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Absent vote

A vote made at a polling place by an elector who is outside his or her own electoral district on election day.

Absolute majority

More than 50% of the total formal votes (50%+1).


An agent is the person legally responsible for the management and disclosure of State and Local Government election campaign finances in NSW. An Official Agent acts on behalf of an elected member, candidate, a group of candidates or third-party campaigner. A Party Agent acts on behalf of a political party.

Australian Electoral Commission (AEC)

The independent statutory authority that maintains and update the Commonwealth electoral roll and conducts federal elections and referendums.

Authorised roll

A roll of electors eligible to vote at the election.


A method of secret voting, normally in a written form.

Ballot box

The sealed container where electors place their completed ballot papers.

Ballot paper

The paper printed with the names of candidates, which a voter marks to record their vote in an election.


An election held to fill a casual vacancy on a council or in the Legislative Assembly if an elected representative dies or retires.


A person who stands for election to a parliament/council. Candidates can be nominated by political parties or stand as independents.

Casual vacancy

A vacancy usually caused by retirement, death or resignation of a Member/Councillor.

Check count

On the Sunday after election day, the ballot papers are checked and counted again at the returning officer's office to ensure accuracy of the figures from the election night count.


A combination of two or more parties in parliament, usually to form the government or opposition.

Compulsory enrolment

If you are 18 years and over and an Australian citizen you are required by law to enrol to vote for all three levels of government. This application must be sent to the Australian Electoral Commission within 21 days of becoming entitled to do so. A penalty applies for failing to enrol.

Compulsory voting

Australian citizens, 18 years and over, are required by law to vote. If you do not have a valid reason for failing to vote, a penalty will apply.


A nation or state's fundamental laws. The NSW Constitution is embodied in an Act of parliament and sets the framework for the system of state government, e.g. two houses of parliament.

Court of Disputed Returns

The Supreme Court sits as the Court of Disputed Returns to hear petitions challenging the validity of a state election.

Declared Institution (DI)

A hospital, nursing home or other facility appointed by the Electoral Commissioner and visited by election officials to take votes from residents who are unable to attend a polling place on election day.

Declaration vote

A vote cast by an elector when the ballot papers are enclosed in an envelope containing a printed declaration signed by the elector - applies to pre-poll votes, postal votes, declared institution votes, absent votes and section votes.

Declaration of poll/election

A formal statement of the result of a State or Local Government election.


Government on behalf of the people by their elected representatives.


Political donations and electoral expenditure at State and Local Government elections in NSW must be disclosed to the NSWEC. Disclosures of political donations and electoral expenditure are made using a declaration form. The agents of candidates, groups of candidates, elected members, political parties and third-party campaigners are responsible for submitting disclosures with the NSWEC after each financial year. Political donors who make donations of $1,000 or more are responsible for submitting disclosures. Disclosures are to be submitted each year by 22 September (or 20 October for donors).

Disputed returns

A challenge regarding the validity of a Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council election. See Court of Disputed Returns.


Used for state elections, districts are geographical regions with clearly defined boundaries shown on electoral district maps containing approximately equal numbers of voters. Each district is represented by one of the 93 NSW Legislative Assembly seats. For the Legislative Council, the district is the whole state.

Distribution of preferences

The process used to determine the winning candidate when no candidate wins an absolute majority of first preference votes.


Australia is divided into voting districts which are known as divisions for voting in federal elections.

Donkey vote

A term to describe a ballot paper marked with preferences for candidates without consideration for their policies or abilities. Usually takes the form of the ballot paper being marked 1, 2, 3, 4 etc straight up (or down) a ballot paper.

Dual polling place

The term given to a single premises which serves as a polling place for two or more districts.


Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 is an Act to make provision for the public funding of State election campaigns and to require the disclosure of certain political donations and electoral expenditure for State and Local Government election campaigns, and for other purposes.

Elected member

A member of NSW Parliament or a councillor (including the mayor) of the council of a local government area.


The choosing by vote of a person or persons to hold office.

Election Funding Authority (EFA)

Election Funding Authority (EFA) The Election Funding Authority was the statutory body responsible for administering the provisions of the Election Funding and Disclosures Act 1981. It was abolished in 2014. The NSW Electoral Commission is now responsible for this.


A person qualified to vote at an election.

