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Glossary H – P

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Printed transcripts of parliamentary debates.


The Hare–Clark electoral system is a Single Transferable Vote (STV) method of proportional representation used in multi-member electorates/constituencies. The title Hare-Clark derives both from (an Englishman) Thomas Hare who proposed the notion of proportional representation and also from Andrew Ingles Clark, a former member of the Tasmanian Parliament, who introduced a variant of the Hare system and now termed the Hare-Clark system. (Also see Proportional Representation and Single Transferable Vote).

House of Assembly

Usually the lower house of a State/Territory parliament.

House of Representatives

The lower house of the Australian federal parliament.

How to Vote Card

A promotional initiative, usually in the form of small cardboard or paper representation of a ballot paper, developed by candidates/political parties and intended to influence voters to vote for their individual or party candidacy. Where a preferential voting is relevant, the “cards” invariably display and represent the recommended manner of preference marking, most suitable to the candidate or the political party. Candidate or political party “hacks” usually volunteer to stand adjacent to polling booth/polling place entrances and hand the “how to vote cards” to electors entering the polling booth. There are usually formal restrictions legislated on the how proximal to a polling booth/ polling place entrance that canvassing may take place. A common legislative provision is that canvassing not be permitted within five (5) meters of the entrance to a polling booth/polling place. Many voters have become dependant upon, or otherwise mistakenly consider that they must follow, the information conveyed on a “How to Vote Card” . Of course voters are free to make their own determinations about how to mark or select their ballot(s).

Hybrid Election/Ballot

A hybrid Election/Ballot involves the application and availability to the eligible voters, the use of more than one voting medium in the same electoral event. For example, eligible voters might be offered the use of either Postal or Internet / Online voting in a Ballot.

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A candidate, or an elected representative, who is not a member of a political party.

Industrial Election(s)

Official Position Elections conducted for Registered Organisations (Unions and Employer Groups) and under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Act (in the case of federally registered organisations). Relevant legislation mandates that Industrial Elections be conducted by government Electoral Commissions.

Informal Ballot

A ballot that is not included in the formal count because it fails to meet the requirements mandated in the relevant Act, Constitution, Election Rules or By-laws. Typically ballots are deemed informal, when the voter’s intention is not sufficiently clear. Accordingly, for example, a ballot showing either no vote/selection, or alternatively one that has indistinguishable first preference markings/selections, will be classified informal. In addition, where the name of the voter is written and identifiable on the ballot, then usually the ballot will be informal.

In-Person Vote

A term sometimes applied to voters who utilise pre-poll voting facilities. Typically pre-poll voters are those in parliamentary elections that claim they will not be able to utilise polling booth voting facilities on Election day and therefore vote “in person” at an electoral office or designated pre-poll voting centre. (Also see Pre-poll voting).

Internet / Online Ballot/Vote

A ballot or election where the voting medium applied is secure Internet / Online technology. (Also see Electronic Ballot/Election, Electronic Vote Counting, and Electronic Voting).

Issuing Officer

The generic term applied to a polling official employed by a Returning Officer to issue ballot material to voters.

Issuing Point

A desk or table in a polling place (polling booth) from which ballot material is issued. Larger size polling places will have multiple Issuing Points.

Itinerant Elector

A person who has no fixed place of address but whose name has been included on the Electoral Roll.

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Legislative Assembly

Usually the lower house in a (State) parliament.

Legislative Council

Usually the upper house in a (State) parliament.

List Proportional Representation (List System)

Essentially List systems involve each political party presenting a list (akin to a slate) of candidates to the voters (the electorate). The parties achieve representation in proportion to their overall share of the total vote. (Also see proportional Representation).

Local Government

Sometimes referred to as the “third” tier of government. Local Government responsibilities usually include levy of land rates and charges, administration of parks and gardens community and cultural affairs, maintenance of roads and streets, sanitation, garbage collection, approvals for building etc.

Local Government Act

An Act of parliament that regulates the administration of Local Government activities including the conduct of Local Government Elections.

Lower House

A house of parliament. Usually, the House of Assembly in a (State) parliament.

