BY VINCENT VARNEY
September is always home to some important weekends, usually because the NRL and AFL seasons are coming to a close. This weekend however will be more important than most: this Saturday is the 2013 Australian Federal Election, meaning many of us will have an opportunity to help decide who governs this fine nation for the next three years.
If you’re a first-time voter, the process can seem daunting, especially if you don’t know who you want to vote for. The important thing to remember is that every vote counts. The Government spends enough time making decisions for you – this is your opportunity to be in control.
I don’t know where I stand!
Australian politics can be pretty freakin’ mind-numbing, and with all the bickering, it’s easy to stop paying attention… Assuming you paid any in the first place. Vote Compass is a useful resource for determining who should get your vote. It’s an easy 5-10 minute survey that asks your thoughts on a number of election issues, and then tells you which parties sit closest to your views. Also, The Guardian is a better source of intelligent election coverage than any Murdoch press.
Can I discuss my vote with other people?
Oh my, yes. Traditionally, it was considered inappropriate to discuss voting with other people, but how old are you? 60? (And if so, why is this your first time voting?) Discussing each election issue with your family and friends will allow you to see how your vote might affect those around you. Sure, you might not have an issue with coal seam gas mining, but what about your pal who’s uncle owns a farm on lucrative ground?
Where do I vote?
The AEC has been kind enough to provide a list of all the voting booths throughout the country. If you won’t be home on the day, you can vote early or hit a state-wide voting booth, such as the one at Sydney’s Town Hall. The process of scribbling on the ballot paper is fairly quick, but depending on the length of the queue, you might have to wait in line for a while, so be sure to give yourself enough time.
Will people harass me as I approach the polling booth, forcibly inserting flyers into my hands and/or throat?
What will I need to bring with me?
You don’t need to bring your own pencil, but you’ll need some form of ID. You’ll also probably get asked to confirm your current address. The smart thing to do is to learn this off by heart in advance, correct spelling included.
How does the ballot paper work?
You’ll receive two ballot papers: one for the House of Representatives and one for the Senate. Each candidate or party will be listed beside an empty box, and like all good boxes, it’s thirsty for some poking of your pen (AMIRITE, fellas?). For the House of Reps ballot, you’ll need to number each box in order of your preferences. For the Senate ballot you’ll have the choice of either numbering a single box as your top preference, or numbering every box. The AEC has provided a practice ballot if you’re really nervous.
Be sure not to vote for a novelty party just for fun – that very party might end up preferencing your vote towards an undesirable alternative. You can see who’s preferencing who here.
Are you sure I won’t need to bring my own pencil?