Australian Electoral Commission Statement: Senate voting instructions

Updated: 13 May 2016

The Electoral Commissioner, Mr Tom Rogers, said he was aware of recent commentary about how to correctly complete the Senate ballot paper. This follows changes to the Senate voting system passed by Parliament in March 2016.

The AEC's role is to instruct people to vote according to the legislation. For the Senate, the legislation requires voters to either number at least six boxes above the line for the parties or groups of their choice, or to number at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of their choice. The AEC's public education campaign follows the legislation.

How voters mark their Senate ballot paper determines whether their vote can be counted, how their preferences will flow to the candidates they have chosen and when their vote exhausts. Voters are encouraged to follow the instructions on the ballot paper, or there is a risk their vote may be informal and won't be included in the count.

Mr Rogers said the legislation also includes 'vote savings' provisions, which have been in existence for many, many years. 'Vote savings' provisions are, in effect, instructions to help staff conducting the count understand how to deal with the many ways that a ballot paper could have been marked by the voter.

'Vote savings' provisions make sure a vote can still be counted where the voter has made their intention clear, despite not precisely following the instructions on the ballot paper. The 'vote savings' provisions provide that those ballot papers marked above the line with a one only (or a sequence of numbers less than six) and bearing no other mistakes or formality issues will be included in the count.

Mr Rogers urged voters to use the practice voting tool available on the AEC website (www.aec.gov.au) and follow the instructions on the ballot paper to avoid inadvertently casting an informal vote.