What to expect on Election Day

Updated: 24 October 2016

Inside the polling place

Polling officials work inside the polling place, issuing votes and assisting electors.

Outside the polling place supporters of candidates and political parties distribute how-to-vote material. These people are not employed by the AEC and are not polling officials.

What's it like to be a polling official on Election Day?

Election Day starts early for a polling official. The Officer-in-Charge (OIC) is at the polling place by 6.30am in the morning and the other polling officials arrive by 7am for their face to face briefing with the OIC. There's a lot to do before polling starts at 8am. Once the briefing is finished the ballot papers need to be distributed to the issuing points, and the ordinary issuing officers need to open the certified lists. Everything has to be in order so that polling can start at exactly 8am.

Mornings in the polling place tend to be the busiest time as most people like to vote early. The rest of the day is quite steady. While it will be a busy day in polling places it is still important for staff to take adequate breaks in accordance with the following:

  • Employees cannot work more than five hours continuously without taking at least a 30 minute meal break. Meal breaks will generally be at the direction of the manager or supervisor.
  • It is the responsibility of AEC employees to ensure they take this break. If you have any special requirements or there are medical reasons that may require you to consume food at regular intervals you should advise your supervisor or manager at the time of commencing duty.

Staff working on polling day should ensure that they bring sufficient food and drinks to sustain themselves through the day.

Polling places vary throughout Australia. Some large polling places take in excess of 6 000 votes whereas smaller polling places in rural and remote areas may only issue as little as 100 or so votes. Larger polling places employ as many as 16 polling officials. In smaller polling places an OIC, ballot box guard and an ordinary issuing officer may be all that's required.

What happens once the voting has finished?

After the poll closes at 6pm, ordinary issuing officers and declaration vote issuing officers reconcile the ballot papers, return materials to the OIC and then assist with the sorting and counting of ballot papers.

Sorting and counting ballot papers

Once the ballot papers have been unfolded, staff commence work sorting the ballot papers into piles for each candidate. Polling staff carefully check each ballot paper to see if it is formal or informal. Informal ballot papers are placed in a separate pile for the OIC to check.

The ballot papers for each candidate are counted in bundles of 50. Once counting has finished the polling official supervising the counting records the result. These figures are rechecked and reconciled with the number of ballot papers issued at the polling place.

Transmitting results

The OIC telephones the divisional office three times during polling night: once with the result of the House of Representatives first preference votes count; then again with the result of the two candidate preferred count; and finally with the result of the Senate first preference count. The results that the divisional office receives from the polling place are entered into the AEC's Election Management system and transmitted to the AEC website's Virtual Tally Room.

Once all the results have been transmitted to the divisional office and the polling place has been packed up, staff are free to go home.