My experience handing out PPAU How to vote cards

So I did some handing out of how to vote cards in the safe Liberal Seat of Goldstein, VIC. I just wanted to share my experience.

I arrived just before 8am, and already there is a queue formed. I needed to arrive earlier as to be able to get to these people as they were already within 6 meters of the entrance. Also I wasted too much time stuffing around with the Corflutes when I should have focussed on getting the cards handed out more importantly.

Labor Party didn’t bother sending anyone except someone for half an hour 1PM-1.30PM. Before that, they had someone drop off a box of how to vote cards which said “Please take one”, which not a single person did. In the entire day only about 3 people specifically requested a Labor how to vote card in which the Greenies picked it up for them out of the box out of courtesy. The Greens are genuinely a bunch of do-gooders, if someone from another party wants to take a short break, they will gladly help hand out Pirate, Christian, Liberal flyers with theirs, they don’t discriminate (Happened twice, two different Greens on different shifts). Lesson: Don’t leave a bunch of unattended How To Vote cards unless it is only a short break with some Greenies around to hand them out, nobody will pick them up.

As for myself I wore a black Pirate Party t-shirt with a bandana over my head. I did have good feedback about the look with the bandana.

I made sure I was always smiling, coming up to people with a great big smile too. I was complimented on my appearance and approachability by a Greens person.

I made sure to greet as many people as possible, coming up to them where possible ahead of the other people heckling them with How to Vote cards. Not always possible with the amount of people coming in with only just me to cover both directions for 1 entrance, but when I was able to walk towards them I was able to get a higher acceptance rate of taking a How to Vote card and getting a conversation started.

My standard greeting would was along the lines of “G’Day/Hello/Sir/Madam I am from the Pirate Party, please have a look at our policies [hands them the card]”. If I was able to get any kind of attention from them I would ask if there are any specific issues important to them this election.

A common reaction would be to laugh at me when I said the name of the party, to my reply is “We are not a joke party, please have a look at our policies…” (more on this in a later). Even if I didn’t get a reaction (they just took the card) I always tried to mention to have a look at our policies.

I feel that I did a very good job of conveying the Pirate Party, who we are, what we stand for, our policies. I think that I nailed the message every time someone asked me. I made sure to ask them about the specific issues that they care about and helped them explain the Pirate position on that. They all seemed very impressed with my responses, mainly an expression of positively surprised that we have a sensible policy on something they didn’t expect from a left-leaning party.

By far, the biggest problem, is that people just don’t want to know about us.

It was quite a phenomenon with the Liberal voters is that they will come in, avoid all How To Vote cards at all costs and completely ignore everyone else, take a Liberal How to Vote card and go on their way. Not a single one of these people asked the Liberal person about Policy, it was simply a case of them collecting their “Cheat Sheet” of how they should vote. Not even interested to hear what anyone else has to say, not even as a curiosity. You could easily spot who were the Liberal voters were.

Nothing wrong with being a determined voter who knows exactly who they are voting for (that is a good thing), but it was in stark difference to everyone else. Even a determined voter of another party would still give you the time of day,

If I did manage to get a laugh out of the name of the party, a determined Liberal voter would refuse to take it further, not even take a card to even look at any policies, even though we were already engaging with each other.

It boggles my mind how fiercely loyal the Liberal voter base is. Yes I know that they have their reasons, but the loyalty is unrivaled. I don’t know if it is Liberal voters in general, or if would be the same for Labor voters in a Labor majority seat.

Even though there was some success with starting off with a “Joke” name, getting their attention that “This is not a joke” and get to give them a how to vote card and talk to them about checking out our policies, this was definitely a minority case. Probably about 20 people the whole day I was there. Not complaining about 20 votes (assuming that I did manage to convert them into a vote, I know that some people did say they voted for us after that), but for the amount of people that this worked for throughout the whole day (20 out of ~2000), overall it was high-effort/low-reward.

I would have much preferred a concise descriptive name for the Party that everyone understands than a Joke or Single-Issue (that is not big in the public spotlight) name. The guy from the Animal Justice Party had no problem getting his message across. Their policies are irrelevant, if someone loves animals (and who doesn’t?) they are going to take a card, give it a good look without prompting, and I’m sure that they probably got a lot of votes this way. Very Low-Effort/High Reward for the amount of total people there.

