Home » Glossary » Glossary Q – Z

Glossary Q – Z

A – G → | H – P → | Q – Z

Q – Z

Q | R | S | T | U | V | W |


Queue Controller

A polling official whose prime function is to facilitate voter flow into a polling booth /polling place/meeting ballot.


The minimum number of votes required by a candidate to achieve election. Most frequently used in the context of proportional representation voting systems. (Also see Hare Clarke and Proportional Representation).

The term quota might also be applied in the context of the redistribution of electoral boundaries.

R∧ Back to the top


The recheck (or fresh scrutiny) 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 recheck is essentially a recount of the ballots. 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 Fresh Scrutiny & Recount).


A recount involves a formal review and count of all the votes counted in an election. Usually a recount is only conducted where the margin between candidates for election is extremely close. Typically, a recount could be sought by a candidate, or the Returning Officer could decide to conduct a recount of his/her own volition. In some instances, the recount could involve a review of ballot material beyond those ballots accepted into a count. Accordingly, depending upon governance requirements and the relevant circumstances, a recount count could also involve a review of the rejected votes as well as ballot material put to the count.


Redistribution represents the formal process of the revision of electoral boundaries. Inevitably the process applied, will be prescribed in legislation or regulations. Typically some “tolerance” or ‘quota” also will be applied with the objective of determining that the revised boundaries will contain a similar number of electors. This is to ensure that the level or amount of representation correlates with the level of population/number of electors. Redistribution is also sometimes referred to as “redistricting”. (Also see Boundary Commission and Gerrymander).


See Redistribution above.


A Referendum is a vote taken by eligible voters to determine the level of support, or otherwise, on some issue, proposal or matter of policy. A referendum normally involves a “yes” or ‘no” vote being taken on an issue. The governance requirements that are pertinent will mandate the specific criteria to determine whether or not a referendum will be “carried” (or supported). In the Australian context any proposed alteration to the Australian Constitution must be put to the electors through a referendum. The Commonwealth Electoral and Referendum Regulations prescribe the processes that apply in the conduct of a federal referendum. For a Commonwealth referendum to be “carried”, the proposed alteration must have “double majority” support. This involves not only a national majority of electors voting in favour of the proposal, but also a majority of electors in a majority of the States. (Also see Double Majority).


See Electorate, Electoral District/Division, Province.

Reference Roll

This is a copy of the Electoral Roll that is used to assist in determining enquiries regarding voter eligibility etc. It is most commonly used in polling booth/polling place operations in the context of Provisional Voting or other relevant form of Declaration Voting issuing. (Also see Declaration Voting and Provisional Voting).

Registered General Postal Voter/Registered Declaration Voter

Electors who reside in remote areas or who possess a disability (or who are carers of persons with a disability) typically may “register;’ to become “registered general postal/declaration voters”. Approved registration confers the capacity for the elector to be referred ballot material directly (once ballot material is available) and without the need for completion and submission of a postal vote application.

Registered Organisation(s)

A Union or Employer group formally registered under the federal Workplace Relations Act, (or the corresponding relevant State Act). Registered organisations generally must have their elections for official positions conducted by government electoral commissions.


The statutory title applied to the delegated officer responsible for maintaining and updating the (Australian) Commonwealth Electoral Rolls.


Procedural adaptations and supplementation to the provisions contained in Acts of parliament. The regulations usually contain greater detail and process descriptions. The regulations might also include details of relevant “prescribed forms” that must be used in administering the various regulated processes.

Remote Area Mobile Polling

A special service facility provided to enable electors in designated remote areas 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 Mobile Polling).


An elected representative or member of parliament.

Representative Democracy

A system of government where elected representatives of the people make laws and decisions on behalf of the people. “Government by the people, for the people, of the people”.


A Republic is nation or country that has a President as the appointed head of State. The President could be elected directly by the people or be appointed by the relevant government.


In parliamentary/council elections, where polling is conducted predominantly on an attendance basis, the first results of the election will be counted by polling officials in the polling booths/polling places. Postal and pre-poll votes may also be counted by the Returning Officer from the time the polling booth counts take place. The polling booth results are transmitted (usually by telephone) to the Returning Officer. If there is a central “Tally Room” the results for a series of polling booths (places) will be transmitted by the Returning Officer at appropriate intervals. In the days following polling day, the Declaration Votes received by a Returning Officer will be dealt with, and where relevant, ballots put to the count. Aggregations of the results are tallied to determine the overall results of the election. Depending upon the voting system used etc, preference distributions may be necessary to determine the final result. The election results will be placed in published statistical returns. The results of the election usually are announced by a Returning Officer at the Declaration of the Poll (a formal ceremony).

