on air now

Half of Australian voters don’t know how Senate voting works

Article image for Half of Australian voters don’t know how Senate voting works

Do you understand how Senate voting actually works?

According to The Australia Institute, half of Australians don’t understand it.

But Tom Elliott thinks that figure is actually higher.

“I reckon you’d be lucky if 10 per cent of us understand it. I don’t understand it,” the 3AW Drive host said.

Tom Swann, Researcher at the Australia Institute, told Tom Elliott it isn’t just below the line voting that has voters stumped.

“Last election the system was changed and people now have the ability to direct their own vote. The Senate ballot paper now says to vote at least one to six above the line.

“What we were concerned about is that people misunderstood what that meant. You can actually go beyond six, you can vote for as many as you want above the line,” he said.

“One in three people thought that you would be disqualified if you did that.”

Previously, voters could just vote for one preferred party above the line, and that party would direct their vote according to party preferences and deals.

“I had no idea that the rules had changed,” Tom Elliott said.

Mr Swann said half of voters believed they should number the party they least wanted to see elected with a number ‘six’. However, this is incorrect.

“You shouldn’t vote six for them because that’s essentially putting them above everyone else on the ballot paper that you don’t vote for,” he said.


  • Number at least one to six parties above the line OR one to twelve candidates below the line.
  • Number as many boxes as you can. Your vote is more powerful the more numbers you fill out. If all of your candidates either get elected, or get booted out, then you won’t have a say on the final part of the count.

Press PLAY below to hear everything Tom Swann, Researcher at the Australia Institute, had to say on 3AW Drive.