There was also a guy there from John Madigan’s Manufacturing and Farming Party. Again, he had a clear message - he dressed like a farmer and only said “Support the farmers”, a lot of people taking his cards. Who doesn’t love Farmers right?

Hardly anyone had even heard of our party before. Probably about 5 people actually heard of us, only 1 said they actually came to vote for us. A couple of people said they voted because they like the sound of Pirates (arrgh matey). One said he would vote because he likes using The Pirate Bay.

Only one person actually asked me about Copyright! Actually he asked if we believe in scrapping copyrights and that artists won’t get paid. I quickly turned that around that “No way! We definitely support having copyrights, they just need to be on fair and reasonable terms so that everyone can get affordable legal access rather than wanting to Pirate it instead due to market failure, and a having a ridiculous amount of copyright extensions.”

I had several people tell me that they don’t like the name of the party, it is stupid, it doesn’t represent the values of the party (once I had told them what we are), and so on. I took it as a chance to try out the currently-most-popular suggest of our name change topic “TLDR - Transparency Liberty Digital Rights”. In 100% of cases, the response was dumbfounded. They had no idea what it actually means that they did not get the TLDR reference. I found that TLDR worked great as a slogan but as a party name it would only appeal to the highly computer literate. We need something short and direct to the point.

I initially came at 8am with my dog dressed as a pirate. As things got more busy/hectic I realised that it was a bad idea to bring him along. He started getting restless and also there was a risk that he could have got trodden on. A cute one -eyed dog in Pirate Outfit did not bring much attention either. Only 1 person gave him a pat. I left 10.00-10.30 am to take him home. I do not recommend bringing dogs/animals for campaigning unless you happen to have a super chilled out Parrot who will stay on your shoulder the entire time. I will post some pics tomorrow.

I left again from 12.00-1.00 because I had other commitments. When I came back one of the Greenies told me about a person who actually looking for me! (Probably because they saw the corflute sign, but other than this I don’t think that the corflutes had much impact even though I had them front-facing to the crowd from both directions - nobody else was looking for the Pirate Party person except the guy who said he had already decided to vote Pirate Party). He was still in the back of the (short) line and I called out to him, but he wasn’t interested in coming back, so not sure exactly why he was interested.

I had 2x nutcase-assholes (N-A) and one Stupid Asshole (S-A)

N-A 1 heckled me for 15 minutes because they were really offended that I would dare to even campaign for a party who wouldn’t win. After ascertaining that he didn’t have any genuine issues to talk about, I just told him that I respect his right to his opinion… there is nothing more I would really say to him.

S-A said I had to talk like a Pirate if I wanted her to listen to me. I so play along (pirate accent) “Ahoy me hearties please have a look at our policies.” her: Oh you got to do better than that. me: (pirate accent) “We have lots of good policies on Freedom and Civil Liberties, please have a look ARRRRR”. her: Oh ok you got me at ARRRR! She came back to me after her vote and said “Oh I didn’t vote for you, I don’t think that your pirate accent as good enough.” (Well thanks for making a mockery of me then) [not actually said].

N-A 2 heckled me “What do you stand for!” “What are your policies?” “…no don’t tell me from your How to Vote card, I want you to explain it to me directly person-to-person”. I chose the subjects of Copyright, Freedom of Religion & Foreign Policy. He was very impressed with my response. He then heckled the Liberal person, similar sort of thing, and then the Green person who failed his demand (both not explaining their position very thoroughly and also I think he already hated the Greens) and he went on a 15 minute tirade at her. After he had finished he said that he had already voted and walked off. He wasted my time to put in a detailed response when I could have been talking to other voters for his own personal pleasure of giving others a hard time, when he had no intention of voting at all.

This is the problem when dealing with the public. Be aware.

Overall the Greens people and the Australian Christians & Animal Justice persons were great, as well as a couple of the Liberal guys. The Greens people all took an interest in Pirate Party policies (one ended up taking a card to look at even though she said she wasn’t going to) and took particular interest in our stance against TPP.

