Lower House seats are counted using the preferential vote counting system. This system is used when there is only one person to be elected.
To ensure an accurate result, counting in each Lower House district moves through various phases.
First preference (primary) count
All votes cast in a district are counted to first preference (all the number '1’ votes).
During this process, we sort votes at a table where there are sorting cards for each candidate.
After we examine each ballot paper, we place it next to:
- the sorting card for the candidate who received the number ‘1’ vote if the vote is formal
- the ‘informal’ sorting card if the vote is informal.
At the end of this sort, we tally and enter the total first preference votes for each candidate, along with the total number of informal votes, into our election management system.
All results are then published on our website. This process happens progressively for each parcel of votes (for example, votes cast at a particular voting centre) to be counted until all votes cast for the district are tallied. It can take up to a week after election day to primary count each parcel of votes.
Two-candidate preferred count (2CP)
Following the first preference count for each parcel of votes, we sort all formal ballot papers to the 2 candidates considered ‘most likely’ to be in the lead after the distribution of preferences to give an early indication of the election result.
Scrutineers are told who the 2 candidates are before this count begins. These 2 pre-selected candidates are chosen by the Electoral Commissioner in advance of election day and are based on a number of factors.
We sort ballot papers to each selected candidate according to who has the highest preference on the ballot paper.
A recheck is an administrative process where, following the primary first preference count, ballot papers are checked again for:
- correct sorting to first preference
- correct reconciliation of totals.
This process is usually conducted manually, however, for a small number of metropolitan based seats with a large number of candidates, or deemed as a close seat, we may decide to conduct a computerised recheck instead.
This means that instead of conducting the recheck manually, all preferences on each formal ballot paper are data entered into our computer count application.
This process still allows us to report on first preference totals by candidate, like a manual recheck, however, by having all ballot paper preferences captured, we are able to electronically conduct a preference distribution if we need to.
This will give a result quicker than if we were to conduct the preference distribution manually.
Rechecked results are entered progressively into our election management system and are published on our website. It is not uncommon for minor variations in sorting and counting to be identified during the rechecking process.
Election managers can provide scrutineers with consolidated reports of rechecked results.
For more information about what data will be available to scrutineers during a computer count, see the Availability of results information during electronic counting (district) document (PDF).
We aim to complete all data entry on computerised rechecks within a week of election day, which will allow us to calculate a result as soon as possible after the close of the postal vote admission period (6 pm on Friday 2 December).
If no candidate has an absolute majority of votes after all first preference votes have been counted (all the number '1' votes) and rechecked, we will conduct a preference distribution.
The candidate with the fewest votes is excluded from the count, and their votes are transferred to the second preferences marked on these ballot papers (all the number ‘2’ votes). If no candidate has more than half of the total number of formal votes (an absolute majority) after this process, we exclude the candidate with the fewest votes from the count. Again, the excluded candidates’ votes are transferred to the other candidates according to the voter’s preference.
This process continues until one candidate has an absolute majority and is announced as the successful candidate.
Sometimes, the preference distribution may be conducted by computer where the recheck was performed by data-entering the ballot paper preferences into our computer count application.
Once the election manager determines that no outstanding votes will change the result of the election, they will make a time to formally declare the result.
It is possible that counting of small batches of ballot papers will continue after the declaration if the numbers are so small that they could not affect the result.
The election manager will advise candidates of the time and location of the declaration. A recount may be ordered when the result is extremely close, and it can only happen before a result has been declared.
A recount is a re-examination of ballot papers for an electorate. It can only happen before a result has been declared and usually occurs when the result is extremely close.
A recount can be conducted on all ballot papers (known as a full recount) or only some of the ballot papers (known as partial recount).
The type of recount to be conducted is determined by the election manager and Electoral Commissioner.
There are 3 circumstances that can lead to a recount. A recount may occur:
- when an election manager believes there are sufficient grounds, they can seek the permission of the Electoral Commissioner to conduct a recount
- when the Electoral Commissioner independently directs an election manager to conduct a recount
- because a candidate has written to an election manager to request a recount. The letter must detail the reasons for the request and the election manager will consult with the Electoral Commissioner, who will decide if the recount will go ahead.
When will there be an official result?
It can take 1-2 weeks after election day to officially declare a result for an electorate, and this depends on whether a preference distribution and recount is required.
Learn more about what happens to your vote after you've voted (video).
Learn more about preferential counting.