A quick political note. I don’t get into politics much on this blog, but we’re in election season at the moment and this is a damned useful tool for voters, too useful to keep quiet about.

I’m referring to a free-to-use website called Below The Line, which has been set up to help people navigate the maze of candidates and preferences that they will be required to assign to their votes come election time.

There’s a field to enter your electoral division, and the site then lists all the candidates for your House of Representatives seat, with links to their web presence or their party’s where those are available. It will also list everyone on your State or Territory’s Senate ticket, with links ditto. If you select a candidate, it will show exactly where that candidate/party has allocated their preferences so you can see where your vote will cascade to if your primary choice doesn’t make it in.

Here’s the really neat part. The site includes a ballot editor feature, where once you’ve got your preference list you can click and drag the names around until the candidates are in the preference order that YOU want them in. Then you can download a customised how-to-vote sheet as a PDF, to print off and take in to the ballot booth with you.

I love this feature. I’ve voted below the line at the last couple of Federal elections, and while I’m glad that I did it could be a slightly teeth-grinding experience trying to work out where to send a vote, what exactly some of these minor parties were about (Help End Marijuana Prohibition or the Bullet Train Party I could take a pretty good guess at, for example, but what about the Building Australia Party? The Uniting Australia Party? The Australian Independents?), and of course fretting that somewhere in numbering the hundred-and-whatever different boxes I’d accidentally left a number out, or doubled up on one, and would spoil my vote if I didn’t pick up on it.

Below The Line lets me prepare a custom HTV in my own time, and simply copy the numbers across on the day so I don’t have to worry about tracking them back and forth on a ballot paper that’s spilling most of its length off the edge of those dinky little cardboard standing-desks. (And trust me, it will. I just had a look at the Senate ballot paper that a family member got sent for their postal vote and it’s huge.)

Whatever the politics of the BTL creators, this is a non-partisan tool that you can make use of no matter which side of politics you want to send your votes to. More broadly, I happen to think that anything that weakens the hammerlock of the major parties and their preference deals is a good thing, and so I want to promote anything that makes people more mindful of voting their own ticket and makes it easier for them to do so. I encourage you to help spread the word about this site – it deserves lots of use and lots of support.