Be aware of Senate changes

About 115 Victorian candidates will vie for a spot in the Senate this election.

However, voting will be a little different this year, after changes to the Senate voting system were adopted in March.

Rather than placing a ‘1’ above the line on Senate ballot papers or numbering every box below the line, the changes will require voters number ‘1’ to ‘6’ above the line in the order of their preferences.

An above-the-line ‘savings provision’ means votes for one candidate above the line could still be counted, but if the vote is for a minor party and the candidates fail to secure enough votes to remain in the count, the ballot won’t be counted.

Minor parties will not be able to swap preferences in order to secure Senate seats.

Monash University senior lecturer in politics Dr Nick Economou said the legislation would make it harder for these parties to get elected.

He pointed to Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, Senator Ricky Muir, who in 2013 made it to the Senate with less than one per cent of the primary vote in 2013, as an example of the impact of preferential votes.

“Ricky Muir got there not because of the primary vote, but the flow of preferences – it’s all about the distribution of preferences,” Dr Economou said.

“Now it’s going to be almost impossible for these minor parties to get in.”

He said the “thrown together” changes passed just before the double dissolution election provided no time for the general public to understand how to make their vote count.

“We need to know what Labor, Liberal, the Nationals and the Greens are going to do with their ‘how to vote’ cards… 95 per cent of the population since 1984 have voted once above the black line,” Dr Economou said.

“Now they are being told they can’t; how many are going to vote off the major parties’ ‘how to vote’ cards?”

The Senate is one of the two houses of Federal Parliament consisting of 76 senators, twelve from each of the six states and two from each of the mainland territories.

It shares the power to pass laws with the House of Representatives.

Information on how to vote in the Senate can be found at