Frequently asked questions - elections | NTEC

Frequently asked questions - elections

The following questions and answers apply to Legislative Assembly and local government elections in the Northern Territory.

Can I vote before election day?

Yes. You have the option of voting before election day, either in person at an early voting centre or by applying for a postal vote.

Vote in person at an early voting centre

Early voting centres open in the weeks leading up to an election. This occurs after the nominations are declared and the ballot papers are printed. Voting centre locations and operating hours are advertised in newspapers, on this website and on social media at the time of the election.

Vote by post

You can apply for a postal vote and have ballot papers sent to your nominated address.

  • For Legislative Assembly elections, an application can be made in the calendar year of the election.
  • For local government elections, an application can be made within the 3-month period before election day.

Please note that registered general postal voters are automatically sent ballot papers and are not required to lodge a new application.

More information on voting by post can be found via the following links:

How do I mark the ballot paper?

Legislative Assembly elections

Northern Territory Legislative Assembly elections use the full preferential voting system where you must show a preference for all candidates listed on the ballot paper.

You must place the number 1 in the candidate square on the ballot paper for the candidate you want as your first choice. You then must place consecutively increasing whole numbers (starting with the number 2) in the candidate square on the ballot paper for each of the other candidates until a number is placed in all candidate squares.

Local government elections

Northern Territory Local Government elections also use the full preferential voting system.

Learn more about how to fill in your ballot paper via the following links:

How are votes counted?

Legislative Assembly elections

A candidate must receive a majority of the total formal votes in the count to be elected (that is, 50% + 1).

For example - if there are 4,000 formal ballot papers in the count, the absolute majority of votes is calculated as: 4,000 ÷ 2 = 2,000 + 1 = 2,001.

If a candidate has a majority of the votes, the candidate is elected and no further counting is necessary. If no candidate receives the majority, the candidate with the least number of formal votes is ‘excluded‘ and that candidate's ballot papers are re-sorted to the other candidates according to the second preference shown on each ballot paper. The process of exclusions is repeated until one candidate gains more than half of the formal votes and is elected.

Read more about how the votes are counted in Legislative Assembly elections in the Territory.

Local government elections

The electoral system used in Northern Territory Local Government elections is the Proportional Representation electoral system, or PR for short.

Proportional representation is the term which describes a group of electoral systems used for elections in multi-member electorates to elect candidates who receive a set proportion of the vote. In Australia, these systems are classified into two categories - List Systems and Single Transferable Vote (STV). In the Northern Territory the electoral system used is the STV type.

Single transferable vote (STV)

Under STV, each vote can be transferred between candidates in the order of the voter's preferences. A candidate is elected when his or her total number of votes equals or exceeds the quota.

Is voting compulsory in the Northern Territory?

Yes. Voting is compulsory in all Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and local government elections.

What is the fine for not voting?

Legislative Assembly elections

Voting is compulsory in Northern Territory Legislative Assembly elections, and not voting without a sufficient reason is an offence under section 279(1) of the Electoral Act 2004.

Regulation 2 of the Electoral Regulations 2004 sets the prescribed fee for failing to vote at $25. If the prescribed fee of $25 is not paid, you could be liable for court action which may result in a fine plus court costs - $155.

Local government elections

Voting is compulsory in Northern Territory Local Government elections, and not voting without a sufficient reason is an offence under section 90(3) of the Local Government Act 2008.

Schedule 2 of the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations sets the infringement notice penalty at $50. If the penalty fee of $50 is not paid, you could be liable for court action which may result in a fine plus court costs - $155.

What is a by-election?

Legislative Assembly elections

A vacancy may occur due to the resignation or death of a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Under the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978, a by-election must be held if a vacancy occurs less than three years and six months after the first meeting of the Assembly following the last preceding general election.

If the number of candidates standing for an election is the same as the number of vacancies, the election is declared uncontested, no voting is required and the candidates are elected unopposed.

Local government elections

A vacancy may occur due to the dismissal, resignation or death of a member.

Under the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations 2008, a by-election must be held within three months of the commissioner being notified of a vacancy.  However, if a vacancy occurs within the eighteen months before general elections are scheduled, councils may appoint a person to a casual vacancy or leave the position vacant in accordance with its policy.

What is a writ?

Legislative Assembly elections

The writ is a legal document, issued by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, authorising the Electoral Commissioner to conduct an election for the Legislative Assembly. The writ sets out the key dates for the election and the Commissioner is required to give public notice of receipt of the writ.

After the declaration of election results, the Commissioner endorses the writ with the names of the successful candidates and returns the writ to the Administrator.

Local government elections

There is no writ issued for local government elections; however, a 'notice inviting nominations' indicates the opening of the election period.

The electoral commissioner is the returning officer for local government elections in the Northern Territory. The commissioner must invite nominations from candidates at least 43 days before election day. A public notice inviting nominations is placed in newspapers and on the website.

What if I'm travelling during an election?

There are options available if you are travelling before or during an election. These include attending an early voting centre or applying for postal ballot papers. Voting from an interstate capital city is also available during Legislative Assembly elections.

Early voting

Early voting centres open in the weeks leading up to an election. Centres open after the declaration of nominations and ballot papers are printed. Voting centre locations are advertised in newspapers, on the website and on social media.

Postal voting

You can apply for a postal vote and have ballot papers sent to your nominated address.

  • Legislative Assembly elections: An application for a postal vote can be made in the calendar year of the election.
  • Local government elections: An application for a postal vote can be made within the 3-month period before election day.

Please note that registered general postal voters are automatically sent ballot papers and are not required to lodge a new application.

Voting from interstate

During Northern Territory Legislative Assembly elections, interstate electoral commissions provide early voting services. Information is available on the early voting page at the time of the election.

There are no interstate voting services provided for Northern Territory Local Government elections.

When are elections held in the Northern Territory?

Legislative Assembly elections

Legislative Assembly elections are held on the fourth Saturday in August in the fourth year after the previous general election.

Local government elections

Local government elections are held on the fourth Saturday in August in the fourth year after the previous general election.

Who are the candidates?

At the time of an election, candidates' information can be found:

  • in Northern Territory newspapers
  • on the list of candidates page, published on this website
  • in 'how-to-vote' literature provided by campaign workers at voting centres
  • on the Legislative Assembly ballot papers
    • candidates endorsed by a registered political party will have the party name listed below their name
    • independent candidates have no affiliation.

Please note that candidate affiliations (if any) are not printed on the ballot paper in local government elections.