One of the Greens people took offense to our Policy on Gene patents (She works in this area and said that this policy sounds too broad and when I looked up the actual policy text she said that the issue has already been resolved by the High Court). I took her email address and told her I will look into this (I’ll raise this separately), and she seemed quite impressed with that response.

The Christian person was quite respectful. I asked him what motivates him and his view is that he is on a calling from God (just to give you some context of where he is coming from). I asked for this thoughts on our Marriage Equity policy, and he actually quite liked it! He said that there is no requirement from god to be involved in government, but having Government that supports Christian is helpful.

Animal Justice guy was quite respectful that not everyone wants to be a Vegan (even though that’s a party policy).

I tried to socialise with the farmer guy a little bit, but he just did not want to talk to anyone. He never went into anyof his Policy that he was there for. I could get out of him was that he lives in the area (nowhere near the country) but he OWNS a Farm (From what I can gather, he doesn’t even operate his own farm, but here he is dressed like one). The best I could get out of him was asking him about his thoughts on Live Export “No Live Export, Keep the jobs in Australia”. OK that’s makes sense.

Be aware also of The Liberal party people though. Most of them were great. But I feel that one of them was trying to distract me with questions (which he didn’t even seem too interested in anyway) just when influx of voters were coming in. You just got to learn to ignore that and address them when the voters have passed. Primary role is to talk to voters not other parties.

I definitely have no regrets. It was really insightful experience to see what people really do in an election when you have boots on the ground.

Having our policies on the How To Vote cards was absolutely brilliant. I really couldn’t have got anything done without it.

My takeaway is that elections are very much physical world matter (you can say and do all you want on the internet but barely anyone will see it unless you penetrate into their circles - Facebook/Mainstream News/Friends & Family/Events). Practically nobody has even heard of us. It takes an incredible amount of effort to get someone to look past the name and onto what we actually stand for, and that hook to flip it around isn’t all that strong. We have a chance at capturing votes where a voter hasn’t made up their mind or put much effort into their decision in advance, but the time to capture votes is well before election day. Not to mention all the lost leads with Pre-Poll and Postal Votes.

I would support moves towards a complete branding and media overhaul of the party.

That is everything I can think of. Hopefully this experience shared helps us with future campaigns.


I really like what you have to say. Last night I argued quite extensively on why I don’t think we should change our name, although I am open to the idea of changing the name to something equally unique that doesn’t pigeonhole us as a single-issue party, or sound bland.

The issue with the “Pirate Party ahaha what a joke” thing could potentially be offset by a far more penetrating and effective media campaign to raise awareness of who we are and what we believe. This would probably be easier to do with the name “Pirate” because its already a talking point that allows a transition into a more serious discussion.

So I guess in the end, I think changing the name isn’t necessarily bad, but I am STRONGLY opposed to a name such as “Libertarian Left” as I feel it lacks voter resonance and risks putting us in the box of “Oh another minor political party who just want to slow things down”. Any name we pick should carry an implication of go-getting, change and appeal to the people who are dissatisfied with the current state of politics.

Edit: Just a thought, could the piratey look have actually hindered your efforts by making you seem less serious?

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I did think of that and I’ll post pics tomorrow (have to dress up again because it wss too busy to take any and then I’m too tired) but honestly in my opinion, and comments I got, I looked presentable rather than over the top or ridiculous. Reaction only came after saying the name of the party.

The name DOES make a hook, no question, but only works on about 1% of people.

Re: discussion of actual name change, I’ll address in those threads as not to go off topic.

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Good write up Simon.

From my days camapigning and election scrutineering with the ALP, real world logistics is everything.

It was about how many guys(even though women are around 50%, its still guys) you can get with how many cars travelling around to where the flow of people are on the day to beef up your how to vote in your face boots on the ground giving out HTVs.

Behind all that is the actual campaign, advertising, media etc. But in the end it comes down to how many sweaty teenagers and uni students you have and how fast you can shove them to where the voters are turning up.

We of course had none of these. I saw a lot of Greens and ALP sweaty teenagers / uni students at the booths I visited.

