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Informal Vote Declines In Federal Election; Sydney Again Records Highest Rates

The percentage of informal votes in the 2016 House of Representatives elections dropped by 0.86% to 5.05%.

The informal vote is the lowest since 2004, when it was 5.2%. Informals declined in every State and Territory, apart from the Northern Territory, which has recorded the highest rate of 7.35%, an increase of 1.05%.

Other than NSW and the NT, all States and Territories recorded an informal vote of less than 5%. In NSW, the informal percentage was 6.17%.

Whilst the highest informal vote in an individual seat outside NSW is 8.84% in Murray (Vic), NSW has 9 seats with an informal vote above 8%. As in previous elections, these are all Labor-held electorates in Sydney with high proportions of non-English speaking residents.

The highest informal vote in an individual electorate was recorded in Lindsay, where it reached 11.77%. The seat of Blaxland, once held by former Labor prime minister Paul Keating, had 11.55%, the second highest.

The Victorian seat of Kooyong recorded the lowest informal vote of any of the country’s 150 electorates – just 1.99%. Kooyong was once held by former Liberal prime minister Sir Robert Menzies. [Read more…]

How Does The Electoral Act Define Informal Votes?

The rules for formal and informal votes in the House of Representatives are specified in Section 268 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Section 268 is shown below. It is also available on AUSTLII.

The rules for formal and informal votes in the Senate are outlined in Section 239 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. [Read more…]

Ballot Paper Formality Guidelines – AEC

This is the latest edition of the Australian Electoral Commission’s booklet on informal votes.

It is the official and most authoritative guide to formal and informal voting. [Read more…]

Electoral Pocketbook – 2015

The Australian Electoral Commission has released its latest Electoral Pocketbook, containing the full results of the 2013 Federal Election.

The pocketbook also includes the results of the 2014 Western Australian Senate re-run election.

The pocketbook is shown below. It can be expanded and downloaded. [Read more…]

Federal Election Results 1901-2014

This is a research paper from the Parliamentary Library with statistics on Australian Federal Elections since 1901.

The paper is part of the Research Paper Series 2014-15 and was written by Stephen Barber and Sue Johnson of the Statistics and Mapping Section of the Parliamentary Library.

The paper is shown under the terms of its Creative Commons licence.

It does not contains result of individual seats, but includes aggregate and state-by-state statistics for both Houses on primary votes, two-party-preferred votes, voter turnout, informal votes. It provides state-of-the-party tables for each House and Senate election since 1901. [Read more…]

What Is An Informal Vote?

An informal vote is one that has been incorrectly completed or not filled in at all. They are not counted towards any candidate.

According to Section 268 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1918), a vote is informal if: [Read more…]

What Happens To Donkey Votes?

One of the most frequently-asked questions I notice in the search queries on is about donkey votes.

For example, as I began to write this post the real-time log showed someone had searched for: “Where do donkey votes go?”

There is much confusion about donkey votes. You often hear it when someone says something like this: “I’m not happy with any of them so I’m voting donkey this time.”

For some reason, many people think that a donkey vote is the same as an informal vote. IT’S NOT!

Definition of a donkey vote: A donkey vote occurs when a voter numbers every box on the ballot paper in order from top to bottom, without regard to the logic of the preferences. In some cases, a voter might start at the bottom of the ballot paper and number them in order to the top.


It’s as simple as that. A donkey vote is just another vote. It counts. It’s not informal.

Definition of a formal vote: A formal vote must have the number 1 against a candidate’s name and must number the other candidates in numerical order.

For a vote to be informal, it might:

  • be blank
  • not have a number 1
  • have defective numbering – that is, numbers are not sequential
  • use ticks and crosses instead of numbers
  • identify the voter in some way
  • not have been initialled by an Australian Electoral Commission worker

In practice, most informal votes are either blank, only have the number 1 marked, use ticks and crosses, or have some kind of defective numbering.

In other words, even if you have cast a donkey vote and your preferences don’t look very logical, as long as you have put the number “1” against one candidate and numbered the others in sequential order your vote will be counted and will go to whoever got the number “1”.

Many people also don’t seem to understand that it’s not always possible to tell whether a vote is a donkey vote.

For example, if the ALP candidate is first on the ballot paper, followed by the Liberal candidate, Family First and the Greens, it’s probably a donkey vote because it’s not very logical for an ALP voter to give their second preference to the Liberal and Family First candidates ahead of the Greens.

However, if the order of candidates on the ballot paper is Greens, ALP, Liberal, One Nation, then it’s perfectly logical for a Greens voter to give their second preference to the ALP ahead of the Liberals and also perfectly logical to put One Nation last.

In truth, we can never be sure whether someone has cast a donkey vote on purpose or not. What might look illogical to one person could actually reflect how the elector intended to vote.

For the political parties, being first on the ballot paper is regarded as a good thing because they get the benefit of the donkey vote. Opinions vary but the donkey vote could be worth 1 or 2 per cent to the candidate at the top of the ballot paper. It can be more important when there are a lot of candidates contesting the election. However, most Australians use the how-to-vote cards issued by candidates at the polling booth and these are far more important than donkey votes.

So, if you really want to express your disgust or disappointment and not vote for anyone, don’t cast a donkey vote because if you do you will be voting for someone!

Informal Voting In The 2007 Federal Election

This is a report by the Australian Electoral Commission containing an analysis of informal voting at the 2007 House of Representatives election.

The report includes aggregate statistics by state and territory, as well as detailed statistics on a seat-by-seat basis. [Read more…]

Informal Voting In The 2004 Federal Election

This is an analysis of informal voting during the 2004 Federal Election.

Written by Gina Dario and published by the Australian Electoral Commission, the reports provide detailed statistics on informal votes in the House of Representatives election.

The first document contains aggregate figures and information. The second provides detailed statistics on a seat-by-seat basis.



Electoral Support For Non-English Speakers And Those With Low Levels Of Literacy

An important feature of the Australian electoral system is the support provided for non-English speakers and people with low literacy levels.

A reader writes:

I have come across the argument that Australia introduced changes in its electoral system to allow people with low levels of literacy or non-English speakers to participate.

I don’t know exactly what the person was referring to, but have you come across this in any history of Australia’s voting methods?

[Read more…]