Senate count: the Tally Room explained

Updated: 22 March 2019

The publication of Senate results to the Tally Room on the AEC website and AEC federal election app commences on election night, where a first preference figure for each group (combined total for above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL) votes), each ungrouped candidate and the total of obviously informal votes is made available.

It is only possible to get an indication of the Senate results on election night because the scrutiny and distribution of preferences is conducted at the Central Senate Scrutiny in each state or territory. The final results cannot be calculated until the state or territory-wide total of all votes is known and is used to determine the quota – the proportion of votes required by a candidate to be elected.

Reports from the Tally Room

Once the scrutiny of Senate votes is complete, the Australian Electoral Officer (AEO) will conduct the distribution of preferences for the state or territory. Three reports are published to the Tally Room.

The Distribution of Preferences Report

This summary report shows how and at which count votes are distributed between the candidates. It shows who has been elected and at what count their surplus was distributed. For excluded candidates, it shows the number of votes and the details of the counts that their votes were transferred to continuing candidates. The report is published in PDF format. The csv file for the Distribution of Preferences Report is available once the Tally Room is in final results mode, soon after the return of the writs.

Formal Preferences Report

This report shows all formal ballot papers that were included in the distribution of preferences. It identifies the division, polling place, batch and ballot paper number. The preferences are comma delimited and include above and below the line preferences.

In using this data, it is important to know the number of groups in the state or territory to understand which preferences were above or below the line. In the list of the preferences the first x preferences are the above the line (where x is the number of groups) and the remainder are the below the line.

The report is published in csv format. The order of the groups and candidates are available for download at The csv file for the Formal Preferences Report, requires a filter to the ‘nom_ty’ column, looking for ‘S’, and a filter to ‘state_ab’ to select the state of interest. The csv will show all candidates and their order on the ballot paper. Groups are shown by the distinct list of the ‘ticket’ column and exclude ‘UG’ (ungrouped candidates).

First Preferences by Polling Place Report

This report shows the number of first preferences at each polling place per group and candidate. This report does not include any declaration vote counts (pre-poll, provisional, postal, or absent votes) or obviously informal ballot papers. This means that the total number of ballot papers in this report will not equal the total number recorded elsewhere on the Tally Room. The csv file for the First Preferences by Polling Place Report is available once the Tally Room is in final results mode, soon after the return of the writs.

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