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The name thing is really quite a mixed blessing. No-one was actively unpleasant at my Bennelong booth, but two people did tell me they wouldn’t vote for a silly name. There were maybe 15 people for whom the name was a useful hook to bring them into a chat over the policies and whatnot. Having the policies on the HTV helped a lot. Telling people about Iceland helped, too. My sense is that the name is a potentially useful tool but it needs work in order to work. That is to say - it can get attention, but that attention has to be turned into understanding, and that takes time and effort. Animal justice type parties can grow with less effort since their name is so easy to understand.

I’d support a change to an easily understood, jargon-free, descriptive name, if we can find one. Pirate is a mixed blessing, but there is a global brand which gives it an edge over other small parties. And there are very few hardened views towards us - one or two people told the Greens volunteer to “get stuffed” (or worse) but there was zero ingrained hostility to us. There was curiosity and and a perception that we were exotic.

So far as other parties went, the volunteers were all very nice, and there was a real shared spirit among the people who were there all day. ALP voters seemed quite nice and especially likely to laugh at the name. Coalition voters seemed innately resentful and surly to everyone, including their own volunteers. Greens were young and mostly knew who we were. The CDP was able to turn out a huge contingent of Chinese Christian supporters, suggesting they have been working behind the scenes in that community for a long time. The Arts party and a local Indy had no obvious supporters. I had a dozen people through the day who specifically came up for an HTV, which was good.

I concur with OP that it was a good learning experience.


Thanks for sharing Simon

I have handed out for ALP quite a few times in Blue ribbon Liberal rural seat, ive always found i can have a good conversation with anyone else working there. There is a certain amount of camaraderie, you do have different ideologies, but you all care about democracy enough to stand out in the cold for an extended amount of time to help others decide.

Sometimes there are extreme voters, but pretty rare where i am.

For the ALP/LNP, i think HTV cards are more a defensive thing, they stand out if they dont do it, it looks like they arent even trying. They have had the media talking about their policies for weeks, so the HTV is just a reminder/marketing exercise. And usually they wont stop to talk, so you just get a couple of words in anyway. No time for explaining.

But for minor parties there is less expectation, so not much risk of disappointment, so its not as important. (glad you enjoyed the experience)

Its very difficult to change peoples vote, i really think we need a plan based on rebranding, identifying the target audience, and enhancing policies that appeal to that audience.

I had a great time handing HTV cards. I was in Mackellar and there were a few Liberals, one Labor, one Greens, one Christian Democrat, and two Independents handing out stuff, the liberals generally kept to themselves while the rest of us got along really well, I think all of them handed out one of my HTVs at least once. I think being at a small polling place helped but no one was really rude except for the odd pirate joke (thank god we were in column R) and one guy who thought we supported actual modern pirates.

I think the name actually helped us out a lot, so many people were taking no cards but took ours after hearing the name, I would later see them reading the back of it pretty intently. This might not have translated into a lot of 1st preference votes, from the looks of things my location has gone from 8 votes (0.43%) to 9 votes (0.49%) which I would consider an increase in 2 votes considering I pre-polled this year instead, but a lot of people who didn’t know a thing about us now know what we stand for which will help inform their decision in future federal, state, and local elections. If we get funds to do marketing campaigns next election then the name thing won’t be a massive deal.

Overall though I would encourage everyone to volunteer next time around, I was nervous about it right up until I started talking with the other volunteers and handed out a few cards, it was genuinely relaxing and fun after that. That’s saying something too considering how shy I usually am as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t really said anything in the party despite being a member since early 2013.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope we can try and get some “best practices” for handing out HTVs.

Optimising our name and our identity specifically for polling day, I think, is not seeing the forest for the trees. It’s one day of the year, and convincing people at that time I feel is too late, even though they may give us a bit of a boost. Animal Justice Party (and HEMP), if you look at their votes, definitely get a bit of a boost, but it’s not significant, I feel. It’s also a slippery slope argument: The Health Party almost certainly believe what they want is better health for people, but the name is designed to be as broad as possible, but is also misleading for a rational person.

