IT’S finally time for people to cast their vote after one of Australia’s longest election campaigns.
But if all the talk about Senate changes and preferences has got you confused, or you just want to check where to get a decent sausage sizzle, we’ve got you sorted.
Here is your five minute guide on how, where and when to vote.
ELECTION DAY: Saturday, July 2.
WHERE ARE THE POLLING BOOTHS IN MY AREA?
You can check where the polling booths are by going to the Australian Electoral Commission homepage and typing your postcode into the search bar.
It’s generally a good idea to check this early as everyone will probably be on this site on Election Day.
Polling booths are open from 8am to 6pm sharp. While polling booths close at 6pm, any voters in the queue at the time will still be able to cast their vote.
WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES RUNNING IN MY AREA?
The AEC homepage search (mentioned above) will also give you a list of the candidates running in your electorate.
WHAT AM I ACTUALLY VOTING FOR?
When you get to the polling booth you will be given two papers. One is for the House of Representatives and the other is for the Senate.
The House of Representatives is also called the lower house, and your vote will help decide who wins the election and becomes Prime Minister. It will also decide who your local MP is.
The ballot paper is the smaller one and will be a green colour.
You’ll probably notice the white paper is quite large and has a lot of names on it, don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it looks, we’ll explain below.
This bigger paper is for the Senate, which is also known as the upper house.
Senators review legislation once it passes the lower house and can block it from becoming law if they don’t like it.
Independents and smaller parties can have a lot of power in the Senate if they hold the “balance of power”. On this paper you’ll be voting for candidates in your state.
Each state has 12 senators and the ACT and Northern Territory have two senators each.
MAKING YOUR VOTE COUNT
Firstly, let’s talk about the House of Representatives. Remember the little green paper? You have to put a number next to every candidate. If you don’t your vote will be declared invalid and it won’t be counted.
This is why there’s always people handing out pamphlets outside polling booths. They are providing “how to vote” cards to let people know what order their parties want you to number the boxes.
Different parties often agree to support each other and the negotiations over these preference deals are often hotly contested because they could decide who wins the seat.
But you can always ignore what the parties recommend and number the candidates in the order you prefer.
BIG CHANGES TO THE SENATE
You may have heard a lot of talk about preferences and confusion over changes to the Senate.
This is because the government has changed the way you fill out the Senate ballot paper.
For the first time, the AEC is recommending you vote for at least six candidates “above the line”. Number them in the order that you want your vote to flow.
But the AEC has said that if people just vote for one party or person “above the line”, or less than six candidates, it will still count this as a valid vote, as long as there is nothing else wrong with the ballot paper.
The limitation of voting for just one candidate arises when that person or party does not get elected, your vote won’t go any further. The vote is “exhausted”.
You can also number more than six candidates, it’s up to you.
For those that want to vote “below the line” there are also changes.
In previous years, you had to number every box below the line if you wanted your vote to count and this could be quite time consuming as ballot papers could sometimes extend for several A4 pages.
This year you have to number at least 12 candidates “below the line” for your vote to count. But you can go for more if you want.
The thing to remember is your vote won’t go any further than candidates you number. So if you only vote for independents and none of them get elected, your vote will be exhausted.
DON’T FORGET THE BEST PART
It wouldn’t be election day without the traditional sausage sizzle and cake stall. These days you can even find decent coffee and a gourmet snag.
The tradition has become so beloved, Google and Twitter are fighting over how to best provide voters with info.
Find out which polling booths will be offering food via your local paper or online at electionsausagesizzle.com.au via the website Snagvotes. Twitter users can tweet @AusPolling to find out directions to the nearest polling booth and status of cake stalls and barbecues.