Australian Electoral Commission

How the House of Representatives votes are counted

Updated: 13 February 2013

A House of Representatives candidate is elected if they gain an absolute majority (more than 50%) of the formal vote.

First, all of the number '1' votes are counted for each candidate. If a candidate gets more than half the total first preference votes, that candidate will be elected.

If no candidate has more than half of the first preference votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded. This candidate's votes are transferred to the other candidates according to the second preferences shown by voters on the ballot papers for the excluded candidate. If a candidate still does not have more than half the votes, the next candidate who now has the fewest votes is excluded and the votes are transferred according to the next preference shown. This process continues until one candidate has more than half the total votes and is declared elected.

A distribution of preferences takes place in every division, even where a candidate already has an absolute majority of first preference votes. After each election the AEC produces a two-candidate preferred result for every House of Representatives seat by completing a full distribution of preferences. For the majority of electorates (142 of the 150 seats that were contested at the 2010 federal election) the two-candidate preferred result is also the two-party preferred result because the leading two candidates were endorsed by the ALP and a Coalition party respectively.

After the official result has been declared and in order to obtain an indicative, two-party preferred result for the remaining seats, the AEC conducts a 'Scrutiny for Information'. This process is a notional distribution of preferences to find the result of preference flows to the ALP and Coalition candidates and is conducted to determine the indicative two-party-preferred result.

The two-party preferred indicative result is also published on the AEC website and in various election publications.

Example of a distribution of preferences: Division of Lowe

Total Formal Vote: 49 805
Absolute Majority (50%+1): 24 903
  Armitage (Liberal Party) Buchanan (Independent) Hewson (Country Party) Houlihan (DLP) Mountford (ALP)  
Count Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Total
First 12 025 24.14 3 113 6.25 8 282 16.63 3 583 7.19 22 802 45.78 49 805
Second
Total
810
12 835
1.63
25.77
Excluded 1 980
10 262
3.98
20.60
138
3 721
0.28
7.47
185
22 987
0.37
46.15
3 113
49 805
Third
Total
391
13 226
0.79
26.56
  3 144
13 406
6.31
26.92
Excluded 186
23 173
0.37
46.53
3 721
49 805
Fourth
Total
Excluded   12 690
26 096
25.48
52.40
  536
23 709
1.08
47.60
13 226
49 805
      Elected      

Declaration of the poll

The result of the House of Representatives election is formally announced by the Divisional Returning Officer as soon as it is known, in a public ceremony known as the 'declaration of the poll'.