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Glossary A – G

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A – G

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Absent Vote/s

Votes cast by attendance polling in a polling booth/polling place by electors who are physically and geographically outside their enrolled electoral division or electoral district on polling day, but still within their enrolled State. Such votes are usually declaration based with the marked ballot paper(s) having to be placed in a special envelope. The Absent Vote Declaration Envelope will have endorsed on the face of the envelope, the elector’s enrolled details and their signature. The elector’s signature typically will need to be witnessed by a polling official who issues the vote.

Absent Votes are on-forwarded to the Returning Officer responsible for conducting the election in the enrolled elector’s division or district.

Absolute Majority

An absolute majority refers to the number of votes a successful candidate will require to be elected in a standard preferential or optional standard preferential based election or ballot. An absolute majority requires a candidate to achieve, in the case of a standard preferential based election, at least 50% plus one vote of the formal votes in the count. In the case of a optional preferential based election, an absolute majority comprises 50% plus one vote of the formal votes remaining in the count.
(Also see Plurality, Relative Majority and Simple Majority).


A bill, which becomes law after having being passed by the relevant Houses of Parliament and after having received Royal Assent or other formal approval.

Alternative Vote

The voting system that is used to elect the lower house, the House of Representatives, in Australia. The system is based upon, full, standard, preferential voting. Accordingly electors are required to number all candidates in order of preference. A candidate requires an absolute majority i.e. 50% of the formal first preference vote plus one, in order to be elected. Where a candidate dose not attain an absolute majority of first preference votes, a process is then commenced where the candidate with the fewest votes in the count is excluded and the ballot papers of the excluded candidate are examined and physically distributed (transferred) in accordance with the second preferences shown on each ballot for that excluded candidate. This process of excluding candidates continues until a candidate attains an absolute majority.

Australian Capital Territory Electoral Commission

An independent statutory authority established in 1994 to conduct ACT Legislative Assembly elections and referendums.

Australian Electoral Commission

The independent federal government statutory authority established to conduct federal elections and referendums. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) also is vested with the responsibility of maintaining the federal electoral rolls.

Amalgamation Ballot

A ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 whereby members of registered organisations determine through a formal ballot process, whether or not to amalgamate their respective organisations.

Assembly, House of

One of the Houses (usually the lower House) of a State or Territory Parliament.

Authorised Ballot Agent

Means an authorized ballot agent as defined in Section 450 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Refer also to Section 480 of the Workplace Relations Act and Division 4 of the Workplace Regulations 2006.

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A term used to describe Members of Parliament who are neither part of the Ministry nor the “shadow” i.e. opposition “Ministry”.

Balance of Power

The term used to describe a minority party’s or a group of independents’, voting power in the Parliament and applied where no political party or coalition group possesses a majority of Members comprising the relevant Parliament.


The process by which eligible voters make a choice across a candidate or candidates in an election or where they determine a particular issue in the case of a referendum, plebisite or certified or enterprise bargaining agreement. The term ballot is frequently applied in the context of elections for office within Unions or Employer Groups of registered organisations. The term ballot is also synonymous with the conduct of a “secret” vote.

Ballot Box

The secure, sealed container into which the votes of eligible voters are placed pending their further consideration and/or counting. Ballot Boxes commonly are constructed of metal, plastic, or cardboard.

Ballot Call Flow

The specific voting instructions provided to an eligible voter once they have been granted security access to a telephone voting system.

Ballot Paper

A printed sheet showing either the names of approved candidates contesting the available positions for election, or options to be determined in a referendum, plebisite, or certified agreement or enterprise bargaining agreement ballot. Ballot papers usually include instructions for a voter on how to mark a formal ballot. Such instructions have their foundation in Legislation, Constitutions, or relevant Rules etc.

Ballot Screen

The representation on a monitor screen of a ballot in an Internet / Online based election/ballot. If the ballot is being concurrently conducted by both paper and Internet / Online, then the ballot details will formatted and presented similarly.


Comprising two (2) Houses of Parliament.


