Victorian voters can put the ‘preference whisperers’ out of business

18 Nov 2014

Victorian voters can lock micro parties out of parliament and counter the tricks of ‘preference whisperers’ by taking advantage of the state’s optional preferential voting system in the parliament’s upper house.

The number of political parties contesting this month’s Victorian state election has jumped to 21 – nearly double the number in 2010 – so the scene is set for a repeat of the federal deal-making that resulted in several micro parties, such as the Motoring Enthusiasts, gaining seats in the Senate at last year’s federal election.

Many of the parties in the Victorian election have never been heard of before, and once again ‘preference whisperers’ are reported to be arranging complex agreements.

In federal elections for the Senate, 95 per cent of voters choose to vote ‘above the line’ rather than trying to correctly rank dozens of candidates ‘below the line’ and risk an informal vote. What these voters need to know is that by just voting 1 above the line they are accepting that party’s full allocation of preferences, which means they might help elect someone they heartily disapprove of.

In other words, voters aren’t allocating their preferences, party managers are doing it for them.

Brian Costar is a professor of political science at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research

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