Electoral Commissioner

The officer responsible for the registration of political parties, enrolment of electors, the preparation of lists and rolls of electors and the conduct of elections according to law.

Electoral district

see district.

Electoral expenditure

Electoral expenditure is the amount incurred for, or in connection with, promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a party or the election of a candidate or candidates. It also includes expenditure for the purpose of influencing, directly or indirectly, the voting at an election.

Election management application (EMA)

A NSWEC developed computer programme to undertake administrative tasks including staffing; nominations; processing declaration votes and election results.

Electoral offence

A breach of electoral law as specified in the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 or the Local Government Act 1993.


Those on an electoral roll and certified to vote in an election.

Enrol and vote

An eligible person, who attends a pre-poll voting location or a polling place on election day, who is not on the Authorised Roll, can enrol and vote, provided they have the appropriate identification (a NSW Photo Driver Licence or a NSW photo card issued by the Roads and Traffic Authority), and in some circumstances a citizenship number or an Australian passport number may also be required.


The act of enrolling or having one's name added to the list of electors entitled to vote. Australian citizens 18 years of age and over (with few exceptions) must enrol to vote.

Exhausted votes

These are ballot papers which show no further valid preferences for any candidate and must, therefore, be set aside from the count.

Federal government

The central or federal government is responsible for administration of functions enumerated in the Constitution on an Australia wide basis.


The unification of Australian colonies which formed the Australian nation on January, 1901.

Formal vote

A ballot paper which has been correctly marked and counts in the outcome of the poll.


The right to vote.

General election

In NSW, general elections are held for all Legislative Assembly (93) seats and

half (21) of the Legislative Council seats every 4 years.


The exercise of political authority over the actions and affairs of the people. There are 3 levels of government in Australia - federal, state and local.

House of Representatives

The Lower House of the Australian Parliament.

how-to-vote card

A simulated copy of the ballot paper showing an elector how to mark the paper and vote for a particular candidate or party. These are usually handed out to voters by party workers at polling places on election day. You do not have to follow these cards. How you vote is up to you.

Independent candidate

A candidate standing for election, or an elected Member of Parliament or local council, who is not a member of a political party.

Informal vote

A ballot paper left blank or wrongly marked that is excluded from the count. It does not contribute to the election of a candidate.


A Remote Electronic Voting System to enable eligible electors to vote using the telephone or the internet.

Legislative Assembly (LA)

The Lower House of the NSW Parliament has 93 Members, 1elected from each district.

Legislative Council (LC)

The Upper House of the NSW Parliament has 42 Members elected for an 8 year term, half of whom are elected at each general election.


A lobbyist (including a third-party lobbyist) is a person or organisation that communicates with Government officials on behalf of clients, to influence decisions made by State or Local Government officials or elected representatives. A third-party lobbyist is a type of lobbyist that does this as a business, generally for money. Third-party lobbyists must be registered with the NSWEC and must comply with the requirements of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.

Local Government area

A subdivision of the state into geographical areas that councils are responsible for.

Local Government election

An election under the Local Government Act 1993 for the office of councillor or mayor under that Act (other than an election of mayor by councillors). The NSW Electoral Commissioner conducts local government elections where a resolution has been made by a local Council.


The authority given to a government and its policies through an electoral victory.

Marginal seat

A seat held by a Member of Parliament with a small majority of votes.

Members of Parliament

All representatives elected by the people to serve them in parliament, but more commonly used for those in the Legislative Assembly.


The process by which a person applies to become a candidate for a State or Local Government election.


The major party, or coalition of parties in parliament which has the next highest number of votes.

Optional preferential voting

A voting system in which an elector shows by numbers their preferences for individual or groups of candidates but need not show a preference for every candidate or group listed.

Ordinary vote

A vote cast at a polling place in the elector's home district/area/ward on election day.


The legislative body, consisting of the elected representatives of the people, which determines the laws governing the nation or state. The candidates or political party holding the majority of seats forms the government.

Party/candidate worker

A person who assists candidates by handing out how to vote cards.

Political donation

A political donation is a gift made to, or for the benefit of, a political party, elected member, candidate or group of candidates. A political donation includes a gift to or for the benefit of another person that is used to incur electoral expenditure or reimburse a person for making a political donation or incurring electoral expenditure. Political donations can be monetary or non-monetary such as the provision of a service such as printing or advertising and include payments for a fundraising venture or function and membership or affiliation fees paid to political parties.

