There are different voting systems for each house of Parliament in Western Australia.
Voting system for the Legislative Assembly
Candidates are elected to the Legislative Assembly through full preferential voting. This is a system whereby a candidate must poll an absolute majority of the total formal votes (in excess of 50% in order to be elected.)
This system is characterised by the elector numbering all squares on the ballot paper in order of preference. The ballot paper markings should clearly reflect the elector’s intention.
If, after all first preference votes have been counted, no candidate has obtained an absolute majority of all formal votes, then the candidate with the fewest number of first preference votes is excluded from the count. The excluded candidate’s second preference votes are then distributed to the remaining candidates at this stage.
If, after that exclusion, no candidate has obtained an absolute majority of formal votes, the next remaining candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and all of his or her votes (second preferences and those received from the previously excluded candidate) are distributed to the remaining candidates.
The process is continued until one candidate is elected by obtaining an absolute majority of formal votes. The absolute majority is calculated excluding informal and exhausted votes. To see a diagram explaining the steps involved in this process click
Voting system for the Legislative Council
Proportional representation is the voting system used in multi-member electorates such as the Western Australian Legislative Council.
To be successful, a candidate is required to receive enough votes to reach a quota (not an absolute majority) which is based on the number of formal votes and number of candidates to be elected.
Electors mark their ballot, allocating preferences to their preferred ranking for all candidates. A successful candidate must achieve a quota, calculated using the following formula:
Subsequently, if the quota is not reached the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded and their votes redistributed according to the second preference shown. This process continues until a candidate reaches a quota.
Candidates, who receive a number of votes equal to or greater than the quota are elected immediately. Any votes of these elected candidates, which are surplus to the quota, are transferred to the remaining candidates at a reduced value known as a transfer value.
Filling vacancies in the Legislative Council
If a member, or members, of the Legislative Council vacate their position, before a State general election, the process to fill the vacancy is set out in the Electoral Act 1907.
His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia will inform the Electoral Commissioner of the vacancy or vacancies. Once informed the Electoral Commissioner will determine if it is practicable to fill the vacancy.
If it is, the Commissioner will advertise the vacancy and Qualified People have 10 days to nominate for the vacancy. To be a 'Qualified Person' they must be: a person who was a candidate who stood for the previous election, did not withdraw from, and was not elected at that election; and have not become a member of the Council since that election; and are qualified to be elected and are not disqualified from being elected as a member of the Council.
After the 10 day period has expired one of three things will occur:
If only one Qualified Person nominates for a vacancy they will be declared elected and His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia will be informed.
If more than one Qualified Person nominates for a vacancy a re-count of the votes previously cast in the election will be occur, excluding the member (or members) who vacated their position.
The re-count will follow the methodology explained above in the Voting system for the Legislative Council section and the successful candidate will be declared elected and His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia will be informed.
If no Qualified People nominate for a vacancy, His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia will be informed and will then issue a writ for a fresh election in the region concerned to fill the vacancy.
To see a diagram explaining the steps involved in this process click here.
Local government elections
Optional preferential voting – Changes in voting 2023
In 2023, local government elections in WA will move to optional preferential voting. It is similar to how voting is done in State and Federal elections.
Under the optional preferential voting system, voters number candidates in the order of their preference. You have the choice to:
- vote for one candidate - by putting a 1 next to their name
- vote for some candidates - by numbering several candidates in the order of your preference
- vote for all candidates - by numbering all the candidates in the order of your preference
Single vacancy elections
Under the optional preferential voting system, a candidate will need the support of a majority of voters to be elected. In order to achieve this, if no candidate has a majority of the first preferences, the lowest placed candidate would be eliminated and their preferences would be distributed to the voter’s next most preferred candidate. This is the same allocation of preferences that occurs in elections for the Legislative Assembly and House of Representatives.
As a result, the elected candidate is the most preferred candidate of a majority of voters.
Multiple vacancy elections
Under the optional preferential voting system, the councillors elected will be representative of a proportion of the vote by achieving a quota of vote. This is the same as elections for the Legislative Council and Senate.
Where a candidate has more votes than this quota, their excess votes will be distributed at a reduced value according to their voter preferences, if any. Likewise, if no candidate has met the quota, the lowest placed candidate is eliminated and their voter preferences are then given to the next most preferred candidate, if any.