Each State and Territory elects multiple Senators using a preferential voting system. Each State has twelve Senate positions with six year terms and each territory has two Senate positions with three year terms.
At a Half-Senate Federal election only six of the twelve Senate positions for each state become vacant, but all Territory Senate positions become vacant. At a Full-Senate election, following a double dissolution as in 2016, all Senate positions become vacant.
1. The best way to get good government is to elect the right people in the Senate, regardless of which party wins government in the House of Representatives.
There are two ways to complete your Senate ballot paper validly:
a. Above The Line Voting
You must number at least 6 boxes, but we strongly recommend numbering at least 80% of the boxes, above the line in order of your preference; starting with '1' for your first preference and then in order of preference until all boxes are marked. This means you choose the order of the Parties and accept the preference order in which each Party has listed its Candidates.
b. Below The Line Voting
You must number at least 12 boxes, but we strongly recommend numbering at least 80% of the boxes, below the line in order of your preference, starting with '1' for your first preference and then in order of preference until all boxes are marked. This means you choose the order of the Candidates to give you maximum control of your preferences.
- Whether you vote Above or Below The Line, we strongly recommend numbering at least 80% of those boxes because, if we don’t, there are high risks that:
- Our votes will fragment. Our votes fragment when different good people vote for different good Parties or Candidates; but that can result in few or no good candidates being elected. But if we number at least 80% of boxes, it is far more likely to result in more good candidates being elected. It also makes it harder for Parties and Candidates with bad policies to win.
- Your vote will exhaust. A vote exhausts when all the Parties or Candidates you have marked drop out of the race, so your vote has nowhere else to go and so has no say whatsoever in the election of the last Senator. That means part of your vote has been wasted.
- It is safer to number every box. Why? If you leave blank boxes, your vote can easily be made informal, i.e. made useless, by an unscrupulous person marking one or more extra 1’s on you ballot paper.
2. Most voters take the quick and easy option of numbering 1-6 parties above the line when completing their Senate ballot paper. This has high risk of fragmentation and exhaustion as explained above.
3. It is far better to number at least 80% of the boxes above the line, even better to number all.
4. Best of all is to number every box below the line, but that is difficult and risks making mistakes.
There is a very important condition… Whether you vote above or below the line, make sure you get the numbers of your preferences right. While the AEC has ways of minimising the impact of an incorrectly numbered ballot, there is an impact that reduces the preference you intended.
No matter which party wins government (in the House of Representatives) the Senate’s composition will be crucial to shaping the future - so please vote wisely.