General election results, recounts & challenges

Preliminary results - election night

After the polling place closes at 7pm on polling day and all voters have left, the manager of every polling place carries out the preliminary count of votes in the presence of scrutineers and polling place officials.

The ballot boxes are opened and the ballot papers, party votes and electorate votes, are counted.  Special votes are not opened and must wait for the official count.  The result is phoned in to the returning officer and it is then input into the Electoral Commission's national election results system. Results are displayed in real time on and at the same time are fed to television and radio media.

The Electoral Commission's target is to have 50% of polling place results available by 10pm on election night and 100% of polling place results available by 11.30pm.

Advance votes

Advance votes are cast in the two and a half weeks before polling day. Advance votes (other than advance special votes) may be counted from 3pm onwards on polling day at the returning officer's headquarters if the returning officer can provide appropriate security.  Officials and scrutineers in the secure area must stay there until 7pm. The Electoral Commission's target is to have advance vote results available by 8.30pm.

Official results

The official results are compiled in the returning officer's headquarters by following a logical and meticulous process. All votes counted on election night are recounted and checked to ensure accuracy. The returning officer checks the names on all special vote declaration forms against the electoral rolls and the list of late enrolments for the district.

If the voter's name is found the vote will be counted.

If a name cannot be found, the declaration form is forwarded to the registrar of electors to check the voting qualification of the special voter. If the registrar can confirm that the voter is enrolled in the electorate the vote will be counted.

The official results process starts on the Sunday after polling day but cannot be completed until after the last legal day for receiving special votes from other electorates and returning officers overseas (10 days after polling day).

Electoral rolls are scrutinised to identify voters who have voted more than once, and to compile a list of all people who have voted (the Master Roll).

The party votes of enrolled voters who voted on the wrong ballot paper are also included in the count.

Declaration of official results

The Electoral Commission publishes a notice in the Gazette to formally declare the official results. The results are also available online at

Judicial recounts

After the declaration of the official results electorate candidates can apply to a District Court Judge for a recount of the electorate vote.  Only party secretaries may apply for a recount of the party vote.

The application to the Court must be:

  • made within three working days of the declaration of the result, and
  • accompanied by a deposit of $1,000 (inclusive of GST).

If you wish to seek a recount the Electoral Commission will advise you of the process to be followed.

Election of list candidates

The Electoral Commission determines which list candidates are elected using a statutory formula.  This is done after the results of any electorate recounts have been declared and the writ has been returned to the Clerk of the House.  (The writ is the written notice from the Governor-General instructing the Electoral Commission to arrange for the conduct of a Parliamentary election.  The writ is returned with the names of the successful electorate candidates.)

The Electoral Commission publishes a notice in the Gazette to declare the election of list candidates.

This declaration is likely to be made about 21 days after polling day, subject to any recount applications.

Election petitions

The only way to challenge the election of an electorate candidate is by election petition, as set out in the Electoral Act 1993, Part 8.  A petition may be brought by a voter or a candidate and is heard by three High Court Judges.   It must be brought within 28 days of the Electoral Commission declaring the official results.  Only the party secretary of a party contesting the party vote can challenge the election of list candidates.  To do this, they bring a petition to the Court of Appeal. 

Return of deposits

An electorate candidate will have their $300 deposit returned if they win 5% or more of the electorate votes in the electorate concerned.  No refund is made until the candidate files their return of election expenses and donations with the Electoral Commission, or all electorate candidates for a party have done so if the party made a bulk nomination.

A party contesting the party vote will have its $1000 deposit returned if it wins 0.5% or more of all party votes or one electorate seat.  No refund is made until the party has filed its return of election expenses with the Electoral Commission.


Last updated: 15 February 2013