Scrutineers Handbook: Senate guidelines

Updated: 1 July 2016

Consecutive sequence of numbers

Above the line

For an above the line vote (ATL), voters are instructed to consecutively number at least 6 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. However, where a voter consecutively numbers fewer than 6 boxes, (including only one box with a first preference) the ballot paper will still be formal, but will exhaust after the last consecutive number.

Below the line

For a below the line vote (BTL), voters are instructed to consecutively number at least 12 boxes alongside individual candidates in order of their preference commencing with the number '1'. They may continue to express further preferences if they wish.

Where there are more than 6 candidates, the ballot paper will still be formal if the voter has consecutively numbered the boxes 1 to 6. In effect the minimum formality threshold for a BTL vote is the expression of the numbers (preferences) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 with no duplications or missing numbers.

Note: s.268A(2)(a) of the Electoral Act would permit the number '1' being expressed as either a singular tick or cross e.g. X, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,

Disclaimer: All the Senate formality examples in this publication are for the 'Election of 6 Senators' in a state. In the event of a double dissolution election the Senate ballot paper for each state will be for the 'Election of 12 Senators'.

Example – ATL Senate vote

Sample formal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is formal

The voter's intention is clear. There is a consecutive sequence in a least 6 boxes (from 1 to 7).

Example – BTL Senate vote

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

The voter has indicated their preferences by the consecutive numbers 1 to 12.

Sample formal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is formal

While the voter has not complied with the requirements of s.239 of the Electoral Act to number at least six boxes, provided there are no other mistakes, 'vote saving' provisions mean ballot papers marked above the line with a number one only (or a sequence of numbers less than six) will be included in the count.

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

While the voter has not complied with the requirements of s.239 of the Electoral Act to number at least twelve boxes, provided there are no other mistakes, 'vote saving' provisions mean ballot papers marked below the line with at least six consecutive preferences commencing with the number one (or a consecutive sequence less than twelve) will be included in the count.

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 – BTL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

Even though the voter has overwritten two numbers, their intention to number the second and third candidates in Group G with their sixth and fifth preference is clear.

If the overwriting was not clear enough to determine the voter's intention, the ballot paper would be informal because the voter has not expressed consecutive preferences for at least 6 candidates. If the same situation occurred for preference numbers higher than 6, the ballot paper would be formal, but exhaust where there is clear contention over the number sequence.

Acceptable forms of numbering

For voting ATL and BTL 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 – BTL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

Example – use of a tick or cross – ATL Senate

Unlike in the HoR, for voting ATL and BTL in the Senate, ticks or crosses are acceptable as a first preference mark in lieu of the number '1'. Only one tick or cross or number '1' may be used to indicate the voter's first preference.

Sample formal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is formal

There is a single first preference mark (a cross) ATL and consecutive preferences from 2 to 6.

Sample informal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is informal

The voter's intention is not clear because there are two first preference marks (both a tick and a cross) ATL.

Example – use of symbols – ATL Senate

Sample informal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is informal

While s.268A(2)(a) and s.269(1A) of the Electoral Act allow a single tick or cross to be treated as a first preference as the number '1' there is no provision in the Electoral Act that allows a circled logo to be treated as expressing a voter's first preference. The circle must be treated as an additional mark that appears on a ballot paper that does not represent a preference (number). Likewise, asterisks, hashtags, plus and minus symbols cannot represent a preference number.

Missing or repeated numbers

In certain circumstances, a ballot paper with missing or repeated numbers will still be formal. The legislation contains vote 'savings' provisions.

The ATL voter has to mark the number '1', or the number '1' and one or more higher numbers (s.268A(1)(b) of the Electoral Act).

The BTL voter has to consecutively number at least their first 6 preferences (s.268A1(b) of the Electoral Act).

Example – missing numbers – ATL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is formal

However, because the voter's fourth preference is missing only the first three preferences will be included in the count. The preferences numbered 5 to 8 will be disregarded.

Example – repeated numbers – ATL Senate

Sample informal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is informal

The voter's intention is not clear. The repeated first preference means that no boxes have been numbered.

Example – missing numbers – BTL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

However the missing number '10' breaks the voter's preference sequence, so only the boxes marked 1 to 9 can be included in the count. The remaining preferences are disregarded.

Example – repeated numbers – BTL Senate

Sample informal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is informal

The repetition of the number '3' means that the voter has only clearly expressed two preferences, rather than the minimum requirement that the voter express the numbers 1 to 6.

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 – ATL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is formal

The voter's intention is clear.

Example – placement of votes – BTL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

There is a consecutive series of discernable numbers from 1 to 12. 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 – ATL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is formal

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

Group or 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 may be informal.

Example – group name substitution – ATL Senate

Sample informal ballot paper above the line

This ballot paper is informal

The voter has not indicated a valid first preference for any available group.

Example – candidate name substitution – BTL Senate

Sample informal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is informal

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

Example – candidate name substitution – BTL Senate

Sample informal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is informal

By expressing preferences for "substituted candidates" the voter has not complied with the minimum requirement to express at least six consecutive preferences from 1 to 6.

Example – candidate name substitution – BTL Senate

Sample formal ballot paper below the line

This ballot paper is formal

While the voter has substituted the names of two candidates, they are additional marks and are disregarded. The voter has not expressed any preference for the 'substitute candidates' so the additional marks are irrelevant to the consideration of formality. The voter has complied with the requirement to mark the ballot paper in accordance with s.239(1) of the Electoral Act.