Election sign row triggers teal push to make preferential voting compulsory in NSW

<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

A key New South Wales ‘teal’ independent, Jacqui Scruby, will seek to make preferential voting compulsory if she enters parliament after the Liberal party encouraged voters not to number every box at Saturday’s state election.

The Pittwater candidate accused the Liberal party of attempting to “deceive voters” with “you can just vote one” signs popping up across the blue-ribbon electorate, which is being contested by the Rory Amon for the Liberal party after the resignation of the former frontbencher Rob Stokes.

“We need to have a serious conversation about making NSW’s preferential voting compulsory to bring it in line with pretty much the rest of the country,” Scruby said.

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“I’ll have that conversation should I be elected and find myself holding the balance of power. If we end up with candidates the majority of voters would rather not have, I’m not sure that’s the best system.”

The black and white signs carry a small Liberal logo in one corner and outnumber the light blue Amon signage at some booths.

A Liberal party spokesperson said: “NSW elections are conducted under optional preferential voting, and people can just vote one.”

Scruby said optional preferential voting – where voters are only required to number one box on the lower house ticket – meant communities could end up with an MP the majority did not want.

“It could shape the result in several teal seats,” she said, arguing the state needed to be brought in line with the rest of the country.

Joeline Hackman, an independent candidate for Manly, said optional preferential voting led to confusion because it operated differently to the federal election and wanted to see it reviewed following the election.

Senior opposition figures, including Rose Jackson, who is on Labor’s shadow cabinet, have also been encouraging voters who want to see a change in government and are voting for a minor party to preference Labor next.

The teal candidates’ most high-profile backer, Climate 200, has been using Australian band Lime Cordiale to explain to young voters they risked “throwing your vote in the bin” if they did not exhaust preferences through TikTok and Instagram videos.

But the independent funding machine has been accused of hypocrisy after authorising leaflets in the nearby seat of Manly telling voters to put sitting Liberal James Griffin last, behind a climate skeptic candidate who says “gene-based Covid-19 ‘vaccines’” are not safe or effective.

Earlier this month, the independent Manly candidate Phillip Altman told a voters’ forum the main issue facing NSW was not climate change but a health crisis created by the Covid-19 vaccines.

He told the crowd models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had “all been wrong”.

His website states: “These ‘vaccines’ are not safe and effective.”

A Liberal party spokesperson said the candidates and Climate 200 “need to justify their insincerity to their supporters, on why they are advocating preferences for a person who is arguing against everything they stand for”.

Climate 200 supports candidates who want to see more action to tackle climate change. The organisation’s executive director, Byron Fay, dismissed the criticism, insisting Manly was a “two-horse race” between Hackman and Griffin.

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“No other candidate has a chance of winning the seat,” he said.

He said voters needed to know more about the importance of preference allocation, which was changed from compulsory to optional in 1980.

“If you only vote for one candidate, and they don’t have a chance of winning, then your vote basically goes in the bin,” Fay said.

Hackman did not sanction the leaflets and has encouraged voters to number every box.

“I am an independent and I do not advocate for any order – just vote one Joeline Hackman and number every box. It is up to the voter to decide,” she said.

Climate 200 has also hired a truck encouraging votes to number every box that will drive around the four North Shore booths teals are contesting until polls close on Saturday night.