Australian Electoral Commission

Federal Election Timetable

Updated: 25 March 2013

The election timetable

Election timetable according to the Constitution and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act)

A number of essential steps are involved in holding a general election or by-election. These steps begin with the issue of the writs and end with the return of the writs after the votes have been counted.

Election timetable according to the Constitution and Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
Expiry or dissolution of House of Representatives Minimum number of days Maximum number of days

Expiry or dissolution of Parliament

The House of Representatives expires three years after its first meeting but can be dissolved earlier (Constitution s.28 ).

   

Election Announcement

No fixed time.

   

Issue of writs

Writs are issued within 10 days of the dissolution of Parliament (Constitution s.12, 32, CEA s.151).

0 days 10 days

Close of rolls

Rolls close at 8pm, seven days after the issue of writ. (CEA s.155).

7 days 17 days

Close of nominations

Nominations close at 12 noon, between 10 and 27 days after the issue of writs (CEA s.156).

10 days 37 days

Declaration of nominations

Nominations are publicly declared 24 hours after nominations close (CEA s.176).

11 days 38 days

Lodgement of Senate Group Voting Tickets

Group Voting Tickets must be lodged 48 hours after nominations close (CEA s.211).

12 days 39 days

Polling day

Polling day is fixed between 23 and 31 days after the date of nominations (CEA s.157).

33 days 68 days

Return of writs

Writs must be returned within 100 days of their issue (CEA s.159).

  110 days

Meeting of parliament

The new Parliament meets within 30 days of the day appointed as the return of the writs (Constitution s.5).

  140 days

Note: The House of Representatives expires three years after its first meeting but can be dissolved earlier (s. 28 of the Constitution). Senators for the states serve terms of six years (s. 7 of the Constitution) that are staggered so that half of the 72 senators retire every three years. 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 general House of Representatives election.

Dissolution or expiry of the House of Representatives

The term of a House of Representatives expires three years from the first meeting of the House. It may, however, be dissolved sooner by the Governor-General usually acting on the advice of the Prime Minister. Once the term of a House expires or the House is dissolved, the Governor General will issue the writs for the election.

Issue of writs

The issue of a writ triggers the election process. An electoral writ is a document commanding an electoral officer to hold an election and contains dates for the close of rolls, the close of nominations, polling day and the return of the writ.

Close of rolls

Rolls close at 8pm seven calendar days after the date the writ is issued.

Close of nominations

The electoral writs must be issued before candidates can lodge a nomination for election. Nominations must be lodged by candidates by 12 noon on the date specified on the writs as close of nominations.

Declaration of nominations

The public declaration of candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Polling day

The day on which the majority of electors cast their vote at a polling place. It must be a Saturday and at least 33 days after the issue of the writs.

Return of writs

After the Senate polls are declared, the Australian Electoral Officer for each State and Territory returns the writ endorsed with the names of the successful candidates to the State Governor (or Governor-General in the case of the Territories).

For the House of Representatives, the Electoral Commissioner endorses on a certificate attached to the relevant writ the name of each candidate elected for each division and returns the writs to the Governor-General.

Meeting of parliament

The new parliament must meet within 30 days of the day appointed for the return of the writs.