Fixed Election Dates
All conjoint elections (elections for the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council held at the same time) will now be held on a fixed date, the second Saturday in March every four years.
Previously, only the Legislative Council had fixed four year terms. The Legislative Assembly was elected for up to four years commencing from the date of its first meeting following a general election.
The Electoral Amendment and Constitution Act 2011 passed through Parliament in 2011 and was proclaimed on 20 December 2011. It amended the Electoral Act 1907 and the Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899 to enable this fixed date for State general elections in Western Australia.
The last State general election was held on Saturday, 9 March 2013.
The next State general election will be due on Saturday, 11 March 2017.
Changes to Electoral Boundaries
Reviews of State electoral boundaries are required two years after each Legislative Assembly election. This is to ensure the number of electors in each district is within permissible limits and are approximately equal for the following election. As such, some electors may find that their electoral district or region has changed between elections.
A review of the State’s electoral boundaries was completed in October 2011. As a result, approximately 10% of electors in Western Australia were in a different district for the 2013 State election.
The next review will likely commence in early 2015.
What happens on election night
On election night, polling place managers (in their capacity as assistant Returning Officers) will sort and count all ordinary votes taken during the day at their polling place. They will forward to their district Returning Officer, the first preference count for each candidate contesting that Legislative Assembly seat, a two candidate preferred count (i.e. a notional distribution), and finally for the Legislative Council the first preference party, group or independent candidate votes.
Returning Officers will then check these numbers before sending them to the Commission for posting to the election results website and forwarding to media outlets that will be taking a live data feed. These progressively updated indicative results are what candidates, parties and the Western Australian community see on election night. The Commission will also provide some early voting results data for the Legislative Assembly as counting of these votes proceeds at the Count Centre.
It should be noted that the Commission reserves the right to not post to the internet notional distribution results where there is a close three-way contest or a candidate not selected for the notional distribution count (and advised to polling place managers) proves to attract more votes than expected.
It takes advanced planning and many people to ensure an election is conducted smoothly. Below are the main groups of people responsible for running elections.
Role of the Returning Officer
Returning Officers are staff appointed by the Electoral Commissioner to conduct an election for a particular district or region.
Returning Officers receive specialised training in the management of elections and guidance and mentoring from the Commission.
Duties of Returning Officers include:
- managing the election locally
- ensuring the integrity of the election
- ensuring the needs of electors are served
- liaising with candidates and scrutineers
- having knowledge of the Electoral Act and other relevant legislation
- arranging the establishment of polling places
- receiving nominations
- conducting the draw for the position of candidates’ names on the ballot paper
- appointing polling place staff
- arranging and coordinating the count of votes on election nights
- conducting a full distribution of preference count
- declaring results.
Role of the Electoral Commissioner and Commission staff
The acting Electoral Commissioner is Mr Chris Avent.
The Electoral Commissioner is appointed by the Governor, on the recommendation of the Premier who consults with the Parliamentary Leader of each party in the Parliament.
The Electoral Commissioner is the Chief Executive Officer of the Western Australian Electoral Commission and is responsible for the proper conduct of elections in accordance with the Electoral Act 1907.
Commission staff assist the Electoral Commissioner to fulfill the requirement to deliver impartial, effective and timely elections. A State general election requires significant planning and administrative processes to be in place well before polling day.
Responsibilities of Commission staff include:
- management and production of the State Electoral Roll
- establishment of an effective nominations process
- registration of political parties
- identification of possible polling places and early voting options for electors who cannot vote on polling day
- production and printing of election materials including guides, manuals, ballot papers and advertisements
- production or procurement of assistive technologies or tools for electors with a specific need
- recruitment and training of casual staff
- management of customer enquiries, including establishment of call centre and email enquiry services
- establishment of a counting centre and proper procedures to count the votes and finalise results
- development and maintenance of an elections website.
Role of casual staff
During a State general election a large temporary casual workforce is engaged to conduct the election.
Polling staff work to assist electors on polling day by:
- ensuring the polling place is operational during the required hours of voting and electors are able to cast their vote in secret and free from interference
- marking elector names off the electoral roll
- issuing ballot papers
- providing extra assistance when asked
- managing the count of ballot papers at the close of polling and contacting the Returning Officer with the results
- returning ballot papers and materials to the Returning Officer.
Other staff are engaged from other government authorities across Western Australia, interstate Electoral Commissions and selected overseas locations to provide an early voting option to electors who cannot vote at a polling place on polling day.
To establish and verify the final results, casual staff are employed through a recruitment agency to work at the Count Centre in the two weeks after polling day.