Australian Electoral Commission

Elections – Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: 7 August 2014

When does the AEC secure the polling places it needs for a federal election?

As the AEC generally does not know when an election will occur it must check and investigate the availability and suitability of polling places as part of its routine preparation. The AEC hired approximately 8 000 polling places for the conduct of the 2010 federal election. Due to the size of this preparation task, checking takes a number of months and possible polling place locations are refined and updated well in advance of each federal event. The AEC also actively seeks to secure polling places with access for people with disabilities in accordance with legislative requirements.

What is the timetable for a federal election?

Please see the Election Timetable.

When is the next federal election?

The House of Representatives expires three years after its first meeting but can be dissolved earlier. The latest possible date for the next House of Representatives election is 14 January 2017.

The terms of senators elected for six years in 2010 expire on 30 June 2017. The earliest possible date for the next half-Senate election is 6 August 2016 and the latest possible date is 13 May 2017.

The earliest possible date for the next simultaneous House of Representatives and half-Senate election is 6 August 2016 and the latest possible date is 14 January 2017.

How much do elections cost?

Please see Cost of Elections and Referendums 1901–Present.

What is a double dissolution election?

This is a simultaneous election for all members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Under the Constitution, the Governor-General may dissolve both the Senate and the House of Representatives at any time (except within the last six months of the House of Representatives term) provided the special circumstances as set out in s.57 of the Constitution are met.

More information can be found in our Fact Sheet on Double Dissolutions.

What is a marginal seat?

Seat classification is generally based on the results for that seat from the last election.

Where a winning candidate received less than 56% of the two candidate preferred vote the seat is classified as 'marginal'; 56–60% is classified as 'fairly safe'; and more than 60% is considered 'safe'.

What swing is required for a seat to change hands?

Anything more than an absolute majority (50% + 1 votes) is the swing required for the seat to change hands (for example: if a member holds a seat with 56% of the vote a swing of greater than 6% is required for the seat to change hands).

What is a Writ?

A writ is a document commanding an electoral officer to hold an election, and contains dates for the close of rolls, the close of nominations, the polling day and the return of the writ. The Governor-General issues the writs for House of Representatives elections and the State Governors issue writs for States' Senate elections.