Political party

An organised group with a common political philosophy which seeks to win and retain public office. Party organisations support or endorse candidates who, if elected, usually vote as a group for its policies in parliament.


Another word for an election, or in the local government context, a question put to the electors to seek its information and guidance on any matter.

Polling place

A building such as a school or community hall, set up to take the votes of the local people.

Postal vote

Electors who are outside their electoral district/local government area/ward on election day or are unable to attend a polling place during polling hours, may vote by post. Electors must apply for a postal vote prior to election day.

Pre-poll vote

Electors who cannot vote on election day can apply to vote early at the office of a returning officer or at a pre-poll voting centre.

Preferential vote

A vote for all candidates numbered in order of preference. Preferences of candidates with the least number of votes are then distributed to other candidates until one has sufficient votes to be elected. This system of vote counting is used in the Legislative Assembly elections.


The officer responsible for the conduct of business in the Legislative Council.

Proportional representation

A system of voting designed to elect representatives in proportion to the amount of support each has in the electoral district. This system of voting is used in Legislative Council elections.

Provisional enrolment

A 17 year old Australian citizen may apply for provisional enrolment to enable them to vote when they turn 18 years of age.

Public funding

Payments made by the NSWEC to eligible political parties, independent MPs and State election candidates. In NSW public funding reimburses political parties, independent MPs and State election candidates for expenditure incurred. Public funding is not available to local government political parties, councillors or candidates.


The number of votes required by a candidate to be elected to the Legislative Council or a Councillor at Local Government Election. It is calculated by adding one to the result of the total number of formal votes divided by the number of vacancies plus one then rounding up any decimals. See proportional representation


A second or further count of votes in an election.


Changes in boundaries of electoral districts to account for population changes so that the number of electors in each district is equal, give or take 3%.


A vote taken to allow electors to express their view on a specific subject or issue.

Registered general postal voter

Electors who cannot attend a polling place may apply to become a registered general postal voter so that ballot papers are automatically sent to them without having to apply for a postal vote at each separate election.

Reportable political donation

A political donation of or exceeding $1,000 made to or for the benefit of the political party, elected member, group, candidate or other person. Reportable political donations include multiple donations made by the same donor to the same recipient that add up to $1,000 or more in one financial year.

Return of Writ/s

When the election is decided, the Writ/s are returned to the Governor with the name/s of the successful candidate/s added.

Returning officer

The electoral officer responsible for conducting an election in an electoral district or council area.


See authorised roll.


A person appointed by a candidate to ensure that electoral procedures and counting are undertaken in a proper manner.


Another term for electoral district; used because the candidate elected then has a seat in parliament.

Secret ballot

A vote made in secret.


The Upper House of the Australian Parliament.

Silent voter

An elector whose address does not appear on the authorised roll for reasons of personal safety.


Refers to the process of automatically enrolling an eligible person or changing their enrolment details based on details provided by a 'trusted source' such as the Roads and Traffic Authority.


The officer responsible for the business of the Legislative Assembly.


The right to vote in political elections.

Tally room

A room where progressive voting figures are collected on election night and provisional results are announced.


The length of time a parliament may sit before having to call an election. NSW has fixed four year terms.

Third-party campaigner

A third-party campaigner is an individual or organisation that campaigns for a NSW State election or NSW Local Government election but is not a candidate, elected member or political party. Third-party campaigners must register with the NSW Electoral Commission for an election and appoint a person as Official Agent before incurring more than $2,000 in certain electoral expenditure for a State or Local Government election.

Two candidate preferred count (TCP)

Two candidate preferred count refers to a distribution of preferences of the two candidates who are expected to come first and second in each electoral district. Often, but not always, these will be the candidates representing the Labor party and the Coalition (Liberal and National parties).

Virtual tally room

This refers to the display on the NSW Electoral Commission's website of the progressive voting figures on election night and in the days that follow to indicate where the count is up to and which candidates/parties have been elected.


The formal act by an elector in an election of choosing the candidate the elector most wants to be a their political representative.

Voting screen

A small compartment or cubicle at the polling place where people fill in their ballot papers in secret at elections.


Subdivisions, with approximately equal numbers of electors, of a local government area.


The document by which the Governor, or the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in by-elections, directs returning officers to conduct an election. The Governor issues Writs on the advice of the government.