Counting the votes

When voting is finished, one of two counting systems is used to determine the results in either State or council elections: preferential counting or proportional counting.

Preferential counting

Preferential counting is used when only one person is to be elected. This is the method used for the State Legislative Assembly (Lower House).

Voters choose candidates by numbering all the boxes on a ballot paper in order of preference. ‘1’ is their preferred candidate.

To win, a candidate must have more than half (more than 50%) of all first preference votes. This is known as ‘absolute majority’.

A preference distribution is required where no candidate has absolute majority after all the votes are counted. The candidate with fewest votes is excluded and their votes are passed on to other candidates according to voters’ preferences. The process is repeated until one candidate obtains an absolute majority.

Preference distributions may occur after a recheck or a recount.

See our slideshow for more information on preferential voting.

Proportional counting

Proportional counting is used when more than one person is to be elected. This is the method used for the State Legislative Council (Upper House).

It ensures that candidates are elected in proportion to their support from voters.

To be elected, candidates must receive a proportion of votes known as a ‘quota’.

Any candidate who receives the quota is elected. Any votes they receive over the quota are then distributed to other candidates.

If no candidate achieves the quota, or there are still vacancies after all the votes over the quota have been distributed, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded. Their votes are distributed to other available candidates according to voters’ preferences. The process is repeated until all vacancies are filled.

See our slideshow for more information on proportional counting.

State election counting

At a State election:

  • the preferential counting system is used for the Legislative Assembly (Lower House)
  • the proportional counting system is used for the Legislative Council (Upper House).

For information on the counting process for the 2018 State election please see The counting process for the 2018 State election

Rechecks

A recheck is a normal part of the counting process. All ballot papers are re-examined and counted again. Scrutineers can be present and should be aware of any corrected figures before a preferential or proportional count begins.

Recounts

A recount is a re-examination and recount of all formal and informal ballot papers. They are typically only ordered when the result is extremely close.

Recounts can only happen before the declaration of the result.

A recount can be ordered by an Election Manager or the Electoral Commissioner, or candidates may request a recount, but the decision to accept that request is at the discretion of the Election Manager.

Systems of counting

Votes can be counted manually, which is generally used for State election lower house seats. The VEC also has a computer application that is used to calculate the result of an election based on preferential or proportional representation count methods. See the details and access to the source code for the essential elements of this application.