After what’s felt like the longest campaign in history, it’s finally time to cast your vote for the 2022 federal election.
The fierce battle between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese has come to a close after 40 days of ruthless campaigning, massive spending promises, and plenty of fiery moments.
The hotly contested election has the Labor and Liberal parties neck and neck in some seats, while in others, popular Independents are getting ready to nab a spot on Canberra’s Capital Hill.
With a big shakeup to both the Senate and the House of Representatives predicted, it’s important to make sure your vote counts.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese (left) and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) are gunning for the top job
On voting day
You’ll need to show up to a polling place between 8am and 6pm on May 21 to cast your vote.
The Australian Electoral Commission has a good website where you can check exactly where your closest polling booth is.
And don’t forget to double check what level of sausage sizzle supply your local booth offers, with the Democracy Sausage website showing you exactly what food and drinks to expect.
Polling booth hours are strict, so don’t show up at 6.01pm as you’ll likely be turned away and told to expect a $22 fine in the mail.
You can also find a list of candidates running in your electorate on the AEC website.
After providing your full name and address to an election day volunteer, who will tick you off in their huge book of names, you’ll be handed a small green piece of paper and a bigger white sheet of paper.
An Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) volunteer helps a voter at an early voting centre in Sydney on May 17
House of Representatives
The smaller piece of paper, the green one, is for the House of Representatives.
On this paper you’re voting for the representative you want in your electorate, who represents you and other residents of your local area.
You must number every single box on this sheet of paper, otherwise your vote will be classified as ‘informal’ and not counted.
You’ll need to number every available box on your House of Representatives ballot paper for it to be counted
As you walk into the polling booth, you’ll likely be bombarded by volunteers trying to hand you their party’s ‘how to vote’ card.
If you planned to vote for a particular representative or electorate, these can be useful as they’ll also rank the rest of the people the way your chosen person wants.
However, you are under no obligation to accept or use their how to vote card and can ignore all the volunteers in the gauntlet if you’ve mad up your mind.
Regardless, just remember to number every single box before you hand the paper back.
In most seats, the most important decision is which of the two major parties to preference first, even if you want to give your top preferences to someone else.
Independent Helen Haines’ how-to vote card. She holds the seat of Indi, in northeastern Victoria
Barnaby Joyce’s how-to vote card instructs his constituents what to do with both their House of Representatives and Senate votes
The white ballot paper handed to you is for the Senate, where you will vote for representatives from your state or territory.
Senators act as a check and balance on bills proposed by the House of Representatives, which is almost always dominated by the government.
Frequently, the Senate has enough independents or members of minor parties that the hold the balance of power between the government and opposition.
This means either side has to convince them to support or oppose a bill, forcing them to compromise and acting as a check on flawed legislation.
You can vote two different ways on this piece of paper – either above or below the line.
If you vote above the line, you must number at least six boxes.
Voting below the line means doing double the work – you must number at least 12 boxes.
The advantage of voting below the line is you decide where your preferences go, as parties often do secret deals to preference each other.
These deals have in past elections led to micro parties and independents getting a Senate seat with less than one per cent of the vote.
Regardless of if you vote above or below the line, you don’t have to stop after filling in six or 12 boxes, you can continue ordering the candidates until all the boxes are filled.
But, make sure you keep all your numbers completely above the line, or all your votes below the line, as filling out every single box will void your vote.
You can vote above or below the line for the Senate
When your vote is ‘informal’
A formal vote is one that is done correctly – and can be counted by the Australian Electoral Commission.
An informal vote is not counted, meaning all your efforts at getting up bright and early on a Saturday were for nothing.
There are plenty of reasons why your vote could be deemed informal.
- It’s left blank or has no marks on it
- You’ve used ticks or crosses instead of numbers in the boxes
- The required number of boxes haven’t been marked
- It has writing on it which identifies you, the voter
And yes, a ballot paper that you’ve only drawn a penis on will be counted as informal and thrown in the bin – but if it’s otherwise valid you can doodle away.
Your vote is still counted if you number your ballot paper in ascending order
When your vote becomes a ‘donkey vote’
Informal votes don’t count, but ‘donkey votes’ definitely do.
A donkey vote is when voters number their ballot papers from left to right or from top to bottom, starting from one and working their way up.
Donkey votes being counted is the main reason why candidates are so desperate to be first on the ballot – it could score them a few thousand extra votes.
But the candidates have zero say in where they’ll be on the ballot paper.
The order is decided by the AEC in a blind draw – basically the electoral commission drawing all of the names out of a hat.
Because of this, it is better to vote informally than donkey vote if you really don’t want to participate in the election.