If you look at the Science Party, they recently changed their name, and it’s really hard for me to make the link back to how long they’ve been around. Contrast with the Sex Party, which has been around forever. It also sounds like a joke name, and is possibly fairly offputting to vote for, but they’ve been gradually working at it, and now they enjoy a larger part of the vote.

We have a bigger problem. A lot of people know what “pirate” means, but won’t vote for us. Our primary vote actually went down this year. Fiddling with our name won’t help unless you go full populist, but that’s only effective in the short term, and worse, we kill off the links to our heritage and global movement. I don’t expect to be talking to someone 20 years from now saying how glad I was changing our name to something else, especially if Iceland gets a Pirate government.


My experiences: (handing out in a suburban booth in southern Dickson; the people of my booth are probably mostly office workers of various stripes, with an increasing proportion of retirees and a good sprinkling of tradies)

  • Signs with HTVs attached don’t get much love. I put seven out across four booths (350 HTVs across about 8800 people), and most signs had most of their HTVs still attached at the end of the day.
    • these signs merely said ‘Vote 1 Pirate in the Senate’: insert jokepartyreaction.jpg
  • being blue means people occasionally thought they already had my flyer (Libs, me, Aus Youth Climate Coalition all in blue); this was easily correctable
  • I usually went with the soundbites of:
    • “civil liberties and copyright reform”, expanding the latter with:
    • “the internet is a thing now, old business models are breaking, old laws which protect those business models are doing more harm than good”
  • “piracy is a symptom, not a cause”
  • Lines went almost all day, minimum ~20 metres from the door. This is comparatively bad; the Labor folks think my booth’s building is undersize for its demand.
  • When calculating how many HTVs you’ll need, the factors are
    • raw population (duh)
    • people not taking any flyers (probably about 40%)
    • people taking only L-NP flyers (probably about a fifth at my booth)
    • people taking only Labor/Greens flyers (probably about a tenth combined)
    • couples and larger groups taking one flyer between them
    • recycling (about 2/3 in my case, the Greens were running a very determined operation. The trouble is you can’t rely on that happening to such an extent)
  • I had about 650 flyers for my booth of about 3200 people; I ran out of new flyers at about 4:30pm (I estimate well 90% of the people had gone through by then).
  • The AJP have gotten the ‘mostly black with white highlights’ colour scheme well and truly colonised
    • they also had a comparatively good ‘unattended’ setup (second sign with ‘take a photo of our HTV’)…
    • … which they had attended, but only a few HTVs and hence their guy wasn’t putting effort into getting them into people’s hands.
  • Health Party made the ‘authorisation/printing tag not on both sides’ error. They last-minute printed out a basic DL-size B&W HTV.
  • Most people see ‘Pirate’ and think Long John Silver. If we can survive for the next 15 years we might get a membership influx, though.

  • Cross-party volunteer cameraderie is fucking fantastic and it’s what will get you through the second half of the day.

RE: Changing the name to reflect better in the polls.

My direct experience on Saturday was at the polls, however I believe that it goes much deeper than that where the name throws people off even before the polls as well (or would throw them off if there was some media attention). The reaction from some people is that you would tell them a policy, and it doesn’t matter what the policy is, they say that’s a good policy but the party is still a joke so I won’t vote for you. That decision would still be the same even before election day.

As I’ve said, Pirate Party International do not have any requirement that “Pirate” be in the party name (it is the principals that matter) and we have already reached that saturation point in Australia that the International Pirate name brings into the party. Pirate was new and big 10 years ago, but are not bringing in much new blood.

You can also look at the booth data from the previous election and see how many people voted there.

Well I just checked the 1st Preference results for the particular polling place I was at, and I got us 11 votes! (I voted in a different polling place). I’m sure I had an impact on 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, …) preferences.

2013 results were 10 vote for that Polling Place (people move, change their minds etc.)

Not statistically significant at all, even other booths in the same division had a similar number of votes with no Volunteers, Corflutes, How To Vote cards or anything at all.

Demographic: Liberal Safe Seat with plenty of narrow-minded Liberals.
Personal connections: 1 family member who said they voted Pirate, but may have said that just to make me feel better.


Oh, are we playing this game? I like this game, because I’m apparently rather good at it :smiley:
0.55% electorate-wide, 1.58% at my booth. 19 votes in 2013, 41 in 2016 (one of them mine both times).

