Confusion abounds as Federation Council voters exposed to above, below line voting for the first time

FEDERATION Council’s 9171 registered voters have been given one simple piece of advice: “Read the ballot paper”.

The tip issued by the NSW Electoral Commission has been made in response to voters in the former Corowa and Urana shires being exposed to above and below the line voting for the first time.

Widespread confusion exists in the merged local government area with grouped and ungrouped candidates making up the final field of 42 candidates for the September 9 election.

Former Corowa Shire councillor Paul Talbot said he was concerned people didn’t understand how to vote. “People are worried about how it is all going to go,” he said.

“They need an explanation on how it has to be done.

“In my 40 years experience of growing up in the area and taking an interest, we’ve never had the boxes (above the line).”

Voters have the option of voting above or below the line, but not both.

The number “1” for a group records a first preference vote for the first candidate in the group with preferences going to the other candidates in the group in the order in which they are listed.

The alternative is marking squares below the line in order of preference for a minimum five individual candidates.

The same system has been used in Albury Council elections for many years but Howlong’s Mark Shields, who is heading up a ticket, agreed there was some confusion among voters.

“When we get our how-to-vote cards out we will be clearly saying vote above the line and this is the way we would like you to number the squares,” he said.

“We don’t want to complicate it for people.”

He described the voting method similar to the Senate in a federal election.

Former Corowa mayor Fred Longmire, who is among 10 ungrouped candidates, says he is receiving constant queries about the voting system.

“You are dealing with people who have never come across this before,” he said.

“It’s a challenge.”

HOW TO VOTE

EITHER place the number 1 in the square above the group of candidates for whom you wish to vote.

If you wish to vote for additional candidates, place consecutive numbers beginning with the number 2 in the squares above the additional groups of candidates in order of your preferences for them.

OR place the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the squares opposite the names of 5 candidates in the order of your preference for them.

If you wish to vote for additional candidates, place consecutive numbers beginning with the number 6 in the squares opposite the names of those additional candidates in order of your preferences for them.

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