Counting the Votes

Once you have voted and placed your ballot papers in the ballot box they remain untouched until after the close of voting (6.00pm) on election day. The ballot boxes are then opened and the ballot papers sorted and counted in the presence of scrutineers (if any).

As candidates cannot witness the voting process or the counting of votes, they can appoint scrutineers to represent them.

Scrutineers may observe the voting and counting of votes in order to verify that the election is conducted in a proper manner.

State elections

Three counts are undertaken in polling places on election night.

The first is to count and sort into first preference votes for each candidate the Legislative Assembly ballot papers. Informal votes cast are also counted.

The second count is the two candidate preferred (TCP) distribution of preferences. Before election day, the NSWEC selects the 2 candidates in each electoral district who are likely to be the eventual 2 remaining candidates in the count for that District. This is done to give candidates, registered political parties and the media, an indication of the election outcome. This is done by the election officials ‘distributing’ all formal votes of the other candidates to the 2 selected candidates according to which candidate receives the highest preference on each ballot paper.

The third count relates to the Legislative Council ballot papers. The first sort is to separate out:

  • all ballot papers with only the number 1, or a single P or X above the line and nothing else;
  • all ballot papers with preferences in group voting squares above the line and nothing below the line;
  • all ballot papers left blank;
  • all ballot papers marked with preferences below the line only or marked both above and below the line, including informal ballot papers.

The first 2 categories are then sorted by group and counted. Then the third and fourth categories are counted to provide a total for all the Legislative Council ballot papers at the polling place.

On election night, the consideration as to the formality of the ballot papers (other than those that have been left blank) is not undertaken. This is done the following day at the data entry phase conducted at the Legislative Council Count Centre.

The results of each count is phoned through to the Returning Officer for each District, who enters the result into the NSWEC’s computer system. The results are then transmitted to the media and the Virtual Tally Board.

At the end of counting on election night, the media commentators are generally able to predict the result of the election but not the successful candidate in all Districts.

State by-elections

If a Member of the Legislative Assemby resigns or dies mid-term (between State elections), a by-election is held in that particular electorate only to elect a new Member for that District.

There are no by-elections for the Legislative Council. Casual vacancies (where a Member resigns or dies mid-term) are elected by a joint meeting of both Houses of Parliament.

The counting of votes at a State by-election follows the procedure for counting the Legislative Assembly votes at a State election.

Local Government elections

Election Night Counts in Polling Places

At the close of voting at 6.00pm on election day, election officials in the polling places will count the following ballot papers:

Mayor – if there is a Mayoral election, the first preference votes for each candidate and the informal ballot papers will be counted and recorded.

Councillor - the first preference votes for each candidate, and where applicable, the first preference votes for each group marked in its group voting square will be counted and recorded.

Referendum or Poll – if there is a Referendum or Poll the Yes, No and informal ballot papers will be counted and recorded.

Election Night Counts in Returning Officer’s office

At 6.00pm on election day election officials in the Returning Officer’s office will count the Mayor, Councillor, Referendum and Poll ballot papers for the following vote types:

  • Pre Poll
  • Postal
  • Declared Institution (DI)

NSWEC Virtual Tally Room

All totals for Mayor, Councillor, Referendum and Poll ballot papers will be posted progressively on election night on this website.

Check count figures will be updated progressively on the website on the days after Election day.

The final distribution of preferences for Mayor and Councillor, and the final results for Referendums and Polls, will be progressively placed on the website in the week after Election day.

Local Government by-elections

If a Councillor or Mayor resigns or dies mid-term (between Local Government elections), a by-election is held in that particular council or ward, only to elect a new councillor or mayor.

The counting of votes at a Local Government by-election follows the procedure for counting the Mayoral votes at a Local Government election.