History & Features of the Australian Electoral System
Australia’s electoral system is in many respects a shining example of the fulfillment of democratic values. The secret ballot was first introduced in the Australian colonies in 1856 and all adult men and women over the age of 21 had the vote by 1908. By the end of the twentieth century, Australia could boast an electoral system that ranks among the fairest in the world.
Following the use of the first-past-the-post voting system, the Federal Parliament legislated to introduce the preferential voting system in the 1919 general election, although the new system was first used at a by-election in 1918.
Proportional voting was introduced for Senate elections in 1949, heralding a new political era where minor parties such as the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), the Australian Democrats and The Greens could wield the balance of power in the upper house.
The Australian electoral system is administered by an independent statutory authority, the Australian Electoral Commission.
Features of the Australian Electoral System
- Compulsory Voting
- Secret Ballots
- Democratic features of the Australian Electoral System
- Commonwealth Electoral Act – the full text from AUSTLII
- State and Federal Electoral Laws
History of the Electoral System
- Voting Methods
- Commonwealth Electoral Administration
- Changes in Parliament
- The Franchise Since 1843
- Women and the Right to Vote
The Franchise & Electoral Enrolment: Who Can Vote?
Australian citizens aged 18 and over are obliged to enrol to vote in Australian elections.
- Voters And The Franchise: The Federal Story – paper by the Parliamentary Library
- Extract from House of Representatives debate on the Franchise Bill 1902
- Women and the Right To Vote
- Mar 08, 2013: International Women’s Day 2013
- Oct 25, 2007: Over 13.6 Million Australians Enrolled To Vote In 2007 Election
- Apr 18, 2001: Should Children Be Allowed To Vote?
- Mar 31, 1999: Greens Win Protection Of Voting Rights For Youth And Prisoners
- Dec 02, 1998: Enrolment Statistics State-By-State 1984-98
- Apr 15, 1996: 1996 Federal Election Enrolment Figures
A number of voting systems are employed in Australian Federal and State elections.
- Simple Majority Voting – This method of voting is also known as “first-past-the-post”. It is not used in any Australian Parliament, although it is the most popular method of voting in other parts of the world.
- Preferential Voting – Sometimes described as the “alternate vote”, preferential voting is a uniquely Australian system of voting. Based on the principle that the winner should have 50% + 1 support, it allows voters to number the candidates in order of preference. This system is used in the House of Representatives and the lower house of every Australian State Parliament, aside from the ACT and Tasmania.
- Proportional Representation – Proportional representation voting is used for Senate elections in Australia. It is used to elect candidates in multi-member electorates and requires the winners to reach a set quota of votes.
- Hare-Clark – This is a particular variation of the Proportional Representation voting system and is used in elections to the Tasmanian House of Assembly and the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Types of Votes
Australian voters are able to cast one of 4 types of votes:
- Ordinary vote: a vote cast in the elector’s home division on polling day.
- Absent vote: a vote cast by an elector out of their home division but still within their home State of Territory on polling day.
- Pre-poll or Postal vote: a vote cast before polling day at a pre-poll voting centre or by post. These votes can be cast by electors who will not be within their home State or Territory on polling day, are seriously ill, infirm, unable to leave work, or, for religious reasons, are unable to attend a polling place.
- Provisional vote: a vote cast in circumstances where an elector’s name cannot be found on the roll or the name has already been marked off the roll. The vote cannot be counted until a careful check of enrolment records and entitlements has been made.
Electors making a postal, pre-poll, absent or provisional vote must complete a declaration giving their personal details.
Any absent, pre-poll or provisional vote is sealed in a separate envelope within an outer envelope. The elector signs the outer envelope. Returning Officers are required to open the sealed envelopes in such a way as to conceal the identity of the voter.