Shepparton News - - FRONT PAGE - By Myles Peter­son

Fol­low­ing a ner­vous wait at the Vic­to­rian Elec­toral Com­mis­sion’s Be­nalla Rd of­fices yesterday, Suzanna Sheed took the prized top spot on the bal­lot for the seat of Shep­par­ton in a randomised draw.

The draw fur­ther strength­ens the in­cum­bent’s po­si­tion, firm­ing her as the can­di­date to beat at the loom­ing Vic­to­rian poll.

Can­di­dates for the Shep­par­ton seat and their sup­port­ers gath­ered at the Vic­to­rian Elec­toral Com­mis­sion’s Be­nalla Rd of­fices yesterday for a randomised draw to de­cide po­si­tions on the seat’s bal­lot pa­per.

Af­ter a ner­vous half-hour wait when the sys­tem un­ac­count­ably stalled, in­cum­bent Suzanna Sheed took the sought-af­ter top spot, strength­en­ing her chances of re­tain­ing the seat.

Un­der Vic­to­ria’s com­pul­sory vot­ing sys­tem, dis­in­ter­ested vot­ers have been known to fill out their bal­lots by sim­ply num­ber­ing down the list and the top po­si­tion can re­port­edly de­liver a few per­cent­age points in votes, crit­i­cal in a close race.

VEC elec­tion man­ager Mick Bas­tian said his squad had been work­ing for weeks to pre­pare the district for the vote, but prepa­ra­tions be­gan back in April to source the 600 sq m site and pre­pare the hun­dreds of staff who would be needed on polling day.

‘‘We’re em­ploy­ing nearly 200 peo­ple in our vot­ing cen­tres just for Shep­par­ton,’’ Mr Bas­tian said.

From Mon­day, vot­ers will be able to regis­ter an early vote and un­like pre­vi­ous years, do not need a rea­son to do so.

‘‘From Mon­day, we’re open for two weeks,’’ Mr Bas­tian said.

Vot­ing is also avail­able via a postal vote ap­pli­ca­tion form.

It is ex­pected as many as 50 per cent of vot­ers will take ad­van­tage of vot­ing be­fore elec­tion day, ren­der­ing the early days of cam­paign­ing as crit­i­cal as the cli­max.

Along with staff at the Be­nalla Rd head­quar­ters, three teams will be at­tend­ing hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes over the next two weeks to en­able those who can­not travel to vote.

Strict guide­lines ex­ist to pre­vent po­lit­i­cal cam­paign staff ha­rass­ing vot­ers at the Be­nalla Rd cen­tre or at one of the 31 vot­ing cen­tres on elec­tion day.

Signs are lim­ited in size and cam­paign staff must re­main at least six me­tres from vot­ing cen­tre en­trances.

Fur­ther re­stric­tions ap­ply. Only reg­is­tered how-to-vote cards can be dis­trib­uted within 400 m of vot­ing cen­tres to pre­vent fake cards be­ing dis­trib­uted, a dis­hon­est tac­tic em­ployed at pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

Fol­low­ing the draw, Ms Sheed’s odds with bet­ting agen­cies, al­ready good, promptly dropped fur­ther, in­di­cat­ing she is the over­whelm­ing favourite to re­tain the seat.

Her clos­est op­po­nents, Ch­eryl Ham­mer and Peter Sch­warz, raced out to an un­likely three to one.

Pic­ture: Rod­ney Braith­waite

Where they stand: The VEC’s Mick Bas­tian pushed the but­ton on the bal­lot pa­per draw yesterday, with Suzanna Sheed tak­ing out the No. 1 po­si­tion.

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