A proposal to form the basis of an Act of Parliament.

Block Vote Method

A plurality (first past the post) method where there is more than one candidate to be elected. Under this method, the voters have as many votes as there are candidates to be elected.

Blue Ribbon Electorate/Seat

An electorate /seat in which a substantial majority of voters traditionally vote for the same Party or Member. Within Australia, this term is often applied in the context of an electorate or seat consistently won by the Liberal Party.

Boundaries Commission

A formal (South Australian) body with the powers of a Royal Commission that reviews and makes adjustments to South Australian electoral boundaries following each South Australian State general election. See also Redistribution/s.


An election held, usually as a consequence of the death, resignation or retirement of an elected representative. (Also see Casual Vacancy).

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The executive arm of the Government. Cabinet operates under the conventions and principles of the British Westminster system.


The promotional activities undertaken by political parties / candidates with the objective of encouraging constituents (or members) to vote for their party or candidacy. (Also see Canvassing).


An individual who has nominated for election, and whose nomination has been accepted/validated by the Returning Officer or Secretary (in the case of some organisations).

Candidate Statement/Profile

Where the relevant Legislation, Constitutions, Rules or By-laws of an organisation dictate, candidates may be permitted to provide some details pertaining to their claims for election. Such Statements usually have a word limit and other prescribed conditions. Photographs of candidates may also be permitted in some instances.


Promotional activities undertaken by political parties and candidates with the objective of gaining the support of the voters. Frequently “canvassing” is construed as the activities of party and candidate workers who distribute “how to vote” promotional materials outside of polling booths/poling places.

Casual Vacancy

Refers to an elected position “vacancy” created upon the death, retirement or resignation of an elected representative. The applicable Legislation, Rules or By-laws will provide the basis for filling of a Casual Vacancy.

Certified Agreement Ballot

Prior to March 2006, Employee ballots conducted under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Certified Agreements (sometimes referred to as Enterprise Bargaining Agreements) detailed in writing the matters pertaining to the relationship between an employer and employees.

Certified List

The list of eligible voters (roll of voters) in an election or ballot. (Also see Eligible Voters and Roll of Voters and Voter Database).

Citizen’s Initiated Referendum

Most usually based around a petition containing a specified number of signatures. Akin to the governance capacity and mechanics within some organisations for members to recommend or demand constitutional reform.

Close of Rolls

The date/time specified in Legislation (or in some cases in Constitutions, Rules or By-laws) for the “cut-off” of the electoral (or voters roll) to be used as the basis for an election or ballot.


A strategic alliance of political parties/groups formed with the primary objective of maximizing opportunities for achieving a working majority (and therefore control) of an elected Parliament.

Collective Agreement Ballot

Employee ballots conducted under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Collective Agreements detail in writing the matters pertaining to the relationship between an employer and employees.

Compulsory Enrolment

The (Australian) legal requirement that qualified persons must complete an electoral claim and enrol to have their details included on the Electoral Roll. Enrolment is a necessary pre-cursor to being able to vote in Australian parliamentary elections. Once enrolled it also compulsory to update enrolment by advising all changes of address.

Compulsory Voting

Compulsory voting represents a corollary to the principle of and requirement for compulsory enrolment. Once enrolled on the Electoral Roll, it is compulsory for electors (those persons listed on the electoral Roll), to vote in Australian parliamentary elections. Penalties may be imposed upon electors who fail to vote in such elections, without a valid and sufficient reason.

Conjoint Election or Conjoint General Election

An election for all seats-in both houses- of a Parliament.

Conscience Vote

A parliamentary vote where all members (irrespective of their party or political affiliation) formulate and make their own decision on an issue and vote according to their “conscience”. So-called Conscience Votes are usually restricted to issues of moral or social relevance.

Consideration (or Perusal) Period

In relation to Collective Agreement processes, the period (7 days) that an employer must take reasonable steps to ensure that all eligible employees in relation to the (proposed) Collective Agreement are given an information statement at least 7 days before the agreement is approved. Further refer to Section 337 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996.


