What does a ballot look like?
On the left is a ballot paper for the New South Wales electorate of Lyne from the 1998 Federal election.
This ballot paper is reproduced at actual size, 96mm wide and 210mm long, or 3.8" by 8.3". It is a pale green colour, to distinguish from the cream ballot paper used for the Senate election held the same day. The Senate is elected by a complex form of STV.
As you can see, the candidates are not listed in alphabetic order on the ballot paper. A random draw is held to determine order, appearing at the top of the ballot paper producing a minor advantage.
House of Representatives elections differ from the Alternative Vote option being put in Britain in that preferences are compulsory. Confusion over numbering is the reason why there are bold warnings on the ballot paper about how to vote by placing a valid sequence of preferences in the squares, numbering from 1 to 8 in the case of Lyne.
At New South Wales and Queensland state elections, optional preferential voting is used, the Alternative Vote option being put in the United Kingdom. The ballot paper is very similar to the Federal one at the left, but the instructions differ slightly.
The Instructions on the Queensland state ballot paper are "Place the number one ('1') in the square opposite the candidate of your choice. You may if you wish indicate your preference for additional candidates by numbering other squares in your preferred order."
In New South Wales the instructions state "Write the number 1 in the square next to the candidate of your choice. You can show more choices, if you want to, by writing numbers in the other squares, starting with the number 2."
In both New South Wales and Queensland, single ticks and crosses can be treated as a '1', but the full sequence of preferences required at Federal elections makes ticks and crosses informal.
In 6th place on the above ballot paper is Mark Vaile, the sitting National Party MP for the seat. He polled 38, 812 first preference votes, or 51% of the 76, 101 formal votes. As he had a majority on first preference votes, a distribution of preferences was not required.
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