Elections and voting FAQ

Updated 14 Dec 2016

The next election for the ACT Legislative Assembly is due to be held on 17 October 2020.

Election dates are set in the Electoral Act 1992. From 1989 until 2004 the ACT had three-year terms. The ACT Legislative Assembly now has fixed four-year terms, with elections held every four years on the third Saturday in October.

The Governor-General can dissolve the Assembly and order an early election if he or she is of the opinion that the Assembly is incapable of effectively performing its functions or is conducting its affairs in a grossly improper manner. An early election can also be held if the Assembly passes a resolution of no confidence in the Chief Minister and does not elect a Chief Minister within 30 days - such an election cannot be held within 6 months of the next scheduled ordinary election.

Timing of elections and the length of terms of office for Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly have changed a number of times since self-government. Elections for the Assembly have been held as follows:

Any person who is 18 years old on or before polling day who is on the Commonwealth electoral roll with an ACT address can vote at Assembly elections.

Persons enrolled for an ACT electoral division for an address in Jervis Bay Territory or Norfolk Island are not entitled to vote for ACT Legislative Assembly elections.

Yes. Voting is compulsory for every person on the electoral roll except for eligible overseas electors, Antarctic electors, electors serving a prison sentence outside the ACT and itinerant electors.

Voters mark preferences for candidates in the order of their choice by using the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. Voters should mark at least as many squares as there are vacancies, but may continue to number as many squares as they wish. Preferences can be written in boxes located in any of the columns on the ballot paper, but there must not be more than one number 1 on the ballot paper. Ticks and crosses are not allowed.

The ballot paper is divided into columns with a party name above each column. Non-party candidates and party candidates where the party is only nominating one candidate for the electorate, are always located in the last column on the right of the ballot paper under the column heading “Ungrouped”.

The list of candidates for an ACT Legislative Assembly election is made publicly available as soon as practicable after the declaration of the nominations. The dates for the nomination period and the declaration of nominations are legislated by the Electoral Act.

If you are unable to vote at a polling place on polling day, you may vote during the pre-poll voting period for an ACT election.

Addresses of the pre-poll voting centres and hours of operation are made available on this site prior to an ACT election. They are also advertised in the Canberra Times and other print publications, online, on radio and television and in an information booklet delivered to all households in the ACT prior to the election.

In the lead up to an ACT election, an application for a postal vote can be made in several ways:

  • By completing the online application form;
  • Over the phone by calling 6205 0033; or
  • By completing a paper version of the postal vote application.

Paper versions of the application forms will be available from Elections ACT's office or any ACT or Queanbeyan post office in the lead up to, and during, an ACT election period. Paper applications can then either be posted or faxed to the Elections ACT for processing.

After receiving your application, we will mail postal voting papers to your nominated address when ballot papers become available after the declaration of nominations.

In the week before polling day, mobile polling staff visit most of the ACT's hospitals and nursing homes, as well as the Alexander Maconochie Centre so that anyone residing in these institutions is able to vote.

If you will be overseas on polling day you can:

  • Cast a pre-poll vote; or
  • Apply for a postal vote.

If you are leaving for overseas after ballot papers are available, pre-poll and postal voting are both options available to you. If you are already overseas by the time pre-polling commences, the only option for you is postal voting.

Australian missions overseas will have access to postal vote applications for the election. Australian missions will not be supplied with ballot papers.

For information on enrolment requirements if you are heading overseas, see the Australian Electoral Commission's website.

If you are in the ACT on polling day you can vote at any polling place.

If you are not in the ACT on polling day but will be here in the pre-poll voting period you may cast a pre-poll vote.

If you are interstate during the pre-poll voting period you may be able to vote at the capital city office of any State or Northern Territory electoral office (not the Australian Electoral Commission). These will be open during normal business hours Monday to Friday. This facility is NOT available on polling day.

Otherwise, you should apply for a postal vote.

If you are going to work in the Antarctic (including Heard Island, McDonald Island and Macquarie Island), you may be eligible to enrol as an "Antarctic elector". Contact Elections ACT or the Australian Electoral Commission for more details or an application form.

If you are in the Antarctic on polling day (or in transit on a ship to or from the Antarctic) special arrangements can be made for you to vote. Because this will require the electronic transmission of individual vote details, and because of the small number of electors involved, there may be a limited loss of secrecy of individual votes. For this reason, voting in the Antarctic is not compulsory.