A Constitution is a formal document setting out a statement of laws or rules. The Australian Constitution sets out the procedures and powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. Organisational Constitutions mandate the corporate governance procedures to be applied and followed by an organisation.

Continuous Roll Update

Application of various methods/sources to update the federal Electoral Roll.


The administrative body pertaining to a Local Government entity.

Court of Disputed Returns

Challenges to the validity of parliamentary election results are dealt with through the Court of Disputed Returns. (See also Disputed Returns).

Cross Bench

Seats for parliamentary members who belong neither to the government nor opposition parties.

Cross the Floor

A member of parliament “crosses the floor” when he/she votes on an issue, but the member votes with the opposition, rather than in accordance with their own government ranks.

Cumulative Voting

Cumulative Voting is akin to a plurality (first past the post) form of voting. This is so because ultimately candidates are elected in accordance with the number of votes (in total) that they poll; and they are elected (up to the number of vacancies) in rank order of polling from highest to lowest. There are no “preferences” or “distributions of preferences” or “exclusions” involved.

Cumulative Voting is used widely in the context of corporate (Director) elections in the United States and it is a system that a number of advocates (and Courts) have recognised as providing an enhanced opportunity for relevant “minority” representation.

Traditionally in calculating a voter’s voting entitlement in a corporate election using Cumulative Voting, the number of shares held by the Member, is multiplied by the number of vacancies to be applied.

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A term used to describe the situation where agreement on an issue between the upper and lower houses of parliament remains unresolved, and resulting in the obstruction of the passage of legislation.

Declaration of the Poll

The formal and public announcement by a Returning Officer (or other designated official), of the outcome of an election or ballot. (Also see Declaration of Result.)

Declaration of Result

The formal, written notification by a Returning Officer (or other designated official) of the result of count of an election or ballot. (Also see Declaration of the Poll).

Declaration Vote

A “special purpose” vote where the voter needs to contain his/her ballot paper(s) in an Envelope. Declaration votes may comprise postal votes, absent votes, pre-poll votes, provisional votes etc. Characteristically, declaration votes need to pass specific voter validation tests to determine the eligibility of the vote to be “admitted” or included in the count.

Declaration Issuing Officer

The polling official(s) employed specifically to process Declaration Votes. These officials require some specialist training and instruction so that they are appropriately equipped to perform their functions.

Declared Institution/s

These are hospitals, nursing homes or other institutions that are “designated” for mobile polling or electoral visitor voting. Specially trained and equipped polling officials visit declared institutions for the purposes of taking the votes of qualified residents.


Government “by the people, for the people and of the people”. A system of government in which governance stems from elected representatives. The word “Democracy” is derived from the ancient Greek words, “demos”- “ the people” and “kratos” –“strength”.

Discarded Ballot

“Discarded Ballots” are those ballots found on the floor of polling booths (polling places) or in the rubbish receptacles within polling booths. Discarded ballots are withheld from the count of ballots. They however are taken into account in terms of the overall ballot accounting for a polling booth (polling place). Discarded ballots should not be confused with Spoilt Ballots. (See also Spoilt Ballots).


To deny a person the right to vote.

Disputed Returns

Challenges to the validity of parliamentary election results. Such challenges are dealt with through the Court of Disputed Returns. (Also see Court of Disputed Returns).


The formal process concluding a parliamentary term. Only the Governor General (in the case of the federal government) or a Governor (in the case of a State Government), may “dissolve” parliament.

Distribution of Preferences

A procedural process that is applied through preferential and optional preferential voting systems. Where no candidate achieves an absolute majority of the formal votes (in the case of a standard preferential voting system) or of the formal votes remaining in the count (in the case of an optional preferential system), then the ballots of the candidate who at the relevant count stage, has the fewest votes in the count, is excluded. The process of exclusion involves the transfer of contingent preferences from the excluded candidate, to candidates remaining in the count.


A defined geographic area comprising the electors (or members) qualified/eligible to vote (or nominate) in respect of the relevant District.


