Australian Electoral Commission

Voting in the Senate

Updated: 28 November 2016

Each state and territory elects multiple Senators using a preferential voting system.

Each state has twelve Senate positions with six year terms. At a federal election only half of the Senate positions for each state typically become vacant, resulting in six Senate vacancies per state.

The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory each have two Senate positions with three year terms. All territory Senate positions become vacant at a federal election.

Senate ballot papers

The order of the party columns on the ballot paper for each state and territory is determined by a random draw held immediately after the declaration of nominations.

Some columns on the Senate ballot paper will feature a party logo but some will likely not. This is dependent on each party officially registering a logo with the AEC.

Senate ballot papers are white in colour.

How to complete the ballot paper

On the white Senate ballot paper, you need to either:

  • number at least six boxes above the line for the parties or groups of your choice, or
  • number at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of your choice.

Above the line

If you vote above the line, you need to number at least six boxes from 1 to 6.

Place a 1 in the box above the party or group that is your first choice, the number 2 in the box above the party or group that is your second choice and so on until you have numbered at least six boxes above the line. You can continue to place numbers in the order of your choice in as many boxes above the line as you like.

Above the line

Sample ballot paper

Below the line

If you vote below the line, you need to number at least 12 boxes from 1 to 12.

Place a 1 in the box beside the candidate that is your first choice, and the numbers 2, 3, 4 and so on to at least the number 12. You can continue to place numbers in the order of your choice in as many boxes below the line as you like.

Below the line

Sample ballot paper