Make your vote count

Get it right - make it count

Women! Use Your Vote

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 2013 Federal election you will get two ballot papers.

  • one for the House of Representatives,
  • one for the Senate.

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.

What is preferential voting?

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, although in the Senate, you can let one of the parties choose who gets your preferences for you. 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.

I want to know more about the preferential system! How does it work?

Preferential voting is compulsory when you are voting in the House of Representatives and if you are voting below the line in 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. This is because preferences are used when none of the candidates reach 50%+1 of the total vote ( it’s rare for this to happen). 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.

Voting in the House of Representatives

Watch our video on voting in the House of Representatives here.

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!

Voting in the Senate

Women! Use Your Vote

Watch our video on voting in the Senate here.

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 are electing 6 of your State’s 12 Senators.

Senators in the ACT and Northern Territory are elected each Federal election (3 years). If you live in one of these territories, you are electing 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!

‘Above the line’ voting (also called ‘group ticket’ voting)

To vote above the line, you only place a number 1 in the box for the party or group of your choice. If you are voting above the line, do not write any other numbers – leave all other boxes blank. Don’t use letters, ticks or crosses – these aren’t as clear as the number 1.

If you make a mistake, you can go to an election official and ask for a new ballot paper.

By voting above the line you are letting your chosen party/group determine the order of the remaining candidates on your behalf. If you want to know the candidate order the party/group has selected, ask a polling official for the ‘Group Voting Ticket Booklet’.

We strongly recommend that you consider not voting above the line.

Voting above the line means that your vote isn’t truly yours –you are letting someone decide who gets your preferences. You can see the full details of where your preferences will be allocated if you are voting above the line here:

You only get your say every three years, so it’s worth making sure you make your views clear by voting below the line.

‘Below the line’ voting

If you want to decide who gets your preferences in the Senate, you should vote below the line.

You’ll see that under the line on your Senate ballot, there are long lists of candidates. You need to put a number in every box below the line. This can be a lengthy task as there are often many candidates, but it’s worth doing. To make your vote count, each and every box must be numbered – don’t leave any blank.

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 are voting below the line, you can speed things up by preparing your ballot in advance thanks to

Where to vote

If you are interstate, you can find a list of places to cast your vote here

Pre polling is currently open in all states and territories until September 7. If you want to cast an early vote, make sure you get to a pre polling station. You can find the closest pre-polling station here.

You can find the closest polling place to you for election day by following this link.

Remote voting has started, you can find remote polling places 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.

Voting is compulsory in Australia, but enrolment is not automatic.
The rolls have now closed for the Federal election but you can still enrol to have your say in future elections. Enrol now.

You can find out where the mobile polling booths will be here.