The term “Division” refers to the geographic entity that comprises each House of Representatives federal electorate. Electoral Divisions are determined through the formal process of Redistribution. The term is also applied to some State or Local Government electoral entities.

Division Voting

In the context of parliamentary sittings, the process of recording and reporting of members’ votes on an issue. In the context of Council elections, voting within a particular Council Division.

Donkey Vote

A typical “donkey vote” is one which records preferences from top to bottom of the ballot, precisely in accordance with the order of the names of candidates shown on the ballot. The term is most usually applied in the context of a single election. Donkey Votes account for approximately two (2) percent of the formal votes in an election.

Double Dissolution

The formal dissolution of both houses of federal parliament. A double dissolution election involves elections for each House of Representatives Division (or seat) as well as a full election for the Senate (upper house).

Double Majority

This term applies in the context of federal Referendums. For Referendum to be “carried” i.e. be approved by the electors, any alteration to the Constitution must be approved by a “ double majority”. A double majority reflects not only a national majority of electors voting in favour of a proposal,, but also a majority of electors in a majority of the Australian States also voting in favour of the proposal. Because of these stringent provisions, few Referendum proposals have succeeded.

Draw by Lot

A process applied to determine order or selection by random choice. Drawing by lot is most frequently applied in the context of determining the ballot order of candidates or in determining the order of exclusion or order of election of candidates. In electronic based elections/ballots, the process of candidate exclusion or election may be conducted by random computer draw or by a Returning Officer draw. However the stated requirements of Legislation, Constitution, Rules or By-laws always prevail.

Droop Quota

Refers to the quota of votes to be obtained by a candidate in order to be elected in the context of some proportional representation (Single Transferable Vote -STV) elections. The quota was named after HR Droop, an English barrister. The Droop quota is calculated by dividing the total number of formal first preference votes cast in an election, by the total number of candidates to be elected, plus one, and by adding one to the quotient so obtained.

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The process of choosing or selecting through voting, a particular nominated candidate (or candidates) to occupy some official position or positions.

Election Day

The day specified when the great bulk of electors cast their vote(s) in an Election. In Australian parliamentary Elections, Election day (or Polling Day) is usually scheduled on a Saturday. Polling hours on Election day are usually 8.00am to 6.00pm. (Also see Polling Day).

Election Office

The office, or actual administrative base from which an election is conducted by a Returning Officer.

Elections ACT

The Australian Capital Territory Electoral Commission. An independent statutory authority established in 1994 to conduct ACT Legislative Assembly elections and referendums.

Electoral Act

Pieces of legislation prescribing the rules and processes for the conduct of parliamentary elections and other electoral matters. The legislation pertaining to Australian federal elections is contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act and each Australian State or Territory also has its own specific electoral legislation.

Electoral Commissioner

The statutory officer appointed to administer electoral legislation. There is a federal Electoral Commissioner who heads the Australian Electoral Commission and there are also State/Territory Commissioners.

Electoral Formula

The particular counting rules which apply in an electoral system.

Electoral Offence

Any activity or action that breaches the laws as defined in an Electoral Act or related piece of legislation.

Electoral Office

A generic term used to apply to any formal government office or customer service centre whose primary role is responsible for administering electoral or election matters.

Electoral /Enrolment Quota

A term applying in the context of preliminary redistribution processes. For example, the (Australian) federal Electoral Commissioner determines the “enrolment quota” for a State by dividing the number of electors enrolled in a State, by the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the State at a General Election.

Electoral Roll

The Electoral Roll comprises the list of names of all the electors who are entitled to vote in an Election. For Australian parliamentary elections, in order to have their details included on the Electoral Roll, electors must formally “enrol” by completing, signing and then submitting to the Australian Electoral Commission an Electoral Enrolment Claim Form. Electoral Enrolment is compulsory in Australia. (Also see Voter Roll and Voter Database).

