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Organisation : Australian Electoral Commission (
Facility : Counting Votes
Country : Australia
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Counting Votes :

The counting of votes at ordinary polling places begins at 6pm on election day.

Related : AEC Australia How to Vote by Mail :

Counting at polling places :
Polling officials are required to complete three main tasks when polls close, in the following order
** count the first preferences on the House of Representatives ballot papers
** conduct a two-candidate-preferred (TCP) count of the House of Representatives ballot papers, and
** count the first preferences on the Senate ballot papers.

Only ordinary votes from polling places are counted on election night. That is, the ordinary votes that are cast at a polling place where the voter’s name is marked off the electoral roll at the time of voting.

House of Representatives count on election night :
Immediately after the polling place doors close, polling officials open and empty the House of Representatives ballot boxes.

The green ballot papers are unfolded and all the number ‘1’ votes (first preferences) are put into separate piles for each candidate and counted. Informal ballot papers are counted separately (ballot papers that are not completed correctly are referred to as informal ballot papers).

The first preference results for each candidate are phoned through to the Divisional Returning Officer (DRO), along with the number of informal ballot papers.

The figures are then data entered and transmitted to the Tally Room (TR) on the AEC website and provided to media outlets through a media feed system.

Constant updates occur over election night through the TR every time new information is entered.

Two-candidate-preferred count for House of Representatives on election night :
Following the first preference count, polling officials conduct an indicative two-candidate-preferred (TCP) count – a distribution of ballot papers to two selected candidates. This result is then phoned through to the DRO.

The two selected candidates are those expected to receive the most first preference votes. The TCP count is conducted to give an early indication of who is most likely to win each seat, as this is not always clear from first preferences.

The Tally Room also provides TCP information as soon as it is entered into the AEC system.

The AEC selects the two candidates for the TCP count based on a number of factors including historical voting patterns in previous elections. The names of the two candidates are kept confidential until the close of the poll.

The ballot papers for all other candidates are examined to see which of the two selected candidates the voter has put ahead in their preferences.

The ballot papers are then sorted to the candidate who has the highest preference. This process ends up with all ballot papers being allocated to one or other of the two selected candidates to give a TCP count result.

The AEC is required to undertake the indicative TCP count under subsections 274 (2A), (2B) and (2C) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).

The provision was legislated in 1992 and resulted from a recommendation by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters following its inquiry into the 1990 federal election that this count occur in polling places.

The intent was to assist with a quicker understanding on election night of the party or parties likely to form Government in the federal election. In instances where it is evident that one or both of the leading candidates differ from that selected, then the TCP count is restarted and preferences distributed to the correct two leading candidates in the days following the election night count.

The first preference, TCP, and full distribution of preferences counts are observable by scrutineers and the results published on the TR.

Senate count on election night :
Following the House of Representatives count, polling officials open and empty the Senate ballot boxes. The ballot papers are sorted into first preferences for each group above-the-line (ATL) and below-the-line (BTL) and first preferences for each ungrouped candidate as well as those which are obviously informal.

A first preference figure for each group (combined total for ATL and BTL), each ungrouped candidate and the total of obviously informal votes is phoned through to the DRO and then transmitted to the TR on the AEC website.

The Senate scrutiny and the distribution of preferences is done 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. It is only possible, therefore, to get an indication of the Senate results on election night.

Declaration Votes :
Where a person votes at a location that does not have the relevant electoral roll to mark them off they will cast a declaration vote. A person who completes a postal vote is considered to have completed a declaration vote.

A declaration vote is when a person ‘makes a declaration’ about their entitlement to vote and then places their ballot papers into a declaration envelope.

Declaration votes, including postal votes, must be returned to the relevant DRO so the person can be marked off the electoral roll before their vote can be counted.

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