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Preferences determine around half of our House of Representatives seats and the crucial balance of power in the Senate.
They're at the heart of our democracy - ensuring that our elected candidates need to be the "least worst", with the consent of a majority of the electorate.
Any ``above the line readers'' should bail out now.
Parties have been compelled by the AEC to lodge Senate group voting tickets - which are effectively a ranking of the other parties should their own party's vote be cut up.
The preferences come into play whenever someone votes above the line, which in Tasmania is around four in every five voters.
A party's preferences can work in two key ways to influence the election:
- Minor party votes can trickle through to major parties, which can give major parties the edge over each other, or
- Minor parties can get lucky through an accumulation of preference flows and leap-frog more fancied parties.
With Tasmania fielding a record field of 54 Senate candidates in 23 groups - the preference flow is more complicated than ever.
It's practically impossible to forecast whether one of those minor parties is in a strong enough position to jump above the rest until the results are known.
However, we can easily determine which of the major parties will (eventually) receive any votes granted to the micro-parties - should those parties miss out on receiving a quota themselves.
Labor will receive preferences from the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party, Shooters and Fishers, Sex Party, No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics and Australian Fishing and Lifestyle.
" With Tasmania fielding a record field of 54 Senate candidates in 23 groups - the preference flow is more complicated than ever."
And the Greens should eventually receive the preferences of Palmer United Party, Australian Independents, Senator Online and Pirate Party.
Some of the more noteworthy Tasmanian preferencing decisions include:
* While Labor is directing preferences immediately to the Greens, the Greens have found room to preference the Pirate Party, Sex Party and Australian Independents ahead of Labor,
* The Help End Marijuan Prohibition (HEMP) Party is directing their preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens, leaving the obvious question of what they were smoking?
* The Democratic Labour Party is preferencing the Liberal party ahead of their namesakes Labor,
* The two parties with appeal to the angler - the ``Shooters and Fishers'' and ``Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party'' - have spared fishers a painful decision after deciding to preference each other first,
* The Palmer United Party has preferenced the Greens above both major parties despite having not much in common with each other, and
* The No Carbon Tax: Climate Sceptics Party has preferenced the party of the climate tax, Labor, ahead of the party that has pledged to repeal the tax!
One of the more remarkable campaign stories so far emerged when it became clear the Wikileaks Party had ``accidentally'' preferenced the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Australia First Party ahead of the somewhat similar Greens and the major parties.
That decision was made before federal leader Tony Abbott called a small number of parties the Liberals would preference below the Greens ``frankly racist''.
Mr Abbott was referring to parties including One Nation and Rise Up, put last by the Liberals in the Northern Territory.
It remains unclear whether these decisions have any practical effect, though for many voters, the symbolism of their preferencing rings true.