Climate Independents and Preferences

(artwork Deirdre Jack)

When promoting climate independents one of the main questions from those rusted on to the major parties is where are your preferences are going? And then whether they are eventually directed to the ALP or the LNP, they are immediately attacked by the other side. There are a number of solutions to this problem. The first is not to issue any ‘how to vote cards’ (htvc) at all, but a major implication of this is that the candidate has little support in the electorate. Another is to issue a card asking for the primary vote and then suggesting that voters arrange the order of their own preferences (image) as I did in the 2014 state election, but widespread support of volunteers at the booths is still needed. A third is to issue a split ticket for voters of the two major parties.

The way a candidate allocates preferences depends specifically on their strategy. The aim should be to get as many first preferences from those normally voting for the major parties. Giving preferences to opposition candidates may be self-defeating (except in very safe seats) as it may turn away otherwise sympathetic voters. It is essential that the independent candidate polls well in primaries and must be in the first three candidates, preferably one or two, and if third on the list a very close one. The second aspect of the strategy is that preferences must be very tight and hopefully the candidate is preferenced before the majors. As it appears that coalition seats are the most vulnerable to climate independent in the coming election this means they will need the preferences of the ALP and the Greens.

Having said all that it is surprising how many Australians do not understand the preferential voting system. At the pre-poll booth in Bairnsdale in 2014 a young voter approached the Conservative incumbent and enthusiastically endorsed him. On returning some time later from the polling booth he stated that he had voted for him “but didn’t vote for any of the other bastards though” – a very amusing informal vote. On another occasion, a farmer acquaintance indicated that he had put me second after the incumbent, little realising that, for me, it may as well have been last.

Ruth McGowan in Get Elected noted that “Love it or hate it, you need to get a handle on preferencing if you want to get elected” and “Preferencing deals are an important campaign tactic which can make or break your chance of getting elected. Ultimately, if you have a high number of first preference votes, backed by a preference flow in your favour of second and third votes you can get over the line…”

A htvc indicates to the elector that you are a serious candidate and are worth considering for their first preference. In a recent blog on competing Indies in the electorate of Hughes I suggested that one of the candidates should drop out before the election but, if not, it is essential that they swap preferences. As someone recently pointed out on twitter the htvcs don’t decide how you vote – you do.