NT Legislative Assembly elections
The Northern Territory is governed by one (unicameral) House of Parliament, the Legislative Assembly. Elections for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly are held every four years and are conducted by the Northern Territory Electoral Commission (NTEC).
The Electoral Act outlines the processes for conducting an election for the NT Parliament. Changes to the Act in 2009 specified a fixed election date; the fourth Saturday in August every four years.
Voting is compulsory in the Northern Territory (NT) at all levels of government. When, where and how to vote are advertised widely during each election period. Mobile voting teams provide access to voting services for people who would otherwise be unable to attend a voting centre because of hospitalisation, being in prison or an aged care facility or living in a remote community.
Photographs of candidates are included on NT ballot papers, making it easier for many voters to choose their preferred candidates. This is a unique feature within the Australian electoral system, and does not apply in federal elections.
A vacancy may occur due to the resignation or death of a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).
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.
Any person wanting to become a candidate for a Legislative Assembly election must lodge a correctly completed nomination form after the close of the electoral roll and before the close of nominations.
Independent candidates (not endorsed by any registered political party) must ensure they lodge their own form by the deadline. Candidates endorsed by a political party may have the form lodged by the registered political party officer.
The writ is issued 20 days before election day, the electoral roll closes two days after the writ is issued and nominations close at 12:00 noon sharp four days after the writ is issued. The declaration of nominations takes place soon after nominations close. If more candidates are nominated than there are vacancies, the draw for positions on ballot papers then takes place.
The NT covers approximately 1,620,000 square kilometres in total. The Territory has 25 Legislative Assembly divisions, each represented by one elected Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).
All electors have the option of applying for postal ballot papers to be sent to their nominated address. Applications for NT Legislative Assembly elections can be made within the calendar year of the election.
NOTE: General postal voters are automatically sent ballot papers and are not required to lodge a new application.
The NT Legislative Assembly general election timetable is determined by the Electoral Act which specifies:
- Issue of writ: Twenty days before election day
- Close of electoral roll: Two days after the issue of the writ
- Close of nominations: Four days after the issue of the writ at 12:00 noon
- Election day: Fourth Saturday in August every four years
Voting and counting
Voting is compulsory in NT Legislative Assembly elections. The voting system used is optional preferential voting (OPV) where the voter must mark a number '1' on the ballot paper next to their most preferred candidate and can then choose whether or not to mark further preferences.
Immediately after the close of voting at 6:00 pm on election day, there is:
- a count of first preference votes at each voting centre; and
- a count of first preference votes for early and postal votes at NTEC offices in Darwin and Alice Springs
First preference results are progressively uploaded to the NTEC website during the evening. A recheck of all votes is undertaken during the week after election day including absent, early and postal votes - no further updates are made to the results on the website until after the cut-off for receipt of postal votes and a distribution of preferences is conducted.
Electors voting by post have until 12:00 noon on the second Friday after election day to return their postal ballot papers.