Candidates Handbook: Voting

Updated: 19 May 2016

4. Voting

The Act

  • Part XV, 'Postal voting'
  • Part XVI, 'The polling'
  • Part XVA, 'Pre-poll voting'
  • Part XXI, 'Electoral offences'
  • Schedule 2, 'Grounds of application for postal or pre-poll vote'

For more information, see voting procedures

How-to-vote cards

Party workers may assist electors by handing them how-to-vote (HTV) cards and, if necessary, explain the cards to them. Party workers are reminded it is an offence to print, publish or distribute misleading or deceptive statements relating to the actual marking of a ballot paper. When producing HTV material, parties and candidates need to be mindful of the colour and size of their material so as to avoid any confusion between the HTV material and ballot papers issued to electors by the AEC. HTV cards must carry:

  • the name and full street address of the authorising representative.
  • the political party of the candidate. If the candidate is not endorsed by a registered political party, the name of the candidate and the word 'candidate' needs to be included.

A person must not publish a HTV card during an election period unless the name of the registered political party or candidate on whose behalf the card has been published is clearly printed at either the bottom or top of each printed face of the card.

A HTV card is defined in subsection 4(1) of the Act. In short, it is any printed medium that lists the name of two or more candidates and directs or encourages electors to mark their preference for the candidates in a particular order. It does not include a card that only relates to first preference votes or only relates to last preference votes.

Following recent legislative amendments referred to at the beginning of this handbook, there has been some discussion in the media about whether parties, Senate Groups and candidates can advise voters to 'simply vote one above the line' on the Senate ballot paper. The legislation is clear – s.239 of the Act should be read as instructions to voters on how to cast a formal vote.

Any HTV card or other electoral advertising that does not reflect the requirements of s.239 (for the Senate) or s.240 (for the House of Representatives) runs the risk of being found by a court to be in breach of s.329 of the Act.

There is a general prohibition on canvassing within six metres of an entrance to a polling place, which means that HTV cards or other non-AEC notices cannot be distributed or displayed within that distance. HTV cards must not be exhibited or left in a polling place.

Appendix 1 lists the offences under the Act.

HTV cards produced for electors by political parties and candidates need to have clear instructions and be well designed so they assist electors to cast a formal vote. Otherwise, HTV information may confuse some voters and cause them to cast an informal vote without meaning to do so.

HTV cards for electors serviced by mobile polling teams may be supplied by party workers to the team leader of a mobile polling team. It is not the responsibility of the team leader to arrange for this or to remind party workers to do so. Mobile polling teams will provide the electoral material to electors on request.

Electoral advertising

The Electoral Backgrounder on Electoral Advertising provides a basic introduction to electoral advertising. Its contents are a guide only. Individual matters are assessed on a case-by-case basis and ultimately it is for the courts to decide upon the interpretation of the law in any particular case. Accordingly, if you are in doubt about the interpretation of the law in particular circumstances, you should seek your own independent legal advice.

The Electoral Backgrounder on Electoral Advertising discusses:

  • intent of the law
  • authorisation of electoral advertising
  • headings to electoral advertisements
  • electoral advertising on the Internet
  • misleading and deceptive electoral advertisements
  • second preference how-to-vote cards
  • truth in political advertising
  • defamation of candidates
  • electronic media blackout
  • political advertising bans
  • non-compliance, such as electoral advertising offences
  • complaints.

Candidates are encouraged to pay particular attention to the authorisation of electoral advertising.