Preferences confusion compounded!

May 9, 2022

On the very day my article, The preferences conundrum for Independents, was published, on 4th May I found this how to vote card in my letterbox, from Nicolette Boele, a well-resourced candidate who’s running an energetic and impressively visible campaign in the safe Liberal seat of Bradfield.

Nicolette Boele How to Vote Card

As I’ve argued, the Independent/Voices/Teal candidates are already jeopardising their prospects, by refusing to do deals with and secure preferences from other “minor” contenders. But, in addition, as their how-to vote cards demonstrate, they risk maximising the chance that those who support them will cast an informal vote.

In Nicolette Boele’s case, she’s not only not identifying the names (or the party affiliations) of the other candidates on the Bradfield ballot paper, but the graphic suggests there are 10 candidates; in fact, there are seven. Presumably, she’s satisfied that the good citizens of Sydney’s leafy upper north shore are sufficiently interested and informed to figure their way through this.

Let’s hope, too, that these deeply engaged and procedurally literate voters remember that in elections for the House of Representatives, marking every square on the ballot paper, in numerical sequence, is necessary to casting a formal, valid vote. Whereas, in New South Wales, at the State election in March 2019 and at the Local Government election in December 2021, it wasn’t: optional preference distribution applied. How easily one forgets.

Only slightly less risky are the How-to-Vote cards [pictured below] of independents such as Zali Steggall, in Warringah, and Kylea Tink in North Sydney. They, at least, identify their opponents (and in these examples, their opponents’ party affiliation) but put a question mark, where a number needs to be placed, on the actual ballot paper.


Kylie Tink How to Vote Card

It’s fair to note that when Zali Steggall won Warringah in 2019, she did what she’s doing this year: no preferences recommendation and a How-to Vote card full of question marks. It proved irrelevant, her preferences weren’t distributed. She topped the poll on primary votes, with 43 per cent, and went on to secure 75 per cent of the preferences of the eliminated candidates.

It’s hard to see any of the first-time independents in 2022 emulating Zali’s 2019 primary vote of 43 per cent. And just as hard to see them securing 75 per cent of the “tiddlers’” preferences, especially with How-to-Vote cards like these. As well as surrendering the opportunity to have any influence at all over the outcome in their electorates, they’re risking their own supporters casting an invalid vote.

Richard Whitington was a member of Gough Whitlam’s staff from 1974 to 1977. After a subsequent career in advertising, corporate communications and executive recruitment he retired in 2019 to do some freelance writing. He is currently co-ordinating a campaign to remind voters that they can “Make a Difference”: 1 in 50 (

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