Adam Guise handing out How To Votes at Goonellabah Public School on election day.
Adam Guise handing out How To Votes at Goonellabah Public School on election day. Melissa Gulbin

Greens watch anxiously as voters opt not to preference them

THE fate of the candidates in the Lismore electorate is now in the hands of the scrutineers.

But whichever way the result goes, the Greens are questioning the merits of the optional preferential voting system which is only used in New South Wales and Queensland state elections, and in some mayoral elections.

The federal system of compulsory preferential voting requires voters have to number every box in their order of preference which is supposed to deliver the 'most preferred' candidate.

But the optional preferential system means you don't have to allocate preferences and once your candidate has been eliminated, the vote is effectively binned.

Greens number cruncher and scrutineer coordinator for Lismore, Tim Somerville, said Adam Guise would have "walked it in" if a compulsory preferential voting system was in place.

The Greens and Labor ran a campaign urging voters to "Number every box and put The Nationals last", but it seems many Labor voters didn't follow this advice.

Mr Somerville said in Tenterfield, 63% of Labor votes were being exhausted and in Murwillumbah it was about 50%. This figure was lower around Lismore.

"Our aim was to get it down to around 20%, but obviously that hasn't worked and it's hurt us," he said.

"Maybe three out of 10 Labor voters really hate us; maybe some are just lazy... There's probably a PhD in it somewhere."

Of the Labor votes that are flowing to preferences, 5-7% are going to the Nationals with the bulk going to the Greens.

MIXED MESSAGES: Voting advertising outside a polling booth.
MIXED MESSAGES: Voting advertising outside a polling booth. Contributed

Mr Somerville also questioned the validity of signage placed around polling booths by the Nationals that looked like they were NSW Electoral Commission signs saying "You don't have to number every box".

"It was a final day ploy that might have worked for them. It might decide the seat," he said.

But Nationals' communications director Nathan Quigley said they were responding to similar signs from Labor that said "Remember to number every square".

"The unions and Labor and the Greens had a concerted strategy to prompt people in the opposite direction and had signs in the same font and colours as the NSW Electoral Commission," he said.