Make sure YOUR VOTE matters!


Your vote counts, or at least it SHOULD, but you may need to make sure that it doesn’t disappear – or is invalid!

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives has a FULL preferential voting system, all boxes should be filled in with numbers in sequential order.  A green ballot paper is used.

A House of Representatives ballot paper is informal if:

  • it is blank or unmarked,
  • ticks or crosses have been used,
  • it has writing on it which identifies the voter,
  • a number is repeated,
  • the voter’s intention is not clear, or
  • it has not received the official mark of the presiding officer and is not considered authentic.

During the counting of votes scrutineers from the parties involved will watching the count and do their best to convince the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) staff to include ballot papers that favour their candidate and exclude ballot papers that favour other candidates.  Neatness does count to ensure your intentions are clear, it is easy to confuse a 2 and a 7 or a 3 or 5 and an 8.

See more in the AEC information page for voting in the House of Representatives.


The Senate

Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate has a PARTIAL preferential voting system.  Under this system a vote can be valid if a minimum number of boxes are filled in. 

The white Senate ballot paper there is a heavy line across the ballot paper with boxes and names above and below the line. On the Senate ballot paper, to ensure that you vote is valid, you need to either:

  • number at least six boxes above the line for the parties or groups of your choice, or
  • number at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of your choice.

This is explained more in the AEC information page for voting in the Senate.

But this may not be enough to ensure that your vote actually counts!

As the AEC indicate, the Senate counting process for votes is much more complex than the House of Representatives.  It is an iterative process going through a number of cycles, in 2019 for example there were 429 counts in the NSW Senate election.

The AEC did an analysis on the 2016 Federal election when this voting system was introduced on ‘exhausted votes’.  A vote is considered “exhausted” when there is no next available preference for any continuing candidate meaning that it must be set aside from the scrutiny at that point.

There were 1,040,865 exhausted votes in the 2016 Senate elections. This reflected, nationally, 7.5% of formal Senate votes exhausted. The highest exhaustion rates were New South Wales (9.2%), Victoria (8.58%) and Queensland (7.67%).

What does this mean in practice?  Commentators have indicted that this partial preferential voting system will favour minor parties with a strong preference flow from the major parties, in Australia that tends to be the Australian Greens.  Not a little ironically, it seems that conservative voters shifting to minor parties on the ‘Right’ may be ensuring that Greens senators are being elected if they merely number the minimum required boxes.

If you want to ensure that you vote gets its full value the solution is simple –

  • number ALL the boxes above the line for the parties or groups of your choice, or
  • number AS MANY AS POSSIBLE of the boxes below the line for individual candidates of your choice, most likely at least half the candidates or more.

Election Funding

In addition, after each federal election or by-election, the AEC distributes money to eligible political parties, candidates and Senate groups to reimburse them for electoral expenditure.

Election funding is payable in relation to any candidate or group who receives at least four per cent of the total first preference votes in an election. 

The value of the election funding entitlement for a candidate (party) is calculated by multiplying:

  • the total number of formal first preference votes received; by
  • the current election funding rate, $2.914 per eligible vote.

While $2.914 may not seem much, across the more than 17 million voters in Australia this equates to significant financial support.  When first preference (primary) votes shift from a major party to a minor party that minor party will be the one eligible to receive the funding – even if the seat is ultimately one by a candidate from the major party.


In Summary

It is important in this election, as in others, to make sure you maximise the impact of you vote.

Your primary vote will determine where the public funding for your vote is directed.

Ensuring that you are careful about you preferences in the Senate is critical so your vote is not exhausted.

CLICK HERE to ask your local candidates where they stand on
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