Voting and counting

Voting

Voting is compulsory in NT Legislative Assembly elections. The voting system used is full preferential voting where the voter 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.

A ballot paper is only formal if you have indicated a first preference and consecutively numbered all squares. A number in the series may not be repeated or skipped.

Alterations to numbers will not make a ballot paper informal, provided your intention is clear, for example a number can be crossed out and another number written beside it.

Absent voting

If an elector attends a voting centre outside their enrolled division, they may cast an absent vote which is placed in an envelope and counted after election day.

Assistance to voters

Where an elector requires assistance with marking his or her ballot paper, assistance can be provided by a person nominated by the voter or by an electoral official.

Electoral officials, who speak languages other than English, are often available to assist in the voting centre.

Ballot papers

Following the declaration of the candidates for each division, if more candidates are nominated than there are vacancies, an election must be held and the draw for positions on ballot papers then takes place.

Each candidate's photograph and the candidate’s political affiliation or the word ‘Independent’ (if requested on the nomination form) will be printed next to their name.

Early voting

All electors have the option of voting in person at an early voting centre before election day. Early voting centre locations and operating hours are advertised in newspapers, on the NTEC website and social media sites.

Election day voting

Voting centres on election day open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Voting centre locations and operating hours are advertised in newspapers, on the NTEC website and social media sites.

Mobile voting (urban and remote)

Urban voting teams

Urban voting teams are appointed to visit hospitals, nursing homes, aged care facilities and prisons; or any other location determined by the Electoral Commissioner (e.g. town camps).

Remote voting teams

Remote voting teams visit remote locations by road, air or sea. Remote voting can be conducted during the 10 days before and on election day.

Urban and remote voting locations and operating hours are advertised in newspapers, on the NTEC website and social media sites, and via posters in selected locations.

Postal voting

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.

When will the ballot papers be sent to me?

Once the declaration of nominations and draw to determine the order of candidate names on the ballot paper is conducted; ballot papers are printed and ballot material is forwarded as soon as possible thereafter.

What is the latest despatch of ballot material?

The mail-out of ballot material ceases at 6:00 pm on:

  • the Tuesday before election day, to forwarding addresses outside Australia.
  • the Thursday before election day, to forwarding addresses within Australia.

Therefore, your application must be received by the Commission before the above-mentioned day/time to allow for the ballot papers to reach your nominated address.

When do I complete my ballot paper/s?

In order to be admitted to the count, postal vote ballot papers must be completed before 6:00 pm on election day and received by the Commission before 12:00 noon on the second Friday following election day.

Qualification of witness

There are requirements for the completion of postal ballot papers and signing and witnessing of declaration envelopes.

An authorised witness can be:

  • a person enrolled on the Commonwealth electoral roll - if you are within Australia or an external Territory.
  • a person who is at least 18 years of age - if you are overseas.

Duties of a witness:

  • Be satisfied as to the identity of the applicant and that the statements contained in the application are true.
  • See the voter sign the application.

NOTE: General postal voters are automatically sent ballot papers and are not required to lodge a new application.

More information:

Postal voting

Counting

The counting of votes, or 'scrutiny', begins once voting centres close at 6:00 pm on Election Day.

Votes that are cast at a voting centre on Election Day are counted on election night. Other counts may include early votes and postal votes. All ballot papers are re-checked after election night to make sure they have been counted correctly. Ballot papers not yet included in the count are also examined.

How it works

  • Ballot papers are checked to ensure formality
  • Informal ballot papers, those that are not completed correctly, are set aside
  • The ballot papers are sorted into piles for each candidate according to the first preference marked on the ballot paper
  • The number of ballot papers are then totalled for each candidate

Two-candidate preferred count

Following the first preference count, electoral officials conduct an indicative two-candidate preferred (TCP) count – a distribution of ballot papers to two selected candidates. This result is then phoned through to the NTEC and added to the results page.

The two selected candidates are those expected to receive the most first preference votes. The TCP count is conducted to give an early indication of who is most likely to win each seat, as this is not always clear from first preferences. The NTEC is required to undertake the indicative TCP count under subsections 123 (1), (2) and (3) of the Act.

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.

Distribution of preferences

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

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
  • no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the least number of formal votes is 'excluded' and that candidate's ballot papers are re-sorted to the candidate next in order of the voter’s preferences

The process of exclusions is repeated until one candidate gains more than half of the formal votes remaining in the count and is elected.

See section 128 of the Electoral Act 2004 for a more detailed explanation of how a distribution of preferences is conducted.

Post-election counting

A recheck of all votes is undertaken during the week after election day including absent, early and postal votes.

Electors voting by post have until 12:00 noon on the second Friday after election day to return their postal ballot papers. The distribution of preferences is not conducted until after the cut-off for receipt of postal ballot papers.

Distribution of preferences

At the distribution of preferences, any candidate who obtains more than 50% of the formal first preference votes is elected.

If no candidate obtains 50% + 1 of the formal votes:

  • 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
  • If a ballot paper fails to show a preference for a continuing candidate, the ballot paper is 'exhausted' and removed from the count. The majority required for election must then be recalculated minus any exhausted ballot papers.

The process of exclusions is repeated until one candidate gains more than half of the formal votes remaining in the count and is elected.

Declaration of election results

As soon as practicable after the results of an election have been determined, the Commission must publicly declare the results of the election and the names of candidates returned as elected.

The public declaration locations and times are advertised on the NTEC website and via a media release.

Recount

At any time before the result of the election is declared, a candidate may ask the Commission for a recount to be conducted. The initiating candidate must state the reasons for the request, which may or may not proceed.

The Electoral Commissioner may also initiate a recount on his/her own volition.

More information: NTEC recount policy

Disputed elections

Pursuant to Part 12 of the Electoral Act 2004, a person may dispute the validity of an election by making an application to the Court of Disputed Returns. The application must be made no later than 21-days after the day fixed for the return of the writ for the election.