Preferential voting is used in State and local council elections. It ensures that the most preferred candidate(s) are elected. If your preferred candidate is not able to achieve the margin required for victory, then your vote can be counted for your next preferred candidate.
Full preferential voting
Under the full preferential voting system, you place a 1 in the box against your preferred candidate on the ballot paper. Then you number all remaining boxes in order of your preference (2, 3, 4 and so on).
The system is called "full preferential" because you must number every box on the ballot paper. If you don’t number every box correctly, your vote is considered informal and your preferences won’t be counted.
The full preferential voting system is used for the State Legislative Assembly (Lower House), and also for local council elections.
An example of a full preferential ballot paper
Optional Preferential voting
The optional preferential voting system is similar to the full preferential voting system. However, you don’t need to number every box.
You need to place a 1 in the box against your preferred candidate. Then number a minimum number of the remaining boxes in the order of your preference (2, 3, 4 and so on) according to the instructions on the ballot paper. You can number more boxes if you wish.
In Victoria, this system is only used when voting for the State Legislative Council (Upper House) or Melbourne City Council Councillors’ elections.
Whenever you vote in an election, always follow the instructions on the ballot paper to ensure your vote is formal and can be counted.
Above or below the line?
In some elections, the ballot paper features a thick black line horizontally across the page (as shown below).
The boxes above this line represent the groups that have registered one or more group voting tickets for the election. The boxes below the line represent each individual candidate.
With this type of ballot you can vote either above or below the line but not both.
- If you vote above the line, you must only place 1 in the box for the group you want to support. Your ballot paper will be counted according to the preferences on that group's registered group voting ticket.
- If you choose to vote below the line, place a 1 in the box against your most preferred candidate and then number the required number of other boxes according to your preference.
For the State Legislative Council (Upper House) you are only required to number a total of five preferences (i.e. 2, 3, 4 and 5), but can number more.
For the Melbourne City Council you must number all the boxes below the line.
An example of a State Legislative Council (Upper House) ballot paper
More information about group voting tickets
A group voting ticket is a statement by each party or group as to how preferences will be directed for each above the line vote for them.
For the Legislative Council a group may register up to 3 Group Voting Tickets.
For the Melbourne City Council a group may register up to 2 Group Voting Tickets.
Every registered group voting ticket is made available on this website prior to election day, and is also on display in every voting centre.