When it comes to who wins the 2022 Federal Election, the truth is that most of your votes won't really matter.
The margins in most of the 151 federal seats of parliament are so comfortably held by one party or politician that they will be largely ignored by pundits on Saturday night.
However about 21 battleground seats have the power to swing this election. In many cases, they represent the changing tides of Australian politics. If there is a swing against the government, it has to materialise in these seats to enact change.
The margin a seat is held by refers to the gap between what the winning candidate received at the last election over and above the 50 per cent needed to win the seat. Most importantly, that is the final count after adding the preferences of less popular candidates.
Voters in these small margin electorates are the kingmakers. Here's what to watch.
Key seats in NSW
Dissatisfaction with both major parties and their leaders has really opened the door for independents and minor parties. The most public example has been the rise of the 'teal' independents to challenge once safe Liberal seats such as businesswoman Allegra Spender.
She is looking to claim the seat formerly held by Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney's affluent eastern suburbs – and once a crown jewel of the Liberal Party – against first-term incumbent Dave Sharma who won it on a margin of 1.3 per cent in 2019.
Ms Spender is the daughter and granddaughter of prominent Liberal MPs and the daughter of beloved fashion designer Carla Zampatti. Like other teal independents (Liberal blue mixed with some green) she is running on climate, integrity and equality.
"I think people are really frustrated with a government that is refusing to be accountable for how it spends taxpayer money," she told Yahoo New Australia earlier this year.
What was once a Labor stronghold flipped to the Liberals when Tony Abbot came to power in 2013.
The seat is based around Strathfield and Homebush in the western suburbs of Sydney. It is held by Dr Fiona Martin on a margin of 3.18 per cent.
She is challenged by Labor academic researcher Sally Sitou. The candidate – who has been outspoken about the racism she has faced – was highly critical of her opponent when she confused her with another Asian Australian during a radio debate.
This is the most marginal seat in the country with Labor holding it on a vanishingly small margin of 0.19 per cent.
The seat takes in the outer fringes of Western Sydney, the Blue Mountains and some of the Hawkesbury region. Scott Morrison has been overtly courting these voters and it will only take a few hundred votes for local councillor Sarah Richards to unseat Labor's Susan Templeman.
Labor has held the coal mining seat for a century but climate policy and the transition to renewables has proven a thorny issue. After the retirement of Joel Fitzgibbon, voters in Hunter are facing a choice between a new Labor candidate and a Nationals candidate who has directed his pitch to the area's farmers.
It was won in 2019 on a margin of 2.98 per cent.
The Central Coast seat is being fought between two former health professionals. Pharmacist Emma McBride holds the seat on a margin of 1.5 per cent and is challenged by former cardiologist Michael Feneley for the Liberals.
Labor has won the seat in four out of the last five elections, with the exception coming in 2013.
Parramatta has been one of the most visited seats by Scott Morrison this election campaign. And that tells you everything you need to know as he hopes to overturn Labor's 3.5 per cent margin in the Western Sydney electorate.
Further south, this seat has been viewed as a reliable bell-weather as it often goes with the winning party. It takes in a huge area surrounding the ACT stretching from Yass to the Victorian border.
Labor's Kristy McBain won the seat at a by-election by less than 1 per cent. Her opponent, former Pharmacy Guild of Australia executive Jerry Nockles was installed as candidate at the 11th hour due to factional infighting in the state NSW Liberal Party.
High-profile candidate Andrew Constance is looking to claim the south coast seat after switching from state politics as the former NSW Transport Minister. While considered a strong candidate, polls ahead of the election showed he might struggle to overcome a two-party-preferred vote for Labor’s Fiona Phillips.
The seat was the only real gain by Labor in 2019, which won it (for only the second time ever) on a margin of 2.6 per cent.
Key seats in Victoria
While this would be a ground-shaking result, a well-funded and highly organised grassroots campaign has given independent Monique Ryan a possible chance to unseat a sitting treasurer in the inner-Melbourne seat.
Josh Frydenberg admitted he was potentially in trouble with strong community support for the paediatric neurologist.
If there's a strong turnout for 'teal' independents, other seats like North Sydney might be more likely to fall but there has been LOTS of media attention on this one and a defeat would spell broader trouble for the government.
Another prominent teal independent looking to poke the Liberal party in the eye is former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel.
The so-called blue ribbon seat for the Liberals which takes in Melbourne's southeast has found itself in danger with outspoken junior minister Tim Wilson holding a 7.79 per cent margin which could evaporate quickly when the votes are counted this time around.
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia in February, Ms Daniel accused the government of merely paying "lip service" to women's issues.
"Perhaps that has encouraged independents like myself to step forward to try to make a difference from the inside with better female representation," she said.
The government holds this seat on a wafer-thin margin of 0.57 per cent. The outer Melbourne seat is a perennial swing voter with Liberal candidate Gladys Liu holding the seat after high-profile former lawyer Julia Banks defected from the party.
The seat which is concentrated on the Bellarine Peninsula also takes in the southern suburbs of Geelong. Labor won it back in 2019 on a margin of just over 1 per cent after it went blue the previous two elections.
Key seats in WA
After state Labor romped home in recent state elections, the federal level of the party is optimistic it can flip some WA seats in its favour. That includes the seat recently held by the former Attorney-General Christian Porter whose political career was derailed by an allegation of historical rape, which he denied. A recent redistribution has also eaten away at the Liberal margin in the seat.
The inner city seat south of the Swan River is dishing up an interesting contest after the retirement of a Liberal stalwart.
This time Sky News pundit and PR aficionado Kristy McSweeney is trying to hold the seat against Labor challenger and chemical engineer Zaneta Mascarenhas who hopes to turn it red.
The diverse seat will definitely be one to watch as vote counting gets under way.
North of Perth is the state's most marginal seat, held by high-profile Labor MP Anne Aly who has held it since 2016.
It was won by the Liberal Party the previous three elections and sits on a current margin of less than 1 per cent.
Key seats in Queensland
Neither party are reportedly expecting any major changes in Queensland with the Liberal Party likely to keep its federal stranglehold on the sunshine state. However one to watch, particularly due to potential demographic change during the pandemic, is Longman which takes in the area between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
Won by the Liberals by 3.2 per cent in 2019, it has vacillated between the two major parties in recent history.
The seat once held by Labor treasurer Wayne Swan is on a very thin margin. Anika Wells held it in 2019, but only just. She is facing a relative unknown candidate and despite the slim margin, should hold the seat.
The electorate includes inner northern Brisbane and extends along Moreton Bay.
Key seats in Tasmania
Labor underperformed in Tassie in 2019, and is hoping to pick up a seat like Braddon. Covering the north-west and west coasts of Tasmania, it is held on a 3.1 per cent margin.
As a former local mayor, Liberal incumbent Bridget Archer is highly regarded in the community, which could be just enough to overcome any dissatisfaction of Scott Morrison and his government in the Launceston-focused electorate. She won the seat from Labor in 2019 by 0.4 per cent.
Key seats in South Australia
After a huge win in the recent state election, Labor is hoping it can claim the seat of Boothby which covers the southern suburbs of Adelaide.
It is the key seat to watch in the state. Long held by the Liberal Party, the vacated seat has become increasingly contested in recent elections with a 2019 margin of just 1.4 per cent.
Key seats in Northern Territory
While there are a couple seats in the top end that both parties are gunning for, it's the seat of Lingiari that could be the one to watch with the retirement of long-serving Labor member Warren Snowdon. The ALP held the set with a margin of more than 5 per cent, but with frequent visits by the PM during the campaign, he clearly thinks it's ripe for the picking.
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