For all the bluff and bluster of the campaign so far, from a logistics and voting point of view the election really doesn’t start until lunchtime today, when ballot draws are conducted across Australia in the 150 House of Representative seats and eight Senate contests.

We all trooped out to Town Square in Ringwood at noon to watch the ballot draw in Menzies, which has emerged as potentially the blokiest contest in Australia, with eight men and no women contesting.

This is a bit of a shame when you consider how angry Liberal incumbent and arch-conservative Kevin Andrews makes many women.

Former Democrats leader Lyn Allison was even prepared to forgive Crikey’s involvement in the demise of the Democrats in 2002 to donate $100 to our campaign, motivated in part by her desire “to remove Kevin Andrews, whose extreme conservative agenda is problematic, especially for women”.

We’ll know later today whether political participation has fallen away in this election because of the rising barriers to entry, such as the $1000 nomination fee for each candidate and the 100 signatures from electors that independent candidates must gather.

Remarkably, while registered political parties have had access to the electoral roll for months, independents won’t get it until this afternoon.

This is more than a touch unfair when you consider that early voting commences on Tuesday morning, after the long weekend, and postal ballots will be sent out by priority mail on Tuesday.

Victoria is the leading state for postals, with 10 seats topping 10,000 postal votes in 2013, compared with only one in the rest of Australia.

In Menzies, Kevin Andrews has a well-oiled machine that dragged in 10,414 postal votes from the elderly and conservative electorate in 2013, 70.7% of whom voted for him.

Printers across Australia will be flat out this weekend as parties finalise their how-to-vote cards in time for early voting.

Even groups like GetUp are joining in the fun, producing and printing how-to-vote cards in more than 20 seats across Australia, particularly targeting marginals and nasty right-wingers such as Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott. They are still weighing up whether to include Menzies and Kevin Andrews in that list.

The print deadline certainly focuses the mind on preference negotiations, and agreements often have to be readjusted with the emergence of last-minute candidates.

One former federal MP made a late decision to stand in a highly contested Melbourne seat, gathered the 100 signatures on Wednesday night but then pulled out at the last minute yesterday morning.

The new Senate voting system will take the heat out of the traditional post-draw weekend preference haggling among the minor parties as the new game is only who will rank in the top six for the bigger parties that are bothering to hand out cards.

However, it will be interesting to see which smaller parties make the top six of the three big parties’ Senate how-to-vote cards. A quick trip to early voting centres on Tuesday morning will reveal just what deals have been done.

The only firm commitment I’ve made in Menzies is to give the No. 2 spot to Voluntary Euthanasia Party candidate Jay Franklin, who is suffering horrendously from a rare congenital bowel disease. After more than 100 operations Jay is particularly affronted, like many others, by the ideological position Kevin Andrews takes against the interests of those who believe in dying with dignity.

The Greens are also considering giving Jay their second preference, and it will be interesting to see where Kevin Andrews places him on the Liberal ticket.

I’ve reached agreement with Greens candidate and Menzies resident Richard Cranston that we both go to each other ahead of the two big parties and that Kevin Andrews will be behind Labor candidate Adam Rundell, who lives miles away in St Kilda.

The campaign is building momentum with full-page ads in the local papers, hundreds of corflutes going up and a paid leaflet drop to every household.

An early Morgan poll showed Andrews’ primary vote had tumbled 7% to 52% and the non-major party vote was up by 5% to 19%. We’re in the field with a Reachtel poll over the weekend to better understand how the issues are running.

We’ve received almost $25,000 in donations so far and yesterday was the first time we had 10 different contributions in one day. All of these are being disclosed in real time on this donations register, something no other candidate is doing in this campaign.

The “Kevin Andrews = Fake Liberal” posters are raising plenty of eyebrows around Menzies, and someone, presumably sympathetic to Andrews, has been taking a few of them down.

At first, some people object. However, when you explain the full background on ultra-conservative Andrews, there’s lots of nodding, sometimes followed by anger.

Given all that is going on around him, it is somewhat surprising how quiet and inactive Andrews is. There have been no official complaints about “Fake Kevin”, and there are no posters in shops or corflutes in the front yards of Liberal Party members. Is this just complacency or are people really just sick of him after 25 years as the “local member” who has delivered little for the areas and still hasn’t moved into the seat?

*Stephen Mayne is a City of Melbourne councillor and independent candidate for Menzies and was not paid for this item

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Peter Fray
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