Getting enrolled and turning up to a polling place is only half of the story. It’s also important to make sure that you vote properly so that your vote is valid.
At the 2016 Federal election you will get two ballot papers.
Each ballot must be filled out in different ways. If your ballot is not correctly filled out, it may be declared ‘invalid’ and not counted.
Read the information here and watch the animations on the home page to make sure that you know how to get each ballot right.
Many people think of Federal elections as a chance to say which person they want to be elected. This is partly true, but doesn’t tell the full story. A Federal election is not just about picking your favourite candidate. It’s actually more about giving all of the candidates a ranking – putting them in order from your favourite to your least favourite.
If your preferred candidate doesn’t get elected, your vote gets transferred to your second preference. If that candidate is not successful, it goes to your third choice and so on.
This is called the full preferential voting system, and it’s used in Federal elections for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s important to know how to get your preferences right because making a mistake can mean that your vote doesn’t count. (Actually, the preferential voting system is a bit more complicated than this).
You can’t choose whether you want preferential voting in the House of Representatives but on the Senate ballot paper, you can decide how many preferences you want to indicate. For more information about this, see our information on voting for the Senate.
If there is an independent or small party candidate who has policies which matter to you, you can vote for them first and then vote for your preferred major party candidate second or further down your preferences. While an independent or small party candidate is less likely to be elected, your interest in their policies will be recorded if you give them your first preference. When a candidate campaigning on a particular issue gets a lot of votes, the major parties may take note and pay more attention to that issue in future.
Preferential voting is compulsory when you are voting in the House of Representatives. For the Senate, the situation is a bit more complex, but preferential voting is still the best option and is now easier to do. For more information on how to do this, see our information on voting for the Senate
When voting preferentially you can choose either to determine your own preferences or follow the How to Vote ticket of a candidate of your choosing.
The election count almost always relies on preference votes. In the House of Representatives, preferences are used when none of the candidates reach 50%+1 of the total vote (which is common). All the number 1 votes are counted first. If none of the candidates reach 50%+1 of the total vote in this first count, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The eliminated candidate’s preferences are then distributed to remaining candidates and counted as full votes. This process is continued until a candidate reaches 50%+1 of the total count If your number two candidate has been eliminated then your third preference will be counted as a full vote. The likelihood of your preferences being counted is high, it is therefore important that your ticket is a true reflection of your preferred choices.
In the Senate, the process is similar, except that candidates are trying to achieve a ‘quota’. The quota is based on the number of ballot papers and the number of senators to be elected. After the first count, candidates who achieve a quota are elected immediately, and any extra votes are distributed according to preferences. Second and third rounds of counting (and so on) are often needed to work out which candidates eventually achieve a quota and get elected to the Senate.
The House of Representatives ballot is the light green paper.
This ballot paper has the names of the candidates and their parties listed in random order. You need to give every candidate on the ballot paper a number. 1 indicates your first choice candidate, 2 your second choice, 3 your third until every candidate is numbered. You can only use numbers – no ticks or crosses. You can only use each number once – for example, you can’t have two second choices!
If you leave some squares blank, your vote will not be counted. When the voter’s intention for every candidate is clear, this is called a formal vote. If your choice is not clear your vote cannot be counted and is called an informal vote.
If you make a mistake, you can go to an election official and ask for a new ballot paper. This is worth doing if you think your intention might not be clear on the ballot – you want your vote to count!
Senators in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania are elected for 6 years. If you live in one of these states, you would normally be electing 6 of your State’s 12 Senators. However, because 2016 is a double dissolution election, the Senate has been dissolved and all 12 Senators are up for re-election.
Senators in the ACT and Northern Territory are elected each Federal election (3 years). If you live in one of these territories, you always elect both of your 2 Senators.
The Senate ballot paper is white and is the largest ballot paper. To vote formally in the Senate, you must vote either above or below the line. Don’t do both!
Voting above the line is best for people who want to vote for a particular party (or parties), but don’t care which individual candidates from that party gets elected.
When you vote above the line, you can vote the party you prefer, and then give your preferences to as many parties as you like. You must vote for at least six parties, by numbering them 1 to 6. You may mark all the boxes above the line. Use consecutive numbers (eg: 1-6) and don’t use letters, ticks or crosses.
If you vote above the line, do not mark any of the boxes below the line. Don’t use ticks, crosses or letters. Use each number once only – for example, you can’t have two second choices and no third choice! If you make a mistake, you can go to an election official and ask for a new ballot paper.
Your vote will still be counted if you indicate just one preference above the line (with a ‘1’), but if no candidate from your party of choice is successful, your vote will be ‘exhausted’ and will not count towards the election of a senator. You only get to have your say by voting once every three years, so it is worth recording as many preferences as you can, either above or below the line.
Voting below the line gives you a say in which individuals get elected. If you want to have the most impact on who gets your support in the Senate election, you should vote below the line.
You’ll see that under the line on your Senate ballot, there are long lists of candidates. If you vote below the line, you should vote for 12 or more candidates, from as many parties as you like, but you must number at least twelve boxes.
If you vote below the line, don’t number any of the boxes above the line. Don’t use ticks, crosses or letters. Use each number once only – for example, you can’t have two second choices and no third choice! If you make a mistake, you can go to an election official and ask for a new ballot paper.
If you are interstate, you can find a list of places to cast your vote here
Pre-polling, or early voting, is now open in all States and Territories and is open until 1 July. You can find your closest pre-polling station by entering your postcode, suburb or electorate on the AEC Website.
You can find the closest polling place to you for Election Day by following this link.
Remote voting is now open. You can find a remote voting locations here.
For information about accessible voting options for women with disability, go to I am a woman with disability.
If you are going to be outside of your electorate (also known as your electoral division), you can cast what is called an absent vote on Election Day. Absent votes can be made in any polling place if you are in the same state or territory as your electorate. Information on absent votes will be available at all polling places and on the AEC website.
If you are overseas you can find more information on voting and enrolment at the AEC website.
You can find out where the mobile polling booths will be here.
And it wouldn’t be Election Day without a snag or lamington! You can find all the polling booth sausage sizzles and cake stalls at Snag Votes