Two elections? In one year? Thalia Blackney is here to let you know what you're voting for on the 26th, and how the Victorian state election actually works.
Perhaps you are battle grizzled by the State of the Environment report, “post”-covid economics and the ever increasing rental rates. Perhaps you are fresh-faced and Panglossian, ready to leap into your voting experience with gusto. Either way, we’re here to let you know what we’re actually voting for on the 26th and how the Victorian parliamentary system actually works.
First question—what does the Victorian government actually deal with?
The Victorian government is responsible for policy areas such as education, medical care, transport and infrastructure, state-level crime laws, emergency services, and the environment. Whichever party forms a majority in the lower house will generally dictate what the government's position is on these issues.
Nice. But how does the Victorian parliament actually work?
Basically, the Victorian government is just a smaller and differently named version of the federal one. We have the crown (the governor), parliament (the two houses) and the executive (the premier and their ministers, or cabinet). There’s also the judiciary (hello ex-Legal Studies students) but we won’t worry about that.
The two houses of parliament are what the election is about. Put simply, the lower house, the Legislative Assembly, is in charge of making and debating Victorian law, and the upper house, the Legislative Council, is in charge of “reviewing” these laws. Every four years, all the seats in each house are up for election. There are 88 MPs in the Legislative Assembly, one for each district, and 40 in the Legislative Council, five for each region. To form government, a party needs a majority of 45 out of 88 seats in the lower house. The upper house tends to be less clear cut, hence the focus on individual candidates.
How does the voting process work, and what are my voting options?
There are several voting options for Victorians. If you choose not to vote in person on the 26th, you can instead register to vote by post, or vote at an early polling centre to get it out of the way. This is actually quite common; at the last election in 2014, 44% of voters voted early, and the VEC has actually recommended doing this in case voters catch Covid and can’t make it to an in-person vote. You have up until the 23rd of November to register for a postal vote—after this you can either vote in person at an early voting centre (until 6PM on the 25th) or, alternatively, you can vote in person on polling day. All votes need to be either submitted or posted by 6PM on the 26th. Whichever option you choose, you can expect two ballots, one for each house. And, though I hope I don’t need to tell you this, it is a very good idea to figure out who’s who, and which district/region you are in, before you get around to voting. Make sure to use your registered address.
Similarly to the federal House of Representatives ballot, for the lower house, you must number every box in the ballot according to your preference for your vote to be counted. The number of candidates will vary depending on your district.
Unlike the federal election, for the upper house, you can either number one (and only one) box above the line (in which case your chosen party will choose the successful candidates according to their group voting tickets, found here) or, you can vote below the line to preference individual candidates. If you choose to do it this way, you must number a minimum of 5 boxes (but you can do more). You cannot vote both above and below the line. You will be voting for one person to represent your district (the lower house ballot), and five people to represent your region (the upper house ballot). Keep in mind that unless you feel really represented by your favourite party’s voting ticket, you should probably vote below the line if you want to maximise your vote.
Make sure to only put numbers, and that you haven’t doubled up anywhere. If you make a mistake, you can cross it out and correct it, as long as it’s still legible.
How do they figure out who gets in?
For the lower house, the bog-standard preferential voting system is used, just like the federal election. This is explained well here.
For the upper house though, things are a little more complicated. What’s used is proportional vote counting. Basically, the candidates need to meet a quota to get in. Any excess they get over this quota spills over into the next preferences of the people that voted for them, until all the spots are filled. If no-one meets quota, then the lowest polling candidate is eliminated and their votes redistributed to the second preferences of whoever voted for them, and this continues until enough people make quota and there are no vacancies.
If you want to know which candidates and parties are running for your region and district, here is an excellent government-approved Excel spreadsheet that lists actual candidates and their associated parties. Be aware that electoral boundaries were revised last year, so your district or region may have changed. This doesn’t change your eligibility though; you can figure out where you are here by putting in your address.
Voting can be a bit tedious and daunting at the best of times, but there’s really not much to it and it’s worth it in the long run!! Also, if you’ll find it more convincing, the fine for not voting in the state election is $92. Don’t ask me why it’s almost five times as much as the federal one, because I couldn’t tell you. Happy voting!!
Image Source: "VEC_Election Day_-_DA_7401.jpg" by Victorian Electoral Commission is licensed under CC BY 4.0