Australian Electoral Commission

Senate guidelines

Updated: 21 February 2014

Consecutive series of numbers

Above the line

A Senate ballot paper is formal above the line if the voter has indicated a first preference against one of the squares. They may number all boxes above the line but can only indicate a single first preference for the vote to be formal.

Below the line

There is a complicated set of rules surrounding below the line informality. All below the line papers are processed through the computerised Central Senate Scrutiny where the rules are applied to determine formality or otherwise.

A Senate ballot paper is formal below the line if:

  • a first preference is shown by the number '1' marked in the square opposite the name of one, and only one, candidate; and
  • where there are 10 or more candidates, not less than 90 per cent of the squares opposite the names of candidates on the ballot paper are numbered as required, or would be if no more than three numbers were changed; or
  • where there are nine or fewer candidates, all squares opposite the names of candidates on the ballot paper (or all but one of these squares with only one square left blank) are numbered as required, or would be if not more than two numbers were changed.

Central Senate Scrutiny

Any Senate ballot papers which are marked below the line or are of questionable formality and complexity will be assessed at a later stage through a data entry process called Central Senate Scrutiny. Central Senate Scrutiny is conducted after election night. Above the line ballot papers are manually counted, however, because below the line formality principles are complex, it is not expected that staff will be required to spend large amounts of time trying to determine the formality of these Senate ballot papers on election night.

Example – above the line Senate vote

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. Although all the boxes above the line have been numbered it is clear which one is the first preference.

This ballot paper is formal

The voter's intention is clear. There is a single first preference mark above the line.

 

Example of an informal Senate ballot paper. Two first preferences have been marked above the line.

This ballot paper is informal

Two number '1's above the line indicates two first preferences. The voter's intention is unclear.

Example – below the line Senate vote

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. Although there is one empty box, the voter has indicated a first preference and consecutively numbered at least 90% of boxes

This ballot paper is formal

There are 10 or more candidates and the voter has indicated a first preference and consecutively numbered at least 90 per cent of all boxes.

Overwriting

If a number is overwritten in a way that makes it impossible to read, then the ballot paper is informal.

Example – overwritten ballot paper – below the line Senate

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. Although two numbers have been overwritten they are legible

This ballot paper is formal

Even though the voter has overwritten two numbers, their intention is still clear.

Acceptable forms of numbering

For voting below the line in the Senate, voters may use a consecutive series in various styles – such as: numerals (1 2 3), words (one two three), roman numerals (I II III IV), or ordinal numerals (1st 2nd 3rd). In certain cases, a mixture of numbering sequences can be used, provided that the voter's intention is clear.

Example – numbering – below the line Senate

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. Although the numbers have been written in a mix of numerals and roman numerals all the numbers required are provided

This ballot paper is formal

 

Example of an informal Senate ballot paper. Numbers have been repeated.

This ballot paper is informal

If an OIC is uncertain about a mixture of numbering sequences below the line, the ballot paper should be set aside and referred to Central Senate Scrutiny.

Example – use of symbols – above the line Senate

For voting above the line in the Senate ticks (tick) or crosses (cross) are acceptable forms of voting. Only one tick or cross may be used to indicate the voter's preference. Ballot papers marked below the line with a tick or a cross may be considered formal if the elector uses a 1 to indicate their first preference, uses a consecutive series of numbers, and completes a minimum of 90 per cent of boxes below the line.

Ballot papers marked below the line must be set aside by the OIC and referred to Central Senate Scrutiny.
Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. There is a single cross above the line.

This ballot paper is formal

There is a single first preference mark above the line.

 

Example of an informal Senate ballot paper. There are two preferences marked above the line, a tick and a cross.

This ballot paper is informal

There are two first preference marks above the line.

Empty boxes

As indicated previously, voters only have to complete one box above the line or a minimum of 90 per cent of the boxes below the line.

In certain circumstances, empty boxes or other errors which occur within the first 90 per cent of boxes below the line, will still be formal.

Ballot papers marked below the line should be set aside by the OIC and referred to Central Senate Scrutiny.

Example – empty boxes on ballot paper – below the line Senate

Example of an informal Senate ballot paper. Less than 90% of boxes below the line have been numbered.

This ballot paper is informal

90 per cent of the boxes have not been correctly filled.

Placement of votes

The vote can be made inside the box or beside the box/candidate name on a Senate ballot paper, provided the intention of the voter is clear.

Example – placement of votes – below the line Senate

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. Numbers haven't been placed in the boxes provided but are clearly written next to candidate names.

This ballot paper is formal

There is a consecutive series of discernable numbers beginning with '1', and the voter's intention is clear.

Example – placement of votes – above the line Senate

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. The number hasn't been placed in one of the boxes provided but is clearly written next to a group name.

This ballot paper is formal

The voter's intention is clear.

Variations in handwriting

Unconventional but recognisable variations in handwriting, such as placing a stroke through the vertical stem of the number '7' or an upward angular stroke before the familiar vertical stroke on the number '1', should not result in a ballot paper being informal, provided any variations result in a series of numbers and the voter's intention is obvious.

Example – variations in handwriting – above the line Senate

Example of a formal Senate ballot paper. The number written in a box above the line resembles a '1'.

This ballot paper is formal

The figure in the third box reasonably resembles a '1'.

Candidate name substitution

If the voter crosses out or replaces a political party or group's name or a candidate's name on a ballot paper, that ballot paper is informal.

Example – candidate name substitution – above the line Senate

Example of an informal Senate ballot paper. The voter has crossed out a group name above the line, written Mickey Mouse and placed a '1' in that box.

This ballot paper is informal

The voter has not indicated a valid first preference for any of the available candidates.

Example – candidate name substitution – below the line Senate

Example of an informal Senate ballot paper. The voter has crossed out a candidate name below the line, written Mickey Mouse and placed a '1' in that box.

This ballot paper is informal

The voter has not indicated a valid first preference for any of the available candidates.