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See Absolute Majority, Plurality, Relative Majority and Simple Majority.


A situation of imbalance in population densities between electoral constituencies /geographic entities.


Once elected to majority power, a government’s claim for authority to implement and administer their various policy platforms.

Manufactured Majority

A term sometimes used to reflect the situation where a single political party or group wins less than 50% of the total formal votes, but the party gains an absolute majority of the available parliamentary seats.

Marginal Electorate/Seat

An electorate or seat that is ‘won” by a candidate but with only a small margin of votes.


A member (an elected representative) of a parliament.

Member(s) of parliament

An elected representative who serves in parliament.


A government member of parliament who is appointed by the Governor General (in the case of the Commonwealth parliament or the Governor of the State (in the case of a State parliament) to be a member of the Executive (Cabinet) and who will be (appointed) responsible for one or more specific areas of government administration.


The group of government members formally appointed to control and be responsible for the administration of government activities.

Minority Government

Government formed by a political party or an alliance or coalition of political parties, however the party (or parties) does not have a majority of the total number of elected seats.

Member of the Legislative Assembly

An elected member of (usually0 a lower house of parliament.

Mobile Polling

A special service facility provided to enable electors in designated remote areas or in specified convalescent or nursing homes (Declared Institutions or Special Hospitals) to cast their votes. In the case of remote area mobile polling, arrangements are made by the Returning Officer to provide the necessary material and personnel resources to enable voting to take place in accordance with specified pre-determined schedules. These arrangements involve the deployment of mobile polling teams who visit the designated communities either by air charter or four wheel drive vehicle. (Also see Declared Institutions and Special Hospitals).

Mobile Polling Team

These are polling officials that are specially recruited and trained to undertake mobile polling activities in remote areas and also in convalescent / nursing homes. (Also see Electoral Visitors).

Multiple Preferential Voting System

This is a voting system that accomplishes the multiple election of the relevant number of candidates in one ballot. The system is used by some industrial organisations. Voters are required to mark/select their ballot preferentially usually up to the number of candidates to be elected. Ballots that show preference selections up to the number to be elected are termed primary votes and those ballots marked/selected beyond the number to be elected are referred to as secondary votes. The candidate obtaining the fewest primary vote is excluded and secondary votes (preferences) are distributed to remaining candidates. This exclusion process is continued until there is one more than the number of candidates to be elected. The candidate lowest in ranking is then excluded and the remaining candidates are elected.

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Next Available Preference

The candidate marked/selected by a voter on a ballot as the next preferred continuing candidate.


The process by which an individual seeks to formally contest an election or ballot as a candidate. The “requirements” governing nomination will be contained in legislation, in an organisation’s Constitution, Election rules or By-laws.

Non Transferable Vote

A ballot that that cannot be distributed further as it “exhausts”- it does not show any further preferences for continuing candidates. (Also see Exhausted Ballots).

Notional Distribution of Preferences

This is an indicative sort and count of votes conducted in a polling place, once the first preference count in a parliamentary election has been completed. It’s primary purpose is to provide an indication of the likely election outcome by notionally distributing the preferences of minor candidates to the (anticipated) two major candidates. This count is sometimes referred to as the “Two Party Preferred Count.” Government Electoral Commissioners determine the “major candidates”.

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See Electoral Offences.

Opinion Poll

A survey conducted that registers voter or general public opinion.


The political party or parties that do not have a majority of the total seats in a parliament and therefore cannot form the government.

Optional Preferential Voting

A system of voting in which a voter marks/selects the preferences for candidates of their choice, but the voter need not mark/select preferences for all candidates listed on the ballot. In an optional preferential election, a candidate needs to attain an absolute majority (i.e. 50% plus one) of the votes remaining in the count. Where a voter does not show contingent preferences for each and every candidate, the ballot is deemed to “exhaust” at the point where no further preferences are shown/selected. The optional preferential voting system may be used to elect one or more representatives.

Ordinary Election

A term often applied to a normally scheduled “end of term” election.

Ordinary Vote/Voter

The ballot that is issued to an elector in an parliamentary election, the elector attends at his/her local polling place/polling booth and the elector is listed in the Certified List (Voter Roll) for that relevant (local) electorate.