Electoral Roll Review

A process applied by the Australian Electoral Commission to update the Electoral Roll. The essential basis of the Electoral Roll Review revolves around the conduct of a “house to house” check of the Electoral Roll by using specially recruited and trained staff. (Also see Electoral Roll Update (ERU)).

Electoral Visitor/s

In some Australian States legislation provides for Electoral Visitors (specially trained/equipped polling officials) to visit the homes of elderly/infirm/incapacitated electors (and/or the carers of such electors), for the purposes of taking the votes of those electors. Further, in some jurisdictions, the polling officials that visit “declared institutions” for the purposes of taking the votes of residents, are termed “Electoral Visitors”. In Commonwealth elections, presently there is no provision for “Electoral Visitor” voting; however “mobile polling teams” visit “Special Hospitals.” (See also Mobile Polling and Special Hospitals).


The generic term applied to a geographic electoral entity. In federal elections “electorates” are usually referred to as “Divisions”. In State/Territory realms the entities may be “Districts” or “Provinces”. Within Council or Local Authority areas, the entities may be “Wards”, “Divisions” etc.

Electorate Office

The office/administrative base for a Member of Parliament and his/her support staff. This term is often confused with “Electoral Office” i.e. a government agency responsible for administering electoral matters.

Electronic Ballot/Election

An election or ballot that is conducted using secure Internet / Online or Telephone technology. Could also describe voting conducted using an electronic voting “kiosk ”i.e. a computerised touch screen voting terminal located in a polling booth/voting compartment.

Electronic Vote Recording

A system where a voter records their vote on voting machine (punch card, touch screen etc) and the vote is stored within the machine. When voting is finalised, data stored within the machine is transferred to the relevant tabulation /counting system.

Electronic Vote Counting

A system where vote data from votes cast by eligible voters is loaded into a computerised counting machine and the results of the ballot/election are calculated electronically. The loading of vote data may be accomplished by straight data keying of information shown on paper ballots, by electronic scanning of ballots using either optical mark recognition (OMR) or optical character recognition (OCR) technology, by extraction of data from voting machines or by downloading of information from a secure electronic vote store.

Electronic Voting

A system where an eligible voter casts their vote using an online system including the Internet / Online, Touch-tone Telephone voting using Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR), or Mobile Telephone SMS text facility. Once a voter selects/casts their vote, the details of the vote are transmitted in real time to a secure electronic store, pending tabulation (counting) of the results.


The requirement/status to be achieved in order to be qualified to vote in an election or ballot. Eligibility may be based on enrolment, financial status, occupational requirements/experience etc.


An individual who is chosen to stand as a candidate to represent some political party or group.


To assign or grant a person the right to vote.

Enquiry Officer

A specially trained polling official whose role is customer service based to facilitate polling booth operations and voter flow and to answer queries made by electors visiting a polling place or polling booth.


The process of a qualified person completing, signing and submitting an Electoral Claim (Enrolment) Form so as to have their details included on the Electoral Roll. Electoral enrolment is compulsory in Australia.

Enrolment Form

The form prescribed for electors to complete in order to facilitate enrolment on the Electoral Roll.

Enterprise Bargaining Ballot

See Certified Agreement Ballot.

Excluded Candidate

In a preferential or optional preferential based election/ballot, a candidate is “excluded” from the count because he or she has fewer votes than other candidates, at that particular stage of the count. The “excluded” candidate’s relevant contingent preferences are transferred to “continuing” candidates i.e. those candidates remaining in the count. (Also see Distribution of Preferences).

Exhausted Ballot/Vote

A ballot that can no longer be distributed in a preference distribution process as no further preferences are listed on the ballot for any candidate(s) remaining in the count. The total of exhausted ballots plus the total of formal votes remaining in the count must equate with the total of formal ballots included in the count. (See also Optional Preferential Voting).

Exhaustive Ballot

This system is relevant in the context of a single constituency election. Where no single candidate (for a single seat) attains more than half the votes, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is excluded from further consideration and a new poll is taken of those candidates remaining. The process is repeated until one candidate attains more than the total combined vote of all remaining candidates.

