


Ultimately it is up to you – if you just vote for one group, then your vote only goes to that group.


If you number more groups – in other words you have filled in your second and third choices and so on – your vote can flow on to them and give a broader range of councillors.


If you vote below the line – for individual candidates – you need to vote for a minimum of 6 candidates but if none of those 6 get in (they don’t reach the quota) then your vote exhausts.


It’s well worth taking a look at this video councillor Nathan Zamprogno has put together on this very subject. It’s not about him or his group – well, only briefly at the end – but it does give a really good overview of why and how you can maximise your vote.


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