How do preferences work?

Let’s imagine there are three candidates contesting an election.

It is  election night and the votes have been counted and are lying in piles on the table.  Alan has 9 votes, Brian has 8 votes , and Clive has seven votes in his pile.

Each one of Clive’s votes.. (each of the seven individual ballot papers) will now be moved to another pile because he cannot win the election.

Three people who  voted for Clive just voted ‘1’. They did not put another number on the paper.

Their votes are put aside and nothing further happens with them.

Three people who put a number 1 beside Clive’s name, put a number two beside Brian’s name – their votes are now placed on Brian’s pile – (Brian now has 11 votes.)

One person who put a number 1 beside Clive’s name, put a number two beside Alan’s name. This vote is added to Alan’s pile. Alan now has 10 votes.

Brian wins the election because of the three votes that came to him via Clive. Even though at first count Alan was in front.

When candidates do a ‘deal’ they are agreeing to hand out a ‘how to vote’ card asking their supporters to give the other candidate the number ‘2’.

This process becomes more complicated with a greater number of candidates. Sometimes a ballot paper is moved more than once across piles until there are only two piles left on the table. One of the last two is the winner.

Because of the number of Mayoral candidates in this election, I am guessing that the counting will take a few days.  The Returning Officer can’t begin the allocation of preferences until he is sure that enough votes are ‘in’.  In very close elections, only one or two votes might determine the difference between the preferences of one candidate being ‘distributed’ instead of those of another, and the result might be very different.  It is a lot of work to have to begin the count again!

So.. the question is should you ‘just vote one’ or allocate  a number 2 (or 3 or 4) on your ballot paper?’ You can number as many or as few squares as you like, so long as the numbers run in order and begin with number 1.

I am not recommending a vote for any particular candidate.. my ‘how to vote’ card shows just a number one beside my name.

I would encourage you to number as many squares as you want. But if there is someone you really don’t want elected – then don’t put a number beside their name at all.



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