Extraordinary Vacancy

Most usually refers to an elected position “vacancy” created upon the death, retirement or resignation of an elected representative. The applicable Legislation, Rules or By-laws will provide the basis for filling of a Casual Vacancy. (Also see Casual Vacancy).

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Federal /Commonwealth Government

Terminology applied to refer to Australia’s national government. Australia’s Constitution distributes formal authority between the central (federal) government and those of the States.


Federation represented the formal unification of the Australian States on 1 January 1901 to form the Commonwealth of Australia.

First Past the Post

A voting system whereby the candidate with the most votes is elected – whether or not that elected candidate has attained an absolute majority i.e. 50% of the formal votes plus one. “ First past the post “is widely used in Union and Corporation elections/ballots. The system may be applied to elect one or more positions. Voters usually need only to place a tick or a cross on their ballot(s) in order to cast their vote. However some “First past the post” system variants apply a “strike-out” method or numerical base. The type of approach to be applied will be dependant upon the relevant Legislation, Constitution, Rules or By-laws.

Formal Vote

A ballot that has been marked or selected (in the case of an electronic ballot), in accordance with the relevant election/ballot rules and that will accordingly count towards the ultimate election result. (Also see Informal Vote).

Fractional Transfer Value

In a proportional representation based election system, the fractional transfer value represents the reduced value at which a candidate’s surplus votes are transferred to continuing candidates. The transfer value applicable in the case of the distribution of the surplus votes of a candidate who is elected from first preference votes is calculated by dividing the number of the elected candidate’s surplus votes (those votes in excess of the Quota for the election) by the number of first preference votes received by the candidate. However the transfer value to be applied to a surplus distribution of a candidate following a transfer is calculated by dividing the number of the candidate’s surplus votes by the number of ballot papers received at the last transfer.


The right to vote.

Fresh Scrutiny

The recheck (recount) of ballot papers is conducted by a Returning Officer prior to determining the result of an election and/or prior to conducting a distribution of preferences. The basic purpose of the Recheck is to ensure that each formal ballot is assigned to the correct candidate, to ensure that there are no informal ballots contained with the formal ones, to ensure that there are no formal ballots contained with the informal ones, to guarantee the total number of first preference votes for each candidate and to ascertain and prove the correct number of informal ballots. The Fresh Scrutiny/Recheck provides the appropriate proper basis to conduct, where necessary, a distribution of preferences. (Also see Recheck).

Funding & Disclosure

Formal legislative provisions and administration governing processes including political party registration, the public funding of election campaigns, and the disclosure of certain financial details by candidates , political parties and other relevant groups or individuals.

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General Election

For an Australian federal election, a General Election is usually taken to refer to an election for each House of Representatives seat plus an election for half of the Senate. For State/Territory elections, the term applies similarly to elections for all lower house seats, and where relevant, combined with an election for half the upper house seats.

General Postal Voter(s)

These are electors who have made special arrangement and registration with the Electoral Commission to have their postal ballot material sent direct; without the need to first apply for postal ballot materials. Such registrants typically include electors residing in remote areas, electors having a disability, silent electors etc. ballot materials are sent to registered General Postal Voters as soon as possible after ballot papers are printed.


Named after Governor Gerry of Massachusetts who approved a “rigged” electoral boundary and shaped it somewhat akin to a salamander. “Gerrymander” accordingly refers to the process of drawing electoral boundaries (entities), but for political advantage.


The particular system through which a community or society is controlled or directed.

Group Voting Ticket

Where provided, by way of Legislation, Constitution, Rules or By-laws, these “tickets” represent a formal written, printed statement of preferences lodged by candidates, by an approved electoral group or by a political party, and following the close of nominations and the draw for positions on the ballot (if any). Group Voting Tickets are usually displayed within polling booths/polling places for the availability and perusal of electors. Candidates/parties attempt to maximise their opportunities for election by recommending in the Group Voting Tickets (and through “how to vote cards”, the manner in which electors might mark their ballot(s).