Voting Below the Line: It’s the New Black

Voting Below the Line. For a long time, it’s been the domain of the political nerds, the 3% of the population who know the policy of every party on any topic. However, thanks to the rise of sites like Below the Line, it’s suddenly become easier to plan your vote in advance, without the stress of standing in the little cardboard booth on election day, trying to remember the difference between the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party, or the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Equality parties.

Pushing this new trend is the idea of protest voting a particular candidate – movements have sprung up, encouraging people to vote Stephen Conroy last (for his “insist[ence] on pressing ahead with a Mandatory Internet Filter for Australia”), or to vote Steve Fielding last (for being Steve Fielding, I suspect). So, how effective were these campaigns? Well, we can’t know quite yet – the Australian Electoral Commission are yet to release the Below the Line voting data for Victoria. However, while waiting for the AEC to make it available, I’ve checked out what’s been happening around the country:

  • Victoria isn’t the only state that saw protest voting a candidate as a way to get a message across – in Tasmania, Eric Abetz (Liberals) and Christine Milne (Greens) saw an unusually high proportion of people putting them last on the ballot (in comparison to other candidates, or their own party). Similarly, Gary Humphries (Liberal) in the ACT found himself put last by a large chunk of the voting populace. Unfortunately, I’m unfamiliar with all of these candidates – perhaps someone more knowledgeable can fill me in on why they ended up like this?
  • One Nation, The Climate Sceptics and Family First are generally disliked around the country. They were by far the most common parties to be put last.
  • Despite the unending news reports describing the epidemic of voter apathy in NSW and Queensland, both states saw an increase in the proportion of voters voting Below the Line – up from 1.78% and 2.68% to 2.15% and 2.98%, respectively.
  • Around the nation, there was a general increase in the proportion of voters going Below the Line, up ~0.47% from 3.14% to 3.61%.
  • Generally, the proportion of voters choosing to vote Below the Line increases as the number of candidates decreases.
  • Tasmanians seem to be the most willing to vote Below the Line, with 19.53% of people taking the extra few minutes to do it.

Hopefully the Victoria Below the Line data will be released soon. Naturally, I’ll be analysing how Senators Conroy and Fielding fared, and bringing you the results.

As a slightly less serious aside, there are no statistics on the number of polling places with sausage sizzles. As my local church hall had no such BBQ-related facilities, I will be pushing at both a state and federal level for urgent electoral reform to be enacted – the AEC should be responsible for ensuring all polling venues have fair and equal access to the appropriate equipment and supplies required to provide voters with charcoaled meat in a slice of white bread. 🙂

UPDATE 2010-09-21: Victorian stats released, corrected total BtL statistic to match.


  1. Eric Abetz is from the über-Christian right-wing faction of the Liberal Party. It doesn’t surprise me that he was targeted in this way…

  2. Eric Abetz is well-known as an idiot, but no idea why Christine Milne had such a high protest vote. Perhaps it’s the anti-Green Christian Right?

    The high proportion of BTL in Tasmania comes from two things:
    1) Our ballot is relatively managable (<30 candidates)
    2) We already have Hare-Clark proportional representation (with no ATL voting) in our state lower house, so there are many more people with a clue about how BTL voting is useful (i.e. voting for specific candidates in a party, this doesn't happen in other states IIRC).

  3. With Humphries, I think it’s a combination of several things. One is the ACT having a huge below-the-line vote which I think is even higher than Tasmania’s. Another is that since there’s only 9 people on the Senate ballot paper and there’s only 2 candidates on each, a lot of anti-Liberal vote would have gone [9]-[8] instead of [8]-[9].

    A third factor is the pre-existence of Hare-Clark in the Legislative Assembly.

    He’s also a known quantity and probably has some dislike accrued for that reason.

    A fifth factor, though, is the fact that he’s ALMOST far enough below quota for the Greens to take his seat. The second ACT seat has gone from marginal to a coin toss now… expect the Greens to grab it the next time there’s a swing against the Coalition.

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