Yes, provided they are enrolled, or entitled to be enrolled, for an ACT address.  If the elector is held in an ACT prison they have the option of either applying for a postal vote or voting in person when the Elections ACT mobile polling team visits the prison. Prisoners being held in a prison outside of the ACT may apply for a postal vote.

You may either:

  • Cast a pre-poll vote during the pre-poll voting period; or
  • Apply for a postal vote; or
  • If you are in hospital, a nursing home or the Alexander Maconochie Centre, you may be visited by mobile polling staff.

A list of all polling places is available on this site in the lead up to an ACT Legislative Assembly election. The list is also published in The Canberra Times on polling day and in a booklet delivered to all households before the election.

In most cases the polling places used are the same as those used at the previous election.

For ACT Legislative Assembly elections you don't need to vote at any particular polling place. You can cast an ordinary vote at any polling place in the ACT, even if you are outside your electorate.

Voting at  ACT Legislative Assembly elections is not available over the internet.

However, casting a vote electronically is made available at all pre-poll voting centres during the pre-poll voting period. These centres are also be open on election day.

Voters can choose to vote electronically or on a paper ballot. Voters who choose to vote electronically will be given a card with a barcode on it that is scanned to activate the voting process. The voter navigates through the ballot paper and selects candidates using a keypad. It is important that the voter, after selecting all the candidates they wish to preference, scans the barcode card a second time to finalise the voting process. Staff are available to assist if requested by the voter.

Instructions for the electronic voting process are provided in eleven languages in addition to English.

No. You will need to vote before polling day, either at a pre-poll voting centre in Canberra during the pre-poll voting period or by post.

You will need to vote before polling day during the pre-poll voting period.

You can do this by:

  • Voting at a pre-poll voting centre during the pre-poll voting period before you leave Canberra;
  • Voting at the capital city office of any State or Northern Territory electoral commission (not the Australian Electoral Commission) during the pre-poll voting period; or
  • Applying for a postal vote if you will have a postal address where ballot material can reach you during the pre-poll voting period.
You must notify your change of address for the electoral roll.

You can do this:

If you can go to a polling place, you can nominate someone to help you vote, or a polling official can help you. If someone can drive you to the polling place, a polling official can bring voting material out to you in the car.

Alternatively, someone can help you vote by post. They can assist you with applying for a postal vote or they can apply for a postal vote on your behalf if you authorise them to do so. Once the ballot material arrives, they can also assist you to complete the voting process if you wish. If you are physically incapacitated, or caring for someone who is, you can register as a general postal voter. You will then automatically be sent postal ballot material for each federal and ACT election.

If you can't sign your name on postal voting material, someone can sign on your behalf as a witness to your mark.

Mobile polling teams from Elections ACT visit many of the nursing homes and hospitals in the ACT in the week before election day to allow residents and patients the opportunity to vote.

Note that voting is still compulsory for elderly voters.

Elections ACT provides assistance to voters with disabilities in a number of ways.

Electronic voting allows voters who are blind or have visual impairment to vote independently. Elections ACT provides electronic voting at all pre-poll voting centres for three weeks before the election and at these same polling places on polling day. Magnifying sheets, for use with ballot papers, are available on request at all polling places.

All ACT polling places are assessed for disability access. The accessibility of each polling place is indicated on the list of polling places. This list is available from this website, in a brochure sent to all households, and in the Canberra Times the day before polling day and polling day itself. Polling places are also equipped with a voting screen for use by voters who are in a wheelchair. Polling staff can assist voters if help is asked for.

The information brochures that are mailed out to all ACT households provide information on enrolment and voting including key dates, electorate maps, instructions for voting formally, pre-poll and polling place locations and hours, and assistance for voters who can’t vote on polling day. These brochures are also made available as audio files from this website and ACT public libraries to assist voters with a hearing disability.

General Postal Voter (GPV) status is available if you have a  physical disability which prevents you from signing your name or if you live at home and you are too ill or infirm to travel to a polling place. General Postal Voters automatically receive a postal vote for every election, federal and ACT Legislative Assembly. You can ask someone to help you complete the form to apply and to complete the ballot paper when you receive it.

Mobile polling teams from Elections ACT visit many of the nursing homes and hospitals in the ACT in the week before polling to allow residents and patients the opportunity to vote.

Registration as a general postal voter means that you will automatically be sent postal voting material as soon as possible after pre-poll voting commences for each federal and ACT election.

