How does voting work?

Find out about the voting systems used in Victoria for State and local council elections.

This information is about the voting system used in Victoria for State and local council elections.

For information about voting and counting systems used in Federal elections visit the Australian Electoral Commission (external link).

The preferential voting system

Victorian State and local council elections use versions of the preferential voting system. This involves numbering candidates in the order of your preference.

When you are required to number every candidate in order of your preference, the system in use is full preferential voting. Full preferential voting is used in most elections in Victoria.

In some cases you may not need to number every box on the ballot paper This is called optional preferential voting and it is used for the Upper House at State elections.

Formal and informal votes

A formal vote is a correctly completed ballot paper. It is the formal votes that are counted to determine the result.

An informal vote is a ballot paper that has not been completed following the rules for the election. Informal votes are sometimes also known as invalid votes. They cannot be used to determine the election result.

Common causes of informality include:

  • Using ticks or crosses where the voter is required to number preferences
  • Failing to number the required number of boxes or
  • Incorrectly numbering preferences (such as missing or repeating preference numbers).

Whenever you are casting your vote in an election, always follow the instructions on the ballot paper to ensure your vote is formal and can be counted.

What if there aren't enough candidates?

For State and local council elections, if the number of candidates is the same as the number of vacancies to be filled, those candidates are elected without electors needing to vote. This is called being elected unopposed.

If nobody nominates for an election the election fails, no voting takes place and another election is held as soon as possible.

For local council elections, if there are less candidates than the number of vacancies, the candidates are declared elected and a by-election is held to fill the remaining vacancies.