Overseas Elector

A special category enrolment provision (under Commonwealth legislation) relevant to electors residing overseas for three years or less.

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A political assembly of elected representatives who debate/vote proposed laws.

Parliamentary Democracy

A system of government whereby the people (electors) determine and exercise their political will by selecting representatives (through formal election) to represent them in the parliament, and to make laws.


See Political Party

Party Hack

A term sometimes used to refer to members of a political party who actively participate in the operational “grass roots” affairs of the party. Party hacks traditionally assist as candidate campaign staff (or as scrutineers) at polling places (in parliamentary elections).

Party Linear Vote

A ballot in a multi-member election and the candidates are marked/selected, but straight down a party line or list.


The policies or plans that candidates/political parties promise to introduce, if elected to power.


A decision on an issue made by a group of people. Plebisites often take the form of a referendum -a “yes” or “no” vote on a particular proposal/issue. A plebistite will be conducted in accordance with the relevant governance requirements.


A term related to the “first past the post” system of voting. The candidate who attains the highest number of votes in an election or ballot attains a plurality or “simple majority” of votes and is elected. (Also see Absolute Majority and Relative Majority).

Points System

Under the Points System, a voter awards a particular number of points to their first chosen candidate, but a lesser number of points is awarded the second preferred candidate and so on, to the required number. The candidate with greatest number of points is elected. The system can be applied to elect one or more positions.

Political Party

A political party comprises a group of individuals with similar ideals/objectives and who collaborate to select nominees for election to office. In Australia, political parties are required to be officially registered before they can contest parliamentary elections and have party identification details included on ballots.


Refers to the counting of votes in an election or survey.

Polling Day

The day on which the major elements of a parliamentary /council election are conducted. (Also see Election Day).

Polling Booth/Polling Place

The particular advertised location(s) where electors visit to record their vote(s) in a parliamentary/council election. Returning Officers select, equip and staff polling places based upon the anticipated voter turnout art the polling place.

Polling Officials

These are the staffing resources appointed by the Returning Officer to conduct polling in a polling booth/polling place. There is usually a Presiding Officer, Officer in Charge or Polling place Manager appointed to control activities in the polling booth and to administer the electoral laws in regard to the conduct of the poll. Other categories of polling officials are appointed by the Returning Officer to assist the person in charge and to perform specialist functions in the polling place on polling day. Polling officials usually are trained to perform their specialist role, but they also need to be able to perform some of the other various functions in the polling booth.


Usually refers to departmental responsibility (or responsibilities if for more than one Department is involved) of a Cabinet Minister.

Postal Vote

In respect of a parliamentary/council election, the medium of voting available to a en elector who is unable to physically attend a polling booth (polling place) on polling day. Typically postal voters have to apply to receive postal ballot material. The Returning Officer validates applications received and sends ballot material to the voter. The voter will be supplied with the basic material to cast their vote. The completed ballot material is to be returned to the Returning Officer for processing.

In elections for organistaions including corporations, and in Certified Agreement Ballots, postal voting also is widely used. However in these elections the eligible voter does not normally need to apply to receive the ballot material; the material is directly forwarded to each eligible voter after ballot material has been printed.

Pre-poll Vote

Typically pre-poll voters are those electors in parliamentary/council elections that claim they will not be able to utilise polling booth voting facilities on Election day but who vote “in person” prior to polling day at an electoral office or designated pre-poll voting centre. Pre-poll voting centres traditionally are set up in Electoral Offices, and the designated centres could include locations in major airports, in shopping centres in tourist locations and in diplomatic offices (in the case of Australia federal elections). (Also see In-Person Vote).

Preferential Voting

A system of voting where electors/voters must express through marking/selection an order of ranking for each candidate listed on the ballot. To be elected under the preferential voting system, a candidate must obtain an absolute majority (i.e 50% plus one) of the total formal vote in the count. Where no candidate attains an outright absolute majority, the candidate who is lowest ranking in the count at that particular stage, is excluded and the excluded candidate’s ballots are examined to determine, and to physically transfer, that excluded candidate’s second preferences to continuing candidates. The process of excluding candidates continues, until one candidate attains an absolute majority. This system is used in the elections for the federal House of Representatives and is sometimes referred to as the Alternative Vote. The system is also used in a number of other parliamentary and other settings. The system can be applied to elect either one or multiple positions. (Also see Optional Preferential Voting).

