Voting in an Election

State elections

At a State election, most people visit a polling place on polling day to cast their vote. People who vote early can visit an early voting location, or complete an early vote by post, or be visited by mobile polling staff.

How to mark your ballot paper correctly
Visiting a polling place

Electors at the 2017 State general election voted for the first time using ballot papers that were different in several ways.

The Legislative Assembly and Council ballot papers were printed and distributed as conjoined papers separated by perforations. Electoral officials separated them at the point of issue. Not only did this create printing and distribution efficiencies, it negated the possibility of an elector being issued with the wrong matching ballot paper.


The format of the Legislative Council ballot paper also changed. Similar to the Senate ballot paper, voters could either cast a ticket vote above the line or a candidate preference vote below the line. Previously Council ballot papers were in a portrait format with a ticket vote to the left of a central line and a candidate preference vote to the right of the line. Unlike the last Senate election, however, voting instructions did not change. Electors wishing to cast an above the line ticket vote needed only to place a “1” in a single box next to the political party, group or candidate of their choice.

A further change was that the large Council ballot papers were printed in six different colours – one for each of the six Legislative Council regions. Each of the smaller white Legislative Assembly ballot papers included a corresponding coloured stripe and water mark image.

The six colours assigned to each Legislative Council region were as follows:

Colour swatch 2.png

Marking your ballot paper correctly

How to Mark Your Legislative Assembly Ballot PaperSample Legislative Assembly Ballot Paper

On the white Legislative Assembly ballot paper, you must fill in all boxes.

1. Clearly write the number '1' in the box next to the candidate or party of your first choice.

2. Write number '2' in the box next to the candidate or party of your second choice.

3. Continue to number all the boxes until there is a different number in every box in the order of preference.

How to Mark Your Legislative Council Ballot Paper

For the coloured Legislative Council ballot paper you have a choice. You can vote by marking your ballot paper either above the line or below the line - but not both.

Either: Above the line

If you choose to vote above the line (a ticket vote), write the number '1' in one of the boxes to vote according to the political party, group, or candidate of your choice. Leave all other boxes blank.

By doing this, your preferences will be distributed according to those of the party, group or candidate you vote for. You can check these preferences by viewing Legislative Council Voting Tickets for your region which will be made available after nominations have closed, or in newspaper advertisements and at all polling places.

Or: Below the line

If you choose to vote below the line (candidate preference vote), fill in all the boxes, in that section of the ballot paper in the order of your choice.

1. Write the number '1' in the box next to the candidate of your first choice.

2. Write number '2' in the box next to the candidate of your second choice.

3. Continue to number all the boxes in the order of your choice until there is a different number in every box. By doing this, your preferences will be distributed exactly as you have chosen.

A ticket vote is formal if only one square is marked with the number '1' or with a tick or a cross. A candidate preference vote is formal when all squares have been marked with consecutive numbers. If both sides have been completed, the candidate preference side is counted, provided it is formal. However, where both sides are completed and one side is informal, the formal side is counted.

Informal votes

Ballot papers are informal if they:

  • are blank
  • do not show preferences according to instructions or legislative requirements
  • do not make the voter's intention clear
  • are marked in a way which identifies the voter.

Informal ballot papers do not contribute to the election of a candidate and are not included in calculating the quota or the absolute majority required for election.

If a ballot paper is not marked correctly but gives a clear indication of the voter's intention as to the order of preferences the ballot paper may be formal. It is the Returning Officer's responsibility to decide whether the elector has sufficiently shown his or her intention, and whether a ballot paper is formal or informal.

Visiting a polling place

Polling places are established in open and public places, often schools and community halls. When you approach the polling place, supporters of candidates or political parties will often be handing out 'How to Vote' cards for their candidates. These cards show the candidate's suggested preferences that support their interests. You do not have to follow or take a How to Vote card into a polling place.

When you arrive at a polling place you should make yourself known to the Queue Controller (if there is one) or an Issuing Officer. They will then direct you where to go based on the type of vote you need to lodge.

Ordinary vote: for electors voting within their district

Absent vote: for electors voting outside their district. Electors will have to state which district they are enrolled in and sign a declaration (unless a computerised Elector Recording System is in use) before being issued with papers for their district and region.

Provisional vote: For electors who are not on the roll or have already been marked off, but believe they are entitled to vote, or have had their eligibility to vote questioned by a scrutineer. Electors sign a declaration before receiving their ballot papers, and their eligibility will be verified prior to the ballot papers being included in the count.

Voting process

Upon entering the polling place you will be directed to see an Issuing Officer.

The Issuing Officer will ask you for your full name, your address and if you have voted before in the election.

The Issuing Officer will then:

  • look up your name on the electoral roll
  • mark you off to ensure that you only vote once. If your name cannot be found you will be directed to another polling official regarding a provisional or absent declaration vote
  • issue you two ballot papers, one for your Legislative Assembly district and one for your Legislative Council region.

When casting your vote:

  • proceed alone to a vacant voting screen
  • read the instructions on the ballot paper
  • complete the ballot papers as instructed
  • fold the ballot paper to conceal your vote
  • put each ballot paper separately in the appropriate ballot box.

Seeking assistance

It is the right of every elector to cast their vote in an environment which provides for a secret and independent ballot.

However, you may seek assistance at any time from a polling official. If you do not understand the process, are unable to or have difficulty writing or need any other assistance, ask the polling place manager.

Local government elections

Voting in a local government election is usually done by post. The postal voting package you receive will include instructions on how to fill out your ballot paper and declaration correctly. If you are voting at a local government election in person, instructions on how to mark your ballot paper correctly will be available at the polling place. For locations, contact your local government.