Every four years -- on the second Saturday in March -- Western Australians head to the polls to elect their state government. This year, the election falls on March 11, 2017 and the results will determine the priorities and focus of governance in Western Australia for the next four years.
So, why should you care and what will the election outcome mean for you? Well, according to Dr Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer in Global Politics and Policy at Murdoch University in Perth, despite all the mundane 'polly chat' about budget deficits and party preferences, the results of this state election have the very real potential to impact the lives of all Western Australians, including you.
"During this state election, important decisions will be made on the direction of Western Australian schools, healthcare, roads, electricity and transport," Dr Cook said. "It's the state government we choose who will be in control of ensuring that all of these essential agencies are given the funding and resources they need to work for all residents on a day-to-day basis."
But, he said that voting in this state election is also about more than 'infrastructure'. Below are five more significant reasons why your vote as a Western Australian during the state election on March 11 matters.
1. The Experts Are Predicting It Will Be A Close Election Result
Your vote on March 11 could be more significant than you may realise because, according to the experts, it's gearing up to be a close one. "This election is showing every sign that it's going to be a pretty tight race," Dr Cook said. "That means that relatively small numbers of votes could have a big impact on the result."
Western Australia-based political analyst William Bowe agrees. "During the 2008 state elections, the result came down to just a couple of dozen votes," Bowe said. "This election will be a close one, too, which may mean that every vote has the potential to make a real difference to the outcome."
2. Voting Is Your Democratic Right
All Western Australians aged 18 years and over have the right to vote in this election and to have their say on what they consider to be the most important priorities the elected government needs to focus on in their communities.
But that hasn't always been the case -- historically many groups in our society have had to fight for the right to vote and have, in the process, paved the way for all people, irrespective of gender, race or ethnicity, to have the democratic right to vote on how their society should be governed.
Bowe said that it's important we put this important history of the evolution of our democracy into context and really value the hard fought right we have to vote. "Perhaps some people don't have enough historical perspective of how thankful we should be that we do have this ritual of holding elections and voting," Bowe said.
3. You Can Make Yours A Vote For The Future
Bowe explained that it's important to understand that our choice at the polling booth goes well beyond the next four years; that the choices we make today will have a significant impact on our environment and the lives of future generations.
"Younger people are often of the view that older people aren't sufficiently tuned into the fact that emerging generations are worried about what kind of world they're going to inherit in 30 years time," Bowe said. "The way to make that voice heard is to get out there and vote."
4. Your Vote Can Extend Beyond The Two Major Parties
According to Bowe, Australia's democracy is unique in that it offers its citizens a wider choice than just the two major parties. "We have a range of alternative voices in the Legislative Council [Upper House] in particular, which gives more people a voice," Bowe said.
"The government has to negotiate with these small parties to get its legislation through. So because we have an electoral system that gives voice to minor parties, we can get representation of varying points of view in the legislation process."
5. Vote Or Lose The Right To Complain
Dr Cook said young people must engage in state politics to ensure their concerns about their state's future are heard. "There are some particular parties that look like they're going to have an important role to play in this forthcoming election who have a different set of sensibilities and issues that perhaps don't represent younger Australians," Dr Cook said.
"So if younger people have somewhat different interests, intentions and needs and if they don't get involved and go out and vote, then their interests and needs are going to be neglected."
"As long as you remain politically inactive and disengaged, you'll be ignored because you're not going to be seen by politicians as 'a vote to win' - or even 'a vote to lose'."
"If more young people were enrolled to vote, collectively the sorts of complaints they make about the political process would be ameliorated," Bowe said. "You can't not vote and then complain that you're not being listened to."
The state election is coming on Saturday, March 11, so now is the time to ensure you get to have a say in Western Australia's future.
Go to elections.wa.gov.au for more information. It's your future – don't miss the vote.