More featuring Mark Tier»

Excerpt from Mark Tier’s new book, Trust Your Enemies (Hong Kong: Inverse Books, 2012; available on Kindle for only $0.99), the beginning of chapter 70, which is a newspaper column by the protagonist.
(Context: The “Conservative Party” of the novel is the equivalent of the Liberal-National Party coalition in the real world. And Karla Preston is an iconoclastic, libertarian-on-steroids butt-kicking journalist, who an Amazon reviewer calls, “an awesomely sexy, smart, wanna-be-like-her journalist.”)

votetwiceOn Saturday, Vote Twice!
By Karla Preston
OlssonPress Syndicate

“Vote early and vote often” was the advice of some long-dead Chicago political machine boss to his supporters.

You can do the same on Saturday.

Australia is the only democracy where we’re forced to be free: voting is compulsory. If you don’t vote on Saturday you get fined.

On the other hand, even though you can (and “must”) go to the polls (if only once), thanks to our unique preferential voting system you can vote twice, or even three or more times.

Too many of us, unfortunately, don’t fully appreciate how it works, so here’s a quick guide.

To win a seat in the House of Reps, you have to get fifty percent of the votes, plus one. If there are just two candidates in an electorate, whoever gets more votes wins. When there are three or more candidates it starts to get interesting.

As you know, when you vote you can’t just tick the box next to your preferred candidate. You have to number them in the order of your preference. So if Bloggs, Jones and Smith are the candidates, and you want Jones win but detest Smith, you might vote like this:

2 Bloggs

1 Jones

3 Smith

When the votes are counted only the first preferences — the 1s — are tallied. Say the count looks like this:

Bloggs 29

Jones 27

Smith 44

TOTAL 100

In countries like the U.S. and Britain with a “first past the post” system, Smith would be the winner — even though a majority of 56% voted against him.

But here, since Smith does not have fifty percent of the votes plus one, there’s a second round: the preferences of the lowest candidate are “distributed.” In this case, that’s your candidate, Jones. All his votes are counted again. But this time the 2s, not the 1s, are tallied. Those 2s are added to Bloggs’ and Smith’s 1s to give the final total. Let’s say 5 Jones voters put Smith as their second choice, while the other 22 went for Bloggs. The final result is:

Bloggs 51

Smith 49

TOTAL 100

So even though Jones, your favourite candidate, didn’t make it, at least the charlatan Smith didn’t get in — because your vote was counted twice.

(When there are more than three candidates — as always happens in the Senate — the process is the same if a little more complicated. They simply keep distributing preferences until they reach “the last politicians standing.”)

Why not use this system to your own advantage on Saturday?

votetwiceldpEven if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Labor or Conservative supporter, surely there’s something you’re dissatisfied with about your own party? If so, Saturday is your opportunity to tell them, and tell them where it really hurts: at the polling booth.

Simply give your first preference to one of the independent candidates in your electorate — for example, one whose stance is closer to your own views on an important issue — and then put your real (Conservative or Labor) choice second.

The chances of an independent winning a seat in the House are so low it’s hardly worth worrying about. When the votes are counted, the independents’ preferences will be distributed and your second vote will be the one that counts. But you can be sure that the political bosses will see the decline in their first preference vote — and get your message.

That’s what I’ll be doing on Saturday. I hope you consider doing the same — and remind our “leaders” in Canberra who’s the boss.

*****

ON SATURDAY, VOTE TWICE! was reprinted as a full page ad in every newspaper in the country, every day, for the rest of the week, up to and including election day. It was turned into a video with cartoon-style graphics that became an overnight hit on the internet and was aired on many TV stations. It was all financed by OlssonPress.