Primary school fact sheet - Voting

Updated 22 Sep 2016

In Australia elections are always held on a Saturday. For the ACT Legislative Assembly they are held on the third Saturday in October every 4 years.

To vote you go to your nearest polling place. Polling places are usually at your local school. They are open from 8am to 6pm on election day.

  1. Line up at the polling place and get your name marked off the electoral roll.
  2. You will be given a ballot paper.
  3. Take the ballot paper to a voting screen.
  4. Read the instructions at the top of the ballot paper.
  5. Fill out the ballot paper using numbers. Start from the number 1.
  6. When you have finished put your ballot paper into the sealed ballot box.

A ballot paper is used by the voter to show their choices. 

The names of people who would like to be a member of parliament are listed on the ballot paper. They are called candidates. 

To vote you write numbers beside the candidates you want to choose. 

Not all ACT ballot papers are the same. The list of candidates is changed so the names are in a different order. This is called Robson rotation.

You must not write your name on the ballot paper because your vote is secret. Victoria was the first place in the world to use a secret ballot in the 1856 election.

Electronic voting has been used in the ACT since 2001. You can only vote electronically at some polling places. An electronic vote is the same as a written vote. You cannot vote using the internet.

Electronic voting helps people who are blind or have poor vision. It can also help people who don’t understand English well.

A formal vote is a vote that can be counted to a candidate. Each voter uses numbers to choose the people they want to vote for. A formal vote starts with a number 1 in the box for the candidate the voter chooses first. The voter keeps numbering boxes in order of their choice until they have voted for everyone they want to. This is called a preferential vote.

A donkey vote is still a formal vote. The voter starts at the first box with a number 1 and keeps writing numbers in the same order as the boxes.

An informal vote is a vote that cannot be counted to a candidate. The voter has not put numbers correctly on the ballot paper. Examples of this are:

  • Not starting at number 1
  • Using the number 1 more than once
  • Using ticks or crosses.

If you put your name on the ballot paper it cannot be counted. It is an informal vote because it is not secret.

If you are not in Canberra on the day of the election you can vote before you leave. You can do this by voting early or with a postal vote. 

You can vote at a pre-poll voting cenre for 3 weeks before election day. They are open from Monday to Friday, except on public holidays, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Postal voting is for anyone who cannot go to a polling place during the 3 weeks before the election, or on election day. You must apply to receive a postal vote. The ballot paper is sent to you. You must post it back before election day.