This year’s election is vitally important for Australia’s future. There is passionate public debate about how we should deal with climate change, the integrity of our political system, the role and experience of women in politics, and growing inequality stemming from slow wage growth and escalating house prices, to name just some key issues.

Will the Coalition win a fourth term, or will Labor gain power? How will the Voices-backed independents fare? Will Labor or the Coalition win a majority of seats, or will one of them need to rely on crossbench support to form government?

We the voters decide

We the voters will decide these things. You may not think much of the state of Australian politics at the moment, but that’s all the more reason to think carefully about who you vote for, because the people Australia elects will be the only ones with the opportunity to vote the legislation to make our politics work better.

You can vote for anyone on the ballot paper, and, as long as you fill out your ballot paper correctly, all your preferences will count. That’s the beauty of compulsory preferential voting: if your preferred candidate is eliminated, your vote then goes to your next preference, and then perhaps your next, and so on until one of them wins the seat.

In the House of Representatives, this means that your preferences are counted until one candidate gets at least fifty per cent of the vote. In the Senate you are electing multiple candidates, and your preferences determine which ones get a quota of votes to win a seat. If you vote below the line on the Senate ballot paper you choose to allocate preferences to at least 12 but helpfully all candidates; if you vote above the line you are assigning preferences to parties in the order you would prefer them to win the seat. During counting the preferences will flow to the candidates down each column in the order of columns you have chosen.

Interview candidates for the job of representing you

Think of candidates in your House of Reps electorate, or Senate candidates in your state or territory, as job candidates vying for the job of representing you in parliament, and you are part of the selection panel. Find out about them from their websites, other websites, news sources and social media. Find out if they’re speaking publicly during the campaign and go along, or watch them if it’s online. See if they’re meeting voters in the local shopping centre, email them, or seek to meet with them. Ask them how they will address the issues that are most important for you. If their answers are vague or insufficient let them know. They need to know what you’re concerned about and what you think.

It’s their job to use the machinery of government to create the kind of Australia that we the voters want, so choose carefully.

Places you can find out about candidates

The Australian Electoral Commission has lists of candidates.

ABC Vote Compass / Australia Votes site has a huge amount of information about the election from a wide variety of sources, including lists of candidates by electorate.

Voteeasy: is a platform that allows candidates to make information about themselves available for voters on one website. Go to the 2022 Election voteeasy website and look at the House of Reps and Senate pages to find your electorate and see who has put up information about themselves.

Places you can find out about how preferential voting works and how votes are counted

This video explains how the House of Representative preferential voting system works and how votes are counted. The ABC Election 2022 website has a set of explanatory videos about how elections and parliament work.

This video explains how the Senate voting system works and this video explains how preferences are distributed when candidates are eliminated from the count. The Australian Electoral Commission has this fact sheet and a page broadly explaining the Senate voting system.