Rules for the conduct of Queensland council plebiscites

Updated: 9 September 2015

The Returning Officer

  • The AEC shall appoint a Returning Officer. The Returning Officer may appoint one or more Deputy Returning Officers.
  • The Returning Officer conducts the plebiscite as a secret postal ballot in accordance with these Rules.
    • The Returning Officer may take such action as he considers necessary to ensure that the plebiscites are properly conducted.

Public Notices

  • The Returning Officer gives Public Notice of the plebiscite by publication of a notice in the Courier Mail or in another major daily circulating in the Council area.
  • The Public Notice shall include:
    • advice that voting will be by postal ballot,
    • details for the close of the roll,
    • when ballot material will be posted,
    • the Returning Officer contact details,
  • The Returning Officer will also give Public Notice shortly before the close of voting.
  • At the conclusion of the count, the Returning Officer gives further Public Notice of the Result of the Plebiscite.

Plebiscite Roll of Voters

  • The Plebiscite Roll of Voters shall be limited to those persons who are enrolled on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for the relevant Council area at the time of the close of the Roll for the plebiscite.
  • Ballot material is sent by mail to the postal address for each person who appears on the Plebiscite Roll of Voters.
  • A person whose name appears on the Plebiscite Roll of Voters may obtain a copy of the Plebiscite Roll for the purposes of the plebiscite only.

The Ballot Paper

  • The ballot paper shall contain the following question, or another question to be determined by the Returning Officer, to be voted on by eligible voters.

"Do you support the Queensland Government's decision to amalgamate your Council with other Council areas?"

  • The voter will mark the ballot paper by writing "Yes" or "No" in the box next to the question.

The Mailout

  • At least 13 days before the last day of voting, the Returning Officer mails to persons whose name and address appears on the Plebiscite Roll of Voters (the voters):
    • the ballot paper,
    • a Declaration Envelope,
    • instructions, and
    • a reply paid envelope.
  • Voters who will not be at their enrolled address during the voting period can arrange for the Returning Officer to send the ballot material to another address.
  • Voters may only have one vote counted.
  • If a voter claims that some or all of his or her ballot material has not been received, or has been lost or spoilt, the Returning Officer provides the voter with the relevant replacement material.

Return of Ballot Papers

  • If voters wish to cast a valid vote, they complete the ballot paper and declaration envelope in accordance with the instructions.
  • Returned ballot material is kept securely at all times it is in the possession of the AEC.
  • In order to be included in the count, ballot papers must reach the Returning Officer by the closing time of the ballot. The Returning Officer shall not admit to the count any ballot material that is received after the closing time of the ballot.

Preliminary Scrutiny

  • As mail is received, the Declaration Envelopes are removed from the reply paid envelopes, and checked to the Plebiscite Roll of Voters to ensure that only ballots returned by eligible voters are admitted to the count.
  • Each voter is eligible to record one vote. If the Returning Officer receives more than one vote from a voter, the Returning Officer decides which, if any, will be admitted to the count after careful investigation.
  • The Returning Officer determines the admissibility of all declarations, and the total number of admitted Declaration Envelopes is recorded. Unsigned envelopes are not admitted. Where a signature appears to differ from the name on the Declaration Envelope, the Returning Officer may take account of the voter's enrolment records or other documentation in the AEC's possession, in deciding whether to admit the declaration.
  • The names of the voters who returned Declaration Envelopes are marked on the Plebiscite Roll of Voters.

Opening of Declaration Envelopes

  • This stage of the count cannot begin until after the close of voting. The detachable flaps containing the names, addresses and signatures of the electors are removed from the Declaration Envelopes.
  • The Declaration Envelopes are opened and the ballot papers removed.

The Count

  • The ballot papers are sorted according to YES, NO and informal votes.
  • If a Declaration Envelope contains more than one ballot paper, all ballot papers within the envelope are rejected.
  • The ballot papers are counted and a result is obtained.

Completion of the Count

  • The ballot papers and all other ballot material returned by voters are placed in sealed parcels. Each parcel is labelled and stored in a secure manner by the AEC.
  • The election material is kept securely by the AEC for 12 months from the date of the Declaration of the Result, when it is destroyed. If the plebiscite is subject to legal action or in dispute at the end of the 12 months the AEC shall continue to keep the material until the legal action or dispute is finalised.

The Result

  • As soon as possible after the count is completed, the Returning Officer declares the result and delivers a notice containing the Declaration to the Chief Executive Officer of the Council.
  • The Declaration shall include:
    • The number of voters included in the Plebiscite Roll of Voters,
    • The number of ballot papers admitted to the count
    • "Yes", "No" and informal votes
  • As soon as possible after the Declaration of the Result, the Returning Officer gives Public Notice of the result.


  • The relevant Council, or any ten eligible voters, may appoint a Scrutineer to observe the following procedures:
    • the mailout
    • the preliminary scrutiny of Declaration Envelopes
    • the removal of flaps and opening of Declaration Envelopes
    • the counting of ballot papers
  • A person cannot be appointed as a Scrutineer if he or she has been engaged by the Australian Electoral Commission to be involved in the conduct of the plebiscite.
  • The form for the Appointment of Scrutineers is attached.
  • The Returning Officer informs Scrutineers of the time and place of the count.
  • Scrutineers may pass on information about results, trends and statistics but cannot communicate any information that is likely to affect the secrecy of the ballot.
  • The Returning Officer may have a Scrutineer removed if:
    • more than the permissible number of Scrutineers is present at any one time
  • the scrutineer acts in a manner which interferes with the proper or efficient conduct of the plebiscite
  • the Scrutineer commits any breach of the law
  • the Scrutineer fails to obey a reasonable direction.
Back to top