Voting is compulsory at federal elections and referendums for all enrolled electors.
Polling day is always on a Saturday and voting takes place between 8am and 6pm.
Australians can vote by:
Electors making a postal, pre-poll, absent or provisional vote must complete a declaration giving their personal details. Divisional staff will check their entitlement before the votes are counted.
Electors in many hospitals, some prisons, and in some remote areas, can cast a vote when visited by a mobile polling team.
Mobile polling is carried out during the 12 days up to and including election day.
The electoral systems for the two houses of Australia's Federal Parliament are different.
Candidates for the House of Representatives are elected using the preferential voting system. This system has been used in federal elections since 1918. Candidates stand for election in a particular electoral division. To be elected, a candidate must have more than half the formal votes cast for that division.
Members are elected for a maximum three-year term.
For the House of Representatives ballot paper, voters put a '1' in the box beside the candidate who is their first choice, '2' in the box beside their second choice and so on, until they have numbered every box. If any candidate gains more than 50% of the formal first preference votes (i.e. an absolute majority), he or she is elected. If no candidate has an absolute majority the voter's other preferences are taken into consideration. The distribution of preferences takes place in every division, even where a candidate already has a majority of first preference votes. For information on how House of Representative votes are counted see Counting the votes for the House of Representatives.
Candidates for the Senate are elected using a proportional representation system also known as the 'single transferable vote' method. Candidates stand for election in a state or territory. To be elected, a candidate must receive a certain proportion of the votes, known as a quota.
It is a Constitutional requirement that each original state be equally represented regardless of its population. There are a total of 76 Senators: 12 for each state and two for each territory. Senators for each state are elected for six-year terms on a rotating basis with half of the senators retiring every three years (or facing a half-senate election).
The terms of senators representing the ACT and the NT commence on the day of their election and expire at the close of the day immediately before the polling day for the next general election. The election of these senators is held at the same time as every House of Representatives general election.
Forty Senate vacancies are contested at a half-Senate election when it is held simultaneously with a House election. When a double dissolution is declared all 76 Senate positions are made vacant.
The method of counting Senate votes is different to the House of Representatives. More information on how Senate votes are counted.
The Senate ballot paper has two sections. An elector can either vote above-the-line or below-the-line, but not both. However, if the elector completes both sections formally, the below-the-line section takes precedence.
Electors are issued with separate ballot papers for each election, green for the House of Representatives and white for the Senate.