Donkey voting in protest of the current political climate is like being handed a megaphone and using it to whine about how nobody can hear you.

Informal votes in the last federal election made up 5.92% of ballot papers (source). When you consider that current two party preferred polls are showing 50-50 or 51-49 either way, those votes could change the outcome of Saturday’s election.

If you don’t believe that the major parties are looking after your interests the best thing you can do to change this is vote for minor parties and/or independents.

We have preferential voting in Australia. This means that voting for a candidate who “will never win anyway” is not “wasting your vote”. If the candidate you vote for cannot win a seat with their total votes, then your vote will flow to the next highest preference. By supporting them, you will have increased the chance that they will receive AEC funding for their next campaign. Candidates who receive more than 4% of 1st preferences receive campaign funding from the AEC for the next election (source)

Voting for minor parties and independents also shows major parties that you believe they are out of touch with you. Major parties who receive preference flow from minor parties and independents often decide to align their views more closely with those minor parties and independents, to better appeal to those voters at the next election. A concrete example of this is the Labor party aligning its policies more closely with those of The Greens following the 2010 election, owing to the rise in popularity of The Greens and the fact that many Greens voters directed their preferences to Labor.

The only thing that donkey voting gives you is bragging rights with your friends about how much of a carefree rebel you are. All you’re really doing by voting informally is throwing away your chance to decide who will make decisions that affect your life for the next three years.

If, like me, you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by choice, here’s a suggestion on how to build your preference list: I made a table with ten rows, each representing one of ten issues that I think are most important to me. Each column of the table represented a party or candidate. I went to the websites for each candidate and ctrl+f’d for my ten issues. I then gave each candidate a score out of ten for each issue, and a zero if they didn’t mention the issue. Then I simply tallied the columns and used each party’s/candidate’s score out of 100 to form my preference list, using my best judgement as a tiebreaker. It only took me half an hour. Half an hour to ensure that my vote goes to the people who can best represent my interests on a federal level for the next three years.

You owe it to yourself to vote for the candidates who best represent your interests. Please, do not waste your vote. Before you go to the polls this Saturday, make sure you know who you want to support and why.