How to cut through the voting jargon

WELL it’s finally here, people will flock to polling booths across the state on Saturday to elect the people who’ll represent them in local government matters for the next four years. 

With 46 candidates vying for just nine seats on Great Lakes Council, there’s no shortage of options for voters who may just be confused by the way the whole process works. 

It’s certainly not simple so the Great Lakes Advocate decided, with the election just three days away, to provide a layperson’s translation of the NSW Electoral Commission’s Local Government Elections Handbook to help you consider your vote.

HANDBOOK: “The proportional representation system is used in local government elections where there are two or more vacancies in a council. To vote formally for a councillor, electors are required to indicate preferences for at least half the number of councillors to be elected.”

TRANSLATION: There are nine seats available on Great Lakes Council therefore Great Lakes voters must vote for at least five candidates in preference order by either voting for one or more groups ‘above the line’ or for at least five individual candidates ‘below the line, (not both).

HANDBOOK: “In State and Local Government elections in NSW, group voting squares are used. A group voting square is printed in the space above the black line on the ballot paper for each group which has requested a group voting square. 

TRANSLATION: There are eight groups running for election to Great Lakes Council listed from ‘A’ to ‘H’ on the ballot paper. If you vote ‘above the line’ you only need to place a number ‘1’in the box next to a group to complete a formal vote. This will record your preference for the first candidate in that group with further preferences going to the other candidates in the group in the order in which they are listed. You can continue to vote for as many groups above the line as you wish, in order of preference. 

HANDBOOK: “Candidates who do not form a group with other candidates are called ‘ungrouped candidates.’ There is nothing printed on the ballot paper to identify them as ungrouped candidates and they cannot have a group voting square for above the line voting. 

TRANSLATION: There are three ‘ungrouped’ candidates running for Great Lakes Council. They appear individually, by name, at the far right hand side of the ballot paper. To vote for any of these candidates, voters must vote ‘below the line’ by numbering at least five (and up to all 46) candidates in preference order. You must vote for at least five candidates in preference order to complete a formal vote. 

HANDBOOK: “To be elected a candidate generally must gain a quota of the formal votes. The quota cannot be worked out until the total number of formal first preference votes is known. Once the first preference count has taken place the quota is calculated based on the number of formal votes and the number councillors positions to be filled.

TRANSLATION: Once a candidate reaches the necessary quota they are elected. Any votes, in excess of their quota, are redistributed to remaining candidates according to the preferences shown on each ballot paper. Candidates with the least number of first preference votes are excluded from the count and their ballot papers are redistributed according to the choices shown on each ballot paper. This process is repeated until all vacancies have been filled.

So there it is - make your vote count.

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