When i finished high school so many years ago, my dear father gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received. ‘My boy’, he said to me, in his powerful, yet warm, baritone voice, ‘your mother and I will be proud of you no matter what career you decide to pursue. Unless you want to be a politician, in which case you are no longer my son’.

Thanks to a dislike of politics, a fear of babies, and a relaxed attitude towards immigration and same sex marriage, the life of a politician was not for me. I chose to be a lawyer instead, which as it turned out was not the life for me either. At least my parents still love me, as far as I can tell.

Not everyone has followed my father’s sage advice, unfortunately. Many men, and a few brave women, have decided that the life of a politician is for them. And so, this Saturday, a good 80% of Australians over the age of 18 will vote on which candidate standing for their local area gets to be a pollie, and which candidates get to blame the Russians for meddling in the election (I am looking at you, Tony Abbott). The other 20% have already voted early because it is so much more convenient and avoids the always awkward confrontation between voters and a gauntlet of well-meaning, but completely insane, volunteers handing out how to vote cards.

Voting is an important right given to all Australians of a certain age (and, until relatively recently, a certain race, sex, and social class). If you have not yet voted, I encourage you to use your vote this Saturday to support the candidate that you believe has the same (or better) values than you, or that will fight for rights and benefits that will assist you, your family, your community and all of our futures.

You all probably know this, but the method for voting is different for this election compared to ones in the past. To complete a valid voting form for the House of Representatives (the green voting form) you need to out a number ‘1’ in the box next to the name of your first choice candidate. Then, unlike previous years, you then need to keep numbering the remaining boxes. That means putting a number ‘2’ in the box next to the name of the candidate you think is second best, and so on until you have numbered all of the boxes. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.

The massive white Senate voting form is a bit more of a pain in the butt, unfortunately. You have to number at least six boxes above the line on this form, starting with a ‘1’ in the box next to the party you most want to take a seat in the Upper House, then a ‘2’ in the box of your runner up party, and so on until you have numbered at least 6 boxes in numerical order. You can keep going and number all of the boxes if you like, so long as you stick to numerical order.

If you feel like punishing yourself, you can vote for individual Senate candidates by putting numbers in the boxes below the line on the white voting form. However if you do this you have to number at least 12 of the boxes in – you guessed it – numerical order starting with your fav and stopping once you get to 12 numbered boxes or more numbered boxes. You can even in all of the boxes below the line if you love voting forms (there are 114 of them on the New South Wales Senate voting form, in case you are interested).

If you number the forms in any other way, unfortunately your vote will not count. If you write nothing at all your vote will not count. If you draw a picture of your cat on the forms your vote will not count. If you write ‘all male politicians are self fornicators’ on your forms, you will be telling a truth but alas your vote will not count.

However, if you want to add a slightly more personal message to your voting forms this Saturday, to really let politicians (OK, just the person counting your vote late on a Saturday night) know what you think of them and their party politics AND you want your vote to count, this is certainly achievable and something I actively encourage.

Let’s say that you want to show your true feelings towards the candidates for… oh I don’t know … One Nation when you fill in your voting forms. Provided that you number the two voting forms correctly (see above), you are free to do what you like on the rest of the space available on the forms. Want to draw a massive steaming democracy sausage next to the names of the One Nation candidates? Go for it! Just don’t stray into the boxes on the forms when you draw your sausage, and your votes will still count.

Want to write a nice little poem about how the Coalition is sacrificing the future of our planet to appease the conservatives, but that by doing so you are not full of superlatives? You can do that too, but maybe find easier rhyming words to express your feelings. Again, just do not write over your carefully selected numbers in the voting boxes when drafting your poem.

And, finally, just remember: this whole election thing will all be over soon and we can get back to complaining about the last few episodes of Game of Thrones.

Have fun getting creative with your voting forms, everyone.