WHEN you go into the polling booth to vote for the new Port Macquarie-Hastings Council on September 8, a few tips from official sources will help to ensure your vote counts.
x To vote for the mayor, you must put at least the number ‘1’ beside the name of the candidate you wish to put first. You can continue to number the squares, 2, 3, 4 etc, but if you wish to vote only for your first preference, that will count as a formal vote. You should not use ticks or crosses to fill out the ballot paper as this may result in your vote being ‘informal’ and not counting.
x To be elected as mayor, a candidate requires a majority (50 per cent + 1) of the formal votes in the count to be elected either from first preferences or after the distribution of preferences, as the lowest scoring candidates are eliminated.
x For the eight councillor positions, you will be given the choice of voting “above the line” for a group or groups of candidates, or “below the line” for individual candidates in whatever combination you choose. The critical decision is to vote “above the line”, which is a shorthand way of voting for all the members of that group in the order 1, 2, 3, 4 etc, OR to vote “below the line” for individuals, but NOT BOTH above the line and below the line.
x If you vote above the line you only need to number one box for the group of your choice. You can, if you wish, number more boxes in order of preference. If you vote below the line you must vote for at least four candidates in order of your preference. You can vote for more candidates if you wish.
x The eight councillors elected are those candidates who achieve a “quota” of votes, which roughly speaking means that to be elected as one of eight councillors a candidate needs to get one-eighth of the total votes. The count is conducted by distributing votes according to the choices shown on the ballot paper.
x When candidates reach a quota and are elected, their surplus or extra votes above the quota are distributed to the remaining candidates. Candidates with the lowest number of votes are then excluded and their ballot papers are redistributed according to the next choice shown. This process continues until all the vacancies are filled. Candidates can also be elected if the remaining number of candidates in the count equals the number of vacant positions still to be filled.
x If you only vote ‘1’ for a group, your vote will count, but you will not be voting for any candidates beside the group’s members. That is, if there are five members of the group, they will get your votes, but you will not be voting for any other candidates to make up the total of eight councillors.
It might seem complicated, but just follow these tips and the instructions on the ballot paper to cast your vote - you will be taking part in a system designed to ensure the people favoured by the majority of the voters in the Port Macquarie-Hastings area are elected as the mayor and members of your council.