Preliminary Scrutiny

The “preliminary scrutiny” essentially involves a “voter entitlement check”. It involves the process of validating a person’s entitlement to have their vote admitted to the count. Also referred to as “validation”. The preliminary scrutiny may involve, for example, the checking of voter signatures on declaration votes, the marking back of voters to the voter roll, the checking /verification of membership numbers etc. (Also see Scanning and Validation).


In an Australian context, the term Premier usually refers to the head/leader of a State Government.

Prescribed Information

The formal, statutory request for conduct of an election for a registered organisation under the auspices the Workplace Relations (or other related State) Act. (Also see Registered Organisations).


The process applied by political parties to choose their candidates to contest parliamentary elections. The particular approach applied to pre-selection will be a function of the relevant Rules.


A term often applied to the elected head of state of a nation/republic. May also apply, in a corporation context, to the head of a Board/Company.

Primary Vote

In a preferential system based vote, this is sometimes taken to refer to the first preference votes recorded by each candidate. In a multiple preferential system based vote, the primary vote refers to the preferences marked/selected by voters up to the number of candidates to be elected.

Prime Minister

federal (Commonwealth) government. (Also see President).


Under the provisions of some legislation and organisations, candidates for election may be able to provide statements or profiles in support of their candidacy. Such provisions usually contain limitations or restrictions as to the number of words and statement content.(Also see Candidate Statements).

Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation is a system of voting essentially designed to elect representatives in proportion to the amount of support each has in the constituency/electorate. Candidates effectively are elected in proportion to the number of votes they receive. However candidates must obtain a “quota” of votes to be elected. The system may be used to elect one or more positions; however it’s application is more relevant when electing a number of candidates to vacant positions. Under proportional representation, voters usually mark/select preferences for candidates in the order of their choice. The rules/constitutions of some organisations might mandate that the ballots must be marked /selected fully preferentially, however the system equally applies in those situations where an optional preferential system of marking/selection is mandated. Proportional Representation may also be applied in conjunction with List based (akin to Slate) voting methods and where voters select one party or a combined group of candidates. (Also see Hare – Clarke and Single Transferable Vote).

Protected Action Ballot

Protected Action Ballot means a ballot conducted under Division 4 of part 9 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Refer also to Division 4 of the Workplace Relations Regulations 2006.


Some geographic electoral entities/constituencies may be referred to as Provinces or Electoral Provinces. (Also see Electorate, Electoral District/ Division, Redistribution and Seat).

Provisional Enrolment

The Australian legislative provision that permits otherwise qualified seventeen year old persons to enrol on the Electoral Roll. Their enrolment is “provisional” (and therefore they are unable to vote in an parliamentary election) until they attain eighteen years of age.

Provisional Vote

In an Australian federal election context, the vote of an individual that is enclosed in a special declaration envelope. The Provisional Vote declaration envelopes are returned to the Returning Officer who undertakes special review and investigations into the eligibility of the persons to vote and to have their ballot(s) included in the count. The most common reason for issue of an Provisional Vote relates to the inability of a polling official to locate the relevant elector’s details on the Certified list (Roll of Voters) for the particular Division/electorate, but the elector claims (and maintains) their entitlement to vote. Another fairly common basis for issue of a Provisional vote is that an elector presents to vote in a polling booth, but their elector details have already been “marked off” on the polling booth Certified List. If the voter makes a declaration to the effect that they have not already voted in the election, then they are issued with a Provisional Vote. The polling officials who issue Provisional Votes need to be specially trained. (Also see Declaration Voting).


The study of elections, voting patterns and voting trends.

Public Company Voting

The Public Company method has its foundation in the (Australian) Corporations Law. The method essentially envisages a separate vote being taken on each position in a meeting situation, and with “voting” conducted by a show of hands.