The seven-step guide for first-time voters

June 30, 2016
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Voting for the first time shouldn’t be a daunting experience. But for first-time voters, choosing who should represent you in government can be really tough and actually caring about politics is even more difficult.

Luckily for us in Australia, we don't have to worry about building walls to stop Tasmanians from landing on the mainland or starting the Cold War 2.0, but there are plenty of issues that still need to be patched up.

Step 1 - What does all this paper even mean?

The most basic part of a federal election is knowing what your vote means. You'll be given two bits of paper to vote with. One ballot sheet is for the Senate (white sheet) which lets you vote for a state or territory rep and the other is for the House of Representatives (green sheet) for your local area's politicians.

Step 2 - Keeping your eyes on the prize

When you turn up to the polling station (which can be found here) you're going to be swamped by political hopefuls giving you pamphlets to vote for them, party reps telling you why they're the bomb diggity and old people who have nothing better to do. You really have to block out the haters and focus on the stuff that's important to you.

It's a little difficult to focus on politics this election because we don't have the classic budgie-smuggler-wearing Abbott, Rudd swearing or the bright red hair of Gillard that we're used to - now the pollies are a bit drab.

Step 3 - Knowing about the promises being made

Picking a candidate or party is a lot more than picking a pretty face, which is good because pretty faces aren't abundant in the #AusPol scene. Your vote is based on policies – those nice little promises that a government will make so that hopefully your life will be easier and the things you care about are improved.

The big four areas where politicians try and sell themselves are social justice issues, infrastructure, the environment and lastly but most importantly… the economy. The economy always ties everything together, so when politicians try to sell themselves they are literally selling their ideas for votes.

Step 4 - Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, which party should I follow?

Being lured into voting for a particular party based on a TV advertisement (yes, all the #FakeTradie memes were hilarious) is a waste of a vote.

You do you.

The major parties all have different stances on key issues, which have been listed here to make your decision a little easier. Choosing who to vote for is a lot like picking a toilet cubicle, they’re all a bit shitty, you just have to choose the cleanest one.

Step 5 - Seeing if you're on the nice list

Voting is compulsory, so if you haven't registered yet (you can check your enrolment details here), then chances are you'll cop a $20 fine. You must vote if you're an Australian citizen, over 18 years old and have lived at the same address for at least a month.

Step 6 - Crossing the line

When you're given your senate (white) ballot sheet, you have to choose whether to vote above or below the line. Above the line is quickly ordering from first to last which party has the policies that appeal to you the most, right down to which party repulses you the most. Below the line is the same thing except for individual members of the parties (minimum of 1 to 12 below).

With your House of Reps (green) sheet you order your local lads from first to last.

Step 7 - The big election day!

Finally, here's what will happen on election day. To vote at a polling booth you should be within your own electorate and you'll be asked to give your full name, address and if you've voted in this election. Then you're given your two ballot sheets and hopefully you're prepared to decide who should represent you and your community.

If politics has you dozing off, then you can practise voting here.

Harrison Johnstone

A country kid at heart with city slicking aspirations in his head, Harrison is an aspiring journalist, video editor and human being.

Image: Australian Parliament - House of Representatives Facebook page