Preferential voting explained
Australia is saturated in media from the USA and the UK. Through entertainment, current affairs, and social media, we hear things like:
“There’s no point voting for [Independent Candidate] because they’ll never get in — it’s a wasted vote!”
“Sure, [Good Minor Party] has good policies, but all they do is take votes away from [So-So Major Party]. We must vote for [So-So Major Party] to keep [Much Worse Major Party] out!”
Many Australians absorb these messages and assume they apply to our elections too — and our two major parties benefit from the misconception.
But whereas both the USA and the UK use ‘first-past-the-post’ voting systems for their national elections, Australia’s system is more elegant than that. In elections for the House of Representatives, we use preferential voting — also known as instant-runoff voting, ranked choice voting, or ‘the alternative vote’ in the UK.
So here’s Dennis the Election Koala to give Ken the Voting Dingo an important lesson in civics!
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|JPG, 1000 pixels wide (for web sharing)||Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4|
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If you find value in this comic and love to share it, please support this project by supporting its creator. With your help, I’d like to continue the project into the future: building a dedicated, better-organised website, and adding more comics and information, such as…
- Explaining Senate voting
(much requested)DONE! Thank you!
- Differences in state elections (for each state and territory)
- Miscellaneous election-related comics/infographics
- Translations of the comics into languages other than English
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Is there a comic like this for Senate voting?
Didn’t this comic used to look different?
Yes! The original version came out ahead of the 2013 election. This is version 2, updated and improved. But it’s by the same guy, don’t worry.
Is this comic advocating for preferential voting?
Personally, I think preferential/instant-runoff voting is clearly better than first-past-the-post, but electoral systems based on proportional representation seem even better to me. But I’m no expert. The purpose of the comic is not to advocate for anything, but simply to explain to Australian voters how Australia’s system works.
What about Arrow’s impossibility theorem? Isn’t it irresponsible of you not to even mention this esoteric and extremely complicated mathematical proof in your funny koala comic? I am smart.
I love animals and was upset by the part where the real koala was made to slap the real, living dingo for the amusement of baying spectators. Animals never fight in nature; where did you get such a sick idea?
I’m so sorry.
This comic is politically biased! The Complete Scumbag Party is obviously meant to represent Real Party X. It is so biased to paint Real Party X as outright villains with cartoonishly evil policies like ‘Kick puppies’ and ‘Beat the poor’.
If you saw those cartoonishly evil policies and recognised Real Party X, surely the problem is with Real Party X and not my comic?
Thanks for visiting, reading, and sharing. Don’t forget to support this project if you can. It’s seriously a lot of work, but, you know: democracy! Hooray!
Questions, comments, enquiries? Get in touch.
Comic text (for search engines)
// page 1 //
This is Australia, not America.
You Can’t “Waste” Your Vote!
How voting works in a federal election for the House of Representatives (‘Lower House’)
Hello Australia. It’s me, your good friend Dennis the Election Koala.
It’s that time again, so let’s meet the candidates hoping to represent your electorate in the House of Representatives of the Federal Parliament…
Complete Scumbag Party
Beat the poor
Pineapple on pizza
Discreet Scumbag Party
Put puppies to work
Chastise the poor
Pizza under pineapple
Minor Parties & Independents
Televised puppy torture
Toot toot, I’m a boat
A cup of tea
Smash the state
// page 2 //
Struth, Dennis, and crikey besides! I want to vote for the Nice Party, but I know they won’t win, so I guess I’d better vote for the Discreet Scumbags…
…Otherwise I’m just throwing my vote away!!
Wrong, Ken the Voting Dingo!!!
 Spitvalve, Bamboot
 MacWhatnot, Floundra
 Butterson, Gort
 Flufftums, Aggy-Waggy
In Australia, we have preferential voting. You can vote for the Discreet Scumbags to beat the Complete Scumbags, and still “vote 1” for a minor party or independent!
Huh? Whuh?? I don’t understand!
// page 3 //
Preferential Voting Explained
To win a seat, a candidate must end up with an absolute majority — that is, over 50% of the total votes. Imagine your electorate has 100 voters: 51 votes are needed to win.
First the “1” votes are counted. But look — no-one has 51 votes or more!
The loser, Gort, is eliminated. But the six people who voted “1” for Gort now have their “2” votes (second preferences) counted and transferred to those candidates.
Still no-one has an absolute majority of 51 or more! So Aggy-Waggy is eliminated, and her votes transferred according to the next preferences.
A surprise victory for Floundra!
This example based on an infographic on this Parliamentary Education Office webpage — a great reference!
www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/federal-elections.html (Dec. 2018)
// page 4 //
So basically, if my first choice doesn’t win, my second choice gets counted as my first choice, and so on.
But since my second choice won anyway, what was the point of putting a minor party first?
Minor parties and independents can and do win seats if enough people vote for them. Since you lose nothing by voting “1” for whomever you like most, why wouldn’t you?
This might happen:
Preferences from Nice Party voters made a big difference!
I’ll need to keep them happy if I want to beat Bamboot again next time.
I’ll look into this… “hugs”.
If a candidate gets at least 4% of first preferences (“1” votes), they’ll receive election funding for each of those votes*, which will help their next campaign!
I bought a sign!
* Approx. $2.76 at the 2019 election. The amount is indexed every 6 months in line with CPI. Source: AEC (Nov. 2018)
Any more questions, Ken the Voting Dingo?
Do I have to number all the boxes?
Do I have to follow a “how to vote” card?
// text box //
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© 2013-2019 Patrick Alexander