Counting the votes

The counting systems used to determine election results, including preferential counting, proportional counting and recounts.

Once voting is finished, one of two counting systems is used to determine the results:

  • Preferential counting or
  • Proportional counting.

The counting system used for local council elections is determined by the number of vacancies:

  • Wards with multiple Councillors and unsubdivided municipalities use the proportional counting system.
  • Single Councillor wards are counted using the preferential counting system.

The City of Melbourne Leadership Team and the Greater Geelong Mayoral elections are determined using the preferential counting system. The City of Melbourne Councillor positions are determined using the proportional counting system.

Votes can be counted manually. Alternatively the VEC has developed a computer application that provides us with all the functionality required to manage and conduct a count and result of an election based on either first past the post, preferential or proportional representation (single transfer value) count methods. We provide details and access to the source code for the essential elements of this application.

At a State election the system used is determined by the rules of the election.

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

For information on the counting process for the 2014 State election please see The counting process for the 2014 State election.


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

Recounts can only occur before the declaration of the result. At State elections, both the Election Manager and the Electoral Commissioner can order a recount. At a local council election only the Returning Officer can order a recount.

Candidates can request a recount, but the decision to accept that request is at the discretion of the Election Manager (State elections) or Returning Officer (local council elections).

During the recount, any disputed ballot papers can be set aside for a final decision by the Electoral Commissioner (State elections) or the Returning Officer (local council elections).

A recount is quite different from a recheck.