You can apply for registration as a general postal voter if:

  • You are a patient in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution that is not provided with mobile polling facilities and you are too ill or infirm to travel;
  • You live at home and you are too ill or infirm to travel;
  • You are caring for a seriously ill or infirm person;
  • You are detained in lawful custody (for example, serving a prison sentence);
  • You have a physical disability which prevents you from signing your name and you have provided upon enrolling, or can provide, a doctor's certificate to this effect;
  • You live more than 20 km by the nearest practicable route from a polling place;
  • You are registered as on overseas elector;
  • Your address is not shown on the roll because you are a silent elector;
  • Your religious beliefs prevent you from attending a polling place;
  • You are a member of the Australian defence forces, or a Defence civilian serving outside Australia; or
  • You are an Australian Federal Police officer or staff member serving outside Australia.

For more detail and access to the application form, go to the Australian Electoral Commission's website or contact Elections ACT.

If you didn't vote at the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election, you will receive a letter or email from the ACT Electoral Commission asking for an explanation. Your explanation must be provided in writing either:

  • On the back of the notice sent to you; or
  • Through the online form on this site.

If you have a valid reason you will not be fined.

If you do not have a valid reason, you will be given the opportunity of paying a $20 penalty. If you do not pay the penalty you may be taken to court, where the penalty can be increased to $75 plus court costs.

Twenty-five (25) Members are to be elected to the Legislative Assembly at the next ACT election to be held on 17 October 2020. The Assembly voted to increase the number of Members from 17 to 25 in 2014.

redistribution of electoral boundaries concluded in May 2015 divided the ACT into 5 electorates - Brindabella, Ginninderra, Kurrajong, Murrumbidgee and Yerrabi - each returning 5 Members. These new boundaries were first used at the 2016 ACT election. A list of suburbs in each electorate is available.

The Hare-Clark electoral system is used for ACT Legislative Assembly elections. This is the electoral system chosen by a majority of voters at the referendum held on 15 February 1992. The Hare-Clark system is also used to elect Members of the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

The Hare-Clark system is a method of proportional representation. To be elected, a candidate must obtain a quota of votes in an electorate.

Candidates' names are listed on the ballot papers in columns. Two or more candidates nominated by a registered political party are listed in a party column. Independent candidates and candidates nominated by registered political parties that have nominated only one candidate for that electorate, are included in "ungrouped" columns on the ballot papers.

Ballot papers are printed using "Robson rotation". This means that the names in each column of candidates are printed in different orders on consecutive ballot papers. Robson rotation gives each candidate an equal share of each position in a column and no candidate in a column has the advantage of appearing in the same position on every ballot paper. For example, if there are 5 candidates in a column, that column will be printed with one-fifth of all ballot papers having candidate "A" in the top position, another fifth of all ballot papers having candidate "B" in the top position, and so on for each candidate in the column.

Robson rotation means that the order of candidates listed on the ballot paper you receive as a voter may be different from sample ballot papers, published lists or how-to-vote cards you have seen. Voters wishing to vote for particular candidates should be aware of this.

For more information on ballot papers, Robson rotation and a sample ballot paper, view our ballot paper factsheet.

This depends on the number of candidates, but the final result is expected around 1 to 2 weeks after polling day. Preliminary results are available on election night.

Requirements for authorising printed electoral matter (including in an electronic form such as an internet site) are regulated under the Electoral Act 1992 and are outlined in the authorising electoral material factsheet and the Candidate's Information Handbook.

Authorisations for TV and radio political advertising are regulated under the Commonwealth's Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (TV and radio are under Commonwealth jurisdiction under the Constitution). The responsible authority is the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The relevant rules for TV and radio political advertising are set out on the Australian Communications and Media Authority's site - visit the ACMA's website for rules concerning TV and radio advertising.

Election advertising in the electronic media is subject to a 'blackout' from midnight on the Wednesday before polling day until polling day. The blackout does not relate to news broadcasts or to the printed media. This is a requirement of the Broadcasting Act not the Electoral Act. For further information contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority. For ACT elections, the blackout only applies to election advertisements related to an ACT election that are broadcast in or across the ACT.

Yes. As much paper and cardboard electoral material is reused or recycled as possible. Recycled paper is also used wherever possible for electoral documents.

The 2012 election cost around $2.7 million in addition to the regular budget for the ACT Electoral Commission. More details on the Commission's budget are contained in each year's annual report.

More details on elections and voting may be obtained by contacting the ACT Electoral Commission.