Candidates Handbook: The writ

Updated: 18 May 2016

The Act

  • Part VIII, 'Enrolment'
  • Part XIII, 'Writs for elections'
  • Part XIX, 'The return of the writs'

The issue of a writ triggers the election process and provides the opportunity for you to nominate as a candidate. The writ is the legal document necessary for the official timetable and process for the election to begin.

Issue of the writ

The Constitution, s.12 and s.32 The Act, s.151 and s.152

The issuing of the writs triggers the election process. The writs are deemed to be issued at 6pm on the day they are issued.

The writs must be issued within 10 days from the expiry of the House of Representatives or from the proclamation of a dissolution of the House of Representatives. If the Senate is dissolved, the writs must be issued within 10 days of dissolution.

House of Representatives

The Constitution, s.32 and s.33 The Act, s.154

The Governor-General issues the writs for a general election of members of the House of Representatives. They are addressed to the Electoral Commissioner, who advises each Divisional Returning Officer (DRO) of the dates specified in the writs and directs them to make election arrangements.

Eight writs are issued for each general election of the House of Representatives: one in each state and one each for the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.


The Constitution, s.12 The Act, s.151 and s.153

The writ for the election of senators for a state is issued by the governor of the state and is addressed to the Australian Electoral Officer (AEO) for that particular state. The writ for the election of senators for a territory is issued by the Governor-General and is addressed to the AEO for that particular territory.

Dates fixed in the writ

The Act, s.152 and s.154

The writ specifies the key dates of an election in accordance with the legislated election timetable. These dates specify the timing for the close of the rolls, the close of nominations, the election day and the return of the writ.

The AEC advertises these dates within major newspapers circulating in each state and territory and on the AEC website. An indicative election timetable is shown below.

Close of rolls

The Act, s.102 and s.155

The rolls close at 8pm on the seventh day after the date of the issue of the writ.

Close of nominations

The Act, s.156

The date for the close of nominations is set out in the writ. It must be at least 10 days, but not more than 27 days, after the date of issue of the writ. You can nominate as a candidate during AEC business hours any time after the writ is issued up to 12 noon on the day nominations close. The Act strictly prescribes where you must submit your nomination form and deposit. Nominations cannot be accepted under any circumstances if those requirements are not met.

Declaration of nominations

The Act, s.175 and s.176

Nominations are publicly declared 24 hours after they close. Your nomination form will be made available for public inspection at this time.

Election day

The Act, s.157 and s.158

Election day is set out in the writ. It must be between 23 and 31 days after the close of nominations. Election day must be a Saturday.

Return of writ and declaration of the poll

The Act, s.152, s.159, s.283 and s.284

Each writ for an election must be returned on or before the date fixed for its return, which must be within 100 days of its issue.

In a House of Representatives election or by-election, the DRO of each division will, as soon as practicable after it has been determined that a candidate has been elected, publicly declare the name of the elected candidate. After all votes have been counted the DRO prepares a statement setting out the result of the election. This statement is sent to the Electoral Commissioner.

After receiving a statement of results from every DRO, the Electoral Commissioner endorses the name of each candidate elected for each electoral division in the state or territory on a certificate and attaches it to the relevant writ. The Electoral Commissioner then returns the writs to the Governor-General or to the Speaker in the case of a by-election.

In a Senate election the AEO, as soon as convenient after the election result has been determined, publicly declares the result of the election and the names of the candidates elected. The AEO then returns the writ to the governor of the state or, in the case of the territories, to the Governor-General.

Meeting of parliament

The Constitution, s.5

The new parliament meets within 30 days of the day appointed for the return of the writs.

The table below provides an indication of the election period timetable from the time of the expiry or dissolution of the House of Representatives. The actual timetable will be published on the AEC website after the writs are issued for an election.

Indicative Election Timetable

Expiry or dissolution of parliament The House of Representatives expires three years after its first meeting but can be dissolved earlier (the Constitution, s.28)
Election announcement No fixed time
Issue of writs Writs are issued within 10 days of the dissolution or expiry of parliament (the Constitution, s.32)
Close of rolls Rolls close at 8pm, seven days after the issue of the writ (the Act, ss.102, 155)
Close of nominations Nominations close at 12 noon, between 10 and 27 days after the issue of writs (the Act, ss.102, 156)
Declaration of nominations Nominations are publicly declared 24 hours after nominations close (the Act, s.176)
Election day Election day is fixed between 23 and 31 days after the date of nominations (the Act, s.157)
Declaration of the poll As soon as practicable
Return of writs Writs must be returned within 100 days of their issue (the Act, s.159)
Meeting of parliament The new parliament meets within 30 days of the day appointed as the return of the writs (the Constitution, s.5)
Election expenditure Election period financial disclosure returns must be lodged by candidates and Senate groups within 15 weeks after election day.