James Sarmiento

Understanding how to place your vote


IT'S local council election day. So what to do..

Well, for starters, we all have to fill in two ballot papers, one for the mayor and one for the councillors.

The small ballot paper is to elect the mayor.

To vote for the mayor and record a formal vote, you must put the number 1 in the square next to the candidate of your choice.

You may also number all the other squares in order of your preferences.

The large ballot paper is to elect the councillors.

There are two sections on this ballot paper, divided by a bold black line. You only need to vote in one section.

You vote by numbering squares, starting with the number 1 for the group or individual you most want to see elected.

If you vote above the line, also known as 'ticket' voting, you are voting for a group or party as a whole and everyone in that group gets your preferences.

If you vote below the line, you are voting for individual candidates and you number them according to your own preferences.

In below-the-line voting, to record a formal vote you must number at least four candidates if you are voting for Coffs Harbour City councillors or Nambucca Shire councillors and at least three people if you are voting for Bellingen Shire councillors.

To be on the safe side, number every square in order of your preferences.

If you get confused, read the instructions printed on the ballot paper.


TWO different methods of counting votes are involved in today's local government elections.

Voting for mayors is carried out using the optional preferential system.

To be elected mayoral candidates need 50 per cent of the vote plus one.If no candidate achieves this, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is excluded and his or her preferences distributed.

This process is continued until a winner emerges.

But the counting of votes for councillors is carried out using the proportional preferential system.

To be elected, councillors need to gain a quota of the formal votes cast.

This quota is set as the total number of formal votes cast divided by the number of councillors to be elected, plus one extra councillor.

For example, if the total number of formal votes cast was 30,000 and eight councillors were to be elected, the quota number would be 30,000 divided by 9 = 3333.

Any candidate who achieves more than this number on first preferences is elected and has his or her surplus votes redistributed at a transfer value.

Once this inclusion process is completed and relevant votes are exhausted, counting moves to the exclusion process, which involves redistributing the preferences of those candidates with the smallest number of votes.

Votes are counted using a computerised system which is designed to eliminate errors and which makes use of 200 data entry operators based in Sydney as well as Coffs Coast

Australian Electoral Commission staff.

Polling officials can assist any elector with a disability. All polling places have thick pencils, hand-held magnifiers and cardboard polling furniture suitable for people with a visual impairment.

Public inquiries 1300-135736, website www.elections.nsw.gov.au


COFFS Harbour and Bellingen returning officer Paul Wittman is reassuring voters that their privacy is being protected during pre-polling.

Toormina's Dr Colin Leal, who pre-poll voted on Thursday, said after filling in his name, address and date of birth on an envelope and completing his voting in the privacy of the polling booth, he had to put his voting papers in the envelope to give back to the official, negating his 'secret' vote.

Mr Wittman said pre-poll envelopes were turned upside down for opening by an automatic letter-opening machine and the folded voting papers emptied into a box, so no one saw the votes cast.

Mr Wittman said the matter had come up in parliament, but the proposed change had not got through.

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