And most importantly, we beat out every other minor party who had someone at the booth (Animal Justice, Christians, Liberty Alliance)…


But seriously, the important thing is that people learn who we are and what we stand for.


Yeah definitely. I would really like to know everyone’s score. Fine tuning our techniques and target demographics is a good thing for us next time. Care to share your approach?

I’m question whether my approach just really isn’t as good as I thought it was, or if it was because most people were either a bunch of pig-headed Liberals or just wanted to grab the card to get past without listening.

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Step 1: pick a good spot. I had a natural advantage for this because my home booth was genuinely the largest around me for a good 5km, and it only really has one stream of people in the final approach to the building.
(I tried to allocate booths based on similar criteria for everyone else, but without local knowledge I can’t do a very good job of it; the AEC descriptions of entrances are mostly about property access. We need to make a wiki section for this or something.)

Step 2: You want to be a distinct entity in people’s minds; you want to give people enough time to look at the main points on our flyer and react to them before they get their next one. This is all a lot easier when there’s a long, slow-moving queue. When people ask the obvious questions (‘what are you about’, mostly) reply to them – and be sure you’re heard by the 5 people behind them, who are currently looking at your sign. Have a sign, stand next to it, and try to position it so that it’s easily visible to those approaching in the line. Again, I had it easy; my sign was stake-mounted and at the top of a slope.

Step 3: be there from beginning to near-end (your legs will exact a heavy price the next day). You can usually safely knock off by 5. On fast-moving low-turnout days, at 2.

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I was unlucky in that the booth moved very quickly and never reached a queue length past ~6 meters (plus margin of error to the property boundary close by). One entrance in, with a prime spot right in front, but still hard when coming in from two different directions to the one entrance. My legs are knackered too! Definitely recommend GOOD footwear (i.e. Hiking boots). It was really quiet after 5 but I stayed until 6 anyway. Our techniques don’t seem dissimilar, it sounds like the difference is more environmental and quantity of voters. Did you experience the Hardcore Liberal Voter syndrome as well?

Yes, but they’re less numerous at my booth.

I spent the day in a booth that I had explicitly chosen - >1500 Green and alt left first pref votes in 2013 at Lee St Primary School in Nth Carlton.

Had a wonderful response. Name resonated and definitely got HTVs in people’s hands. Concur that policies on teh back was a major advantage - the queue was up to two hours long at one point, so people we taking them just to read. I don’t know what the impact will be on first prefs, but I can guarantee it will have given us a nice number of numbers 2-6.


1.03% first prefs (up from 0.68%). And I agree, we would get a lot of further preferences.

I was handing out in Bennelong and it went alright. I live in Wollongong, it is a very safe ALP seat, so it was interesting being in a safe Liberal seat, a completely different vibe.

Its the same with the ‘rusted ons’ in the ALP, they don’t think about who they are voting for, they know and were probably born into it and will probably die without ever voting for anyone else. With the ALP the rusted ons are mostly old though, I don’t get the impression that younger voters were so tribal.

The social make-up of the polling booth was interesting. Coming from a working class area I noticed that the vast majority of voters were well to do, I saw only three people all day who were obviously poor/ drug addicted/ socially dislocated. Wollongong is completely different in that regard, we probably have about 5% of the population that would be obviously disadvantaged and it dawned on me how the Liberals get a lot of support for wealthy areas, they just don’t understand disadvantage because they don’t regularly see it or know anyone experiencing real hardship.

Most people were friendly, most took my flyers and with the line being an hour long at times, I am sure a lot had a good read of our policies because there wasn’t anything else to do. Saw a few people carrying our flyer out with them too. I gave flyers to a few people who had already voted and said they should have a read anyway.

The Liberals had gone overboard with supplies so they gave me spare sandwiches, fruit and water which was pretty good, they would have a chat when things were quiet too. Everyone but the Christian Democrats were friendly. It is completely different to Wollongong where the ALP who tend to keep to themselves and be hostile to everyone else (probably because everyone spends all day joking about the local ALPs consistent and often hilarious corruption).

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