Election 2019: your guide to voting on Saturday

Voting is compulsory for the NSW state election on March 23.
Voting is compulsory for the NSW state election on March 23.

How do you make sure your vote counts?

In the 2015 state election there were 1426 informal votes out of 49 234 votes in the state seat of Port Macquarie. This means almost 1500 people filled out the ballot incorrectly in Port Macquarie!

How do you vote correctly?

Voting in a NSW state election is different to the federal election. 

Legislative Assembly

In the Legislative Assembly (known as the lower house)  a voter must place a number 1 on the ballot paper next to the candidate of their choice. 

They may continue with other numbers starting with 2 if they wish. 

Spokesperson for the NSW Electoral Commission Alex Chapman said what makes the state election different to the federal election is that preferences  in the lower house is optional for the voter.

"This differs from the federal elections where every box for the House of Representatives ballot paper must be marked," Mr Chapman said. 

Keep in mind preferences are only distributed if a candidates does not achieve an absolute majority (50 per cent of the total formal votes plus one vote) in the initial count. 

"Should the distribution of preferences continue beyond the numbers marked by a voter, then that ballot paper is deemed 'exhausted' and will no longer be included in further counting and cannot be distributed to any other candidate.

Alex Chapman

The candidate with the least amount of first preferences in the count will be excluded, and any of that candidate's votes which have a second preference marked by a voter will be distributed to the second preference accordingly.

This process is continued until a candidate achieves an absolute majority and is elected.

Legislative Council

In the Legislative Council (upper house) a voter has two options.

To cast a formal vote, a voter must place a number 1 in a box above the line for a group of candidates of their choice on the ballot paper.

If they wish, they may continue with other numbers in other 'boxes above the line' for other groups of candidates starting w 2. 

Alternatively voters may choose to vote below the line by voting for at least 15 candidates and they and they may continue with other numbers starting with 16 if they wish.

For more info on how to vote click here

What is the impact of optional preferential voting?

It is hard to predict the effects of optional preferential voting.

William Bowe from the political blog The Poll Bludger said while the effects are complex, the main parties have more to fear from losing votes to minor parties.

"In particular, 80 per cent of votes Labor lose to the Greens on the left will come back to them as preferences under full preferential voting, but under optional preferential, quite a lot of them will be lost," Mr Bowe said. 

"The number varies wildly from election to election - when there is a big anti-Labor landslide, as there was in 2011, optional preferential will typically make it worse because the anti-Labor feeling will extend to Greens voters not allocating their preferences.

In rural and regional seats, you will often get Independents performing strongly and taking most of their votes from the Coalition - that can boost Labor's chances under OPV because some of those voters will exercise the option of not allocating preferences.

William Bowe

Where can I vote?

Pre-poll centres are located at Camden Haven Scout Hall (5 Tunis Street, Laurieton) and the Port Macquaire Election Manager's Office ( 3/125 Gordon Street, Port Macquarie).

The centres are open Mon - Fri 8am-6pm this week. On Thursday they will extend their hours till 8pm. 

Polling centres will be open 8am-6pm on election day (Saturday March 23).  

To find your nearest polling booth on election day click here

Port Macquarie Election Manager Gary Humphries said each voting centre will provide assistance for anyone that needs it.

"We have got interpretive services, we have got magnified glasses, we will make sure there is wheelchair access at every location, all the person needs to do is turn up and flag down an election official and they will provide all the assistance they need," Mr Humphries said. 

Electronic voting is also available.

"You go online through the electoral web page and request an i vote and then you can do that online," Mr Humphries said.

Electronic voting will close at 1pm on election day (March 23). 

Postal voting has already closed (March 18). 

What are the penalties for not voting?

If you do not vote at a state election and you don't have a valid reason, you will be fined $55.