Australian Electoral Commission

Candidates Handbook: Ballot papers

Updated: 19 May 2016

The Act

  • Part XVI, 'The polling'

The final form of the ballot paper for the election in which you are a candidate will be of particular interest to you. While the laws relating to ballot papers are set out in detail in the Act, there is scope for candidates to request certain options in relation to their status as either an endorsed candidate or, if unendorsed, whether they want the word 'Independent' to appear on the ballot paper. If a candidate is endorsed, the party can choose to have the either the party name or party abbreviation appear on the ballot paper.

This section explains the law as it relates to ballot papers and the procedures that determine how candidates, or groups of candidates, are listed on the ballot paper. It also sets out the time frame in which requests can be lodged, such as a request for a preference order of candidates on a Senate ballot paper.

Ballot paper format

Ballot papers show the name of a candidate as specified on the nomination form and, if applicable, the name or abbreviation of the registered political party that endorsed the candidate and the party's registered logo.

If two or more candidates have similar names and this is considered likely to cause confusion, the AEC may add an additional description to distinguish them.

House of Representatives ballot papers are green. They have boxes with the names of every candidate and their party name or abbreviation or the word 'Independent' where applicable printed to the right of the boxes and where applicable, the party's registered logo to the left of the box.

Voters must number every box by putting the number '1' in the box next to the candidate who is their first choice, the number '2' in the box next to their second choice, and so on until every box is consecutively numbered.

The 'How to make your vote count' fact sheet demonstrates how electors should complete both the House of Representatives and Senate ballot papers to ensure their vote counts. In a House of Representatives only election, voters who reside in states of Australia will receive a green ballot paper only. Voters in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will receive both a House of Representatives ballot paper and a Senate ballot paper, which is white.

Candidates should carefully consider the information contained in this fact sheet when developing how-to-vote cards.

Senate ballot papers are white. They have two parts: an upper section (above the line) and a lower section (below the line), separated by a thick black line.

A row of boxes above the line is the group voting square for parties and other Senate groups with more than one candidate. The party names or abbreviations of the name of registered parties appear above the line on the ballot paper and any registered party logos will be printed above the group voting square. The party names or abbreviations of the name of registered parties will also appear below each candidate's name below the line.

If an elector chooses to vote above the line, they are instructed to consecutively number at least 6 squares/boxes above the black line, in the order of their preference, commencing with the number '1'. By voting in this way, voters are preferencing the individual candidates within a group in the order in which they appear on the ballot paper.

How to make your vote count fact sheet

The lower section contains boxes with the names of every candidate and their parties (if applicable) or the word 'Independent' (for some ungrouped candidates) printed to the right of the boxes. If an elector chooses to vote below the line, that is, in the lower section, they are instructed to consecutively number at least 12 boxes/squares alongside individual candidates in order of their preference commencing with the number '1'. They may continue to express further preferences if they wish.

Political party names and logos on ballot papers

Only a political party registered with the AEC can have its registered party name or registered party abbreviation and registered logo printed on the ballot papers next to the names of its candidates. Parties, however constituted, that are not registered with the AEC are not entitled to have a party name, abbreviation or logo printed next to their candidates' names on the ballot paper.

The request to have a registered party name or abbreviation and logo printed on a ballot paper is made on the nomination form. No more than two logos will appear adjacent to their party or group name above the line on the Senate ballot paper.Alternatively, the registered officer of that party may make the request in writing to the relevant AEO or DRO before the close of nominations.

Endorsed House of Representatives candidates

An endorsed candidate of a registered political party may have either the registered name or the registered abbreviation and registered logo of that political party printed next to their name on the ballot paper.

Only one candidate can be endorsed by a registered political party for any House of Representatives division. If a party attempts to endorse more than one candidate all nominations for that party in that division will fail.

Endorsed Senate candidates

A group of endorsed Senate candidates of a registered political party may have either the registered name or the registered abbreviation and the registered logo of that party printed next to their group voting square above the line on the ballot paper. They may also have the registered name or the registered abbreviation next to each of the candidates' names below the line on the ballot paper.

A composite group of candidates endorsed by more than one registered political party may have a composite name printed next to their group voting square on the Senate ballot paper. Each single endorsed candidate will, however, have their own registered party name or registered abbreviation printed next to their name below the line on the ballot paper.

Independent candidates

If you are not endorsed by a registered political party you may request on the nomination form that the word 'Independent' be printed on the ballot paper next to your name.

If you do not make this request you will have nothing printed next to your name.

Grouped Senate candidates may not use the word 'Independent' next to their name or next to the group voting square.

Order of names on ballot papers

A system called 'double randomisation' – two random draws – is used for determining the order of groups and ungrouped candidates on Senate ballot papers and the order of candidates on House of Representatives ballot papers. All candidates and members of the public are welcome to attend these draws.

House of Representatives ballot papers

The DRO declares the House of Representatives nominations received for their division at 12 noon, 24 hours after the close of nominations. Following the declaration the DRO conducts two draws for ballot paper positions.

The first draw assigns a number to each candidate and the second draw determines the order in which candidates appear on the ballot paper.

Senate ballot papers

The AEO declares the nominations received for the Senate in their state or territory at 12 noon, 24 hours after the nominations close. After the declaration, the AEO conducts the draws for positions on the ballot paper.

In Senate elections, the names of candidates included in groups are placed on the ballot paper to the left and ahead of the names of candidates not included in groups.

The AEO determines the order of groups and ungrouped candidates on the ballot paper by conducting a public draw for positions. This draw is conducted in two parts, with each part consisting of two draws:

  • in the first part, the first draw allocates a number to each group and the second draw determines the order in which the groups appear on the ballot paper.
  • in the second part, the first draw allocates a number to each ungrouped candidate and the second draw determines the order in which ungrouped candidates appear on the ballot paper.

Ungrouped candidates do not have a box above the line on the Senate ballot paper.