Preferential voting

In Victoria, we use versions of the preferential voting system. In this system, you choose candidates on a ballot paper in the order of your preference.

If your preferred candidate cannot get enough votes to win, your vote can count for your next preferred candidate.

Full preferential voting

In full preferential voting you:
  • write a number 1 in the box for your most-preferred candidate
  • number all remaining boxes in the order you prefer.

If you do not number every box, your vote will not be counted.

Full preferential voting is used in Lower House and local council elections.

Optional preferential voting

In optional preferential voting you don't have to fill in all the boxes on the ballot paper.

There will be a thick, black line across the page in ballot papers for the Upper House.

You can vote above the line or below the line.

Always follow the instructions on the ballot paper so your vote is counted.

Above the line

The boxes above the line are groups of candidates that have registered one or more group voting tickets.

To vote above the line, write the number 1 in the box for the group you want to support.

When you vote above the line, your preferences will be decided by the group voting ticket.

A group voting ticket is a statement on how each party or group gives preferences to candidates. Every registered group voting ticket is made available on this website before an election and is also on display in every voting centre.

Below the line

In a State election

The boxes below the line represent each candidate. They are listed by group and ungrouped.

To vote below the line:

  • write a number 1 in the box for your most-preferred candidate
  • continue to number at least 5 boxes on the ballot paper in the order you prefer (and keep numbering if you wish).

If you choose to vote below the line, you have control over your preferences.

In a local council election

The only council that uses optional preferential voting is Melbourne City Council, and that's only for their councillor election (not their lord mayor election).

If you choose to vote below the line in a Melbourne City Council election, you must number all boxes.

Formal and informal votes

Always follow the instructions on the ballot paper so your vote can be counted.

A correctly completed ballot paper is known as a formal vote. Formal votes are counted to determine the result of the election.

A ballot paper that has not been completed correctly is known as an informal vote. Informal votes cannot be counted toward the election result.

Common informal votes include those where a voter:

  • used ticks or crosses
  • did not number the required number of boxes
  • missed or repeated numbers.

What if there aren't enough candidates?

If after nominations close the number of candidates is the same as the number of vacancies, those candidates are elected without the need for a vote. This is called being elected unopposed.

If nobody nominates as a candidate, no voting takes place and another election is held as soon as possible.

For local council elections, if there are fewer candidates than vacancies, the candidates who nominated are declared elected. A by-election is held for the remaining vacancies.