In non-parliamentary elections, the results of the election are usually referred in written form to the relevant authority. The Secretary, or other delegated authority within the client organistaion, may be vested with the responsibility for declaring the poll .In elections for registered organisations, the results are also forwarded to the office of the Industrial Registrar.

Return of the Writ

Following the conclusion of a General Election, the Writ (the formal authority for conducting the election), is returned to the Governor General (in the case of a federal election) and to the Governor (in the case of a State election), showing the details of each successful candidate in the election.

Returning Officer

The person formally appointed to conduct a ballot, election, referendum or plebisite.

Robson Rotation

Robson rotation refers to a process where the names of candidates in a column (on a ballot) are rotated so that positions on the ballot are shared equally across candidates. This process was initiated by a Tasmanian politician, Neil Robson.

Roll/Roll of Voters

The Roll of Voters/Roll/ Electoral Roll/Voter database represents the list of persons eligible to vote in a ballot/election. In a parliamentary election, the voter roll is formulated from the relevant Electoral Roll. There is usually a defined cut-off or “closing date” for the electoral roll for a parliamentary/council election. For other ballots/elections, the Roll of Voters will comprise the certified database of eligible members/employees etc. The governance requirements for some organisations will dictate a defined voter eligibility date or “cut-off”; however others will apply a “continuous” voter roll with additions and deletions to the voter roll being permitted to the latest practicable time. In electronic based ballots/elections, for all practical purposes, the deadline for deletions to be applied to a “continuous” roll will be when the electronic /ballot/election actually goes live. (Also see Electoral Roll and Voter Database).


The act of contesting a ballot/election as a candidate.

S∧ Back to the top

Safe Seat

A seat (electorate) (usually consistently) won at election by a candidate/political party and where the winning margin is substantial.


The term “Scanning” may apply in several contexts: the review of markings on a voter roll(s), the validation or “preliminary scrutiny of votes, or in the counting of ballots.

In Australian parliamentary/council elections, the voter rolls (or certified lists) used in polling places and which have recorded in them, the details of ordinary voters who presented themselves at the polling booth (polling place) to vote. The recording of the ordinary voters who presented at the polling booth (polling place) takes the form of markings made by Issuing Officers, against the names of each relevant elector. Post polling day, the Certified Lists are parcelled by the Returning Officer’s staff and they are referred for electronic scanning. This scanning process determines and produces reports of the lists of apparent non-voters, and apparent multiple voters.

Scanning may also be applied to the validation or preliminary scrutiny (voter entitlement check) of declaration style votes. The return ballot envelopes may be bar-coded with the basic member/employee details of a voter. The bar code scanning operator will match other required authentication details, (perhaps a member /employee number and/ or PIN) with the details reported on a screen monitor relevant to the particular bar-code reading. Where the details match, the validation process is completed and the ballot contained within the declaration envelope may be counted.

Scanning technology may also be utilised to read/collect data from votes cast by eligible voters and the results of the ballot/election are calculated electronically. The loading of vote data may be accomplished by electronic scanning of ballots using either optical mark recognition (OMR) or optical character recognition (OCR) technology. (Also see Electronic Vote Counting).


A person formally appointed (usually be candidate) to represent the candidate’s (or an organisation’s) interests in the ballot/election process. The governance requirements (if any) pertaining to scrutineering will be contained in an institution’s or organisation’s legislation, constitution, rules or By-laws. The rules of some organisations permit the Chief Executive Officer, the Chairman of the Board, or Board representatives, to appoint scrutineers. In a postal based ballot/election it is common for scrutineering practices/intervention to be permitted from the insertion/packaging /mailing of ballot material through to the count process. In attendance based parliamentary/council ballots/elections, scrutineering practice commences from the display of open/empty ballot boxes, through vote issue, to vote counting, re-checking and, if applicable, vote re-counting. The role of a scrutineer will involve the protection of their candidate’s personal interests. Accordingly, apart from a perspective of ensuring that due process has/is being followed, a basic objective of a scrutineer is to maximise the opportunity for the election of his/her candidate and to minimise the chances of election of other candidates. Where a preferential form of voting is applied, skilled scrutineer operatives will observe and note the flow of marked/selected preferences.


The scrutiny of ballots refers to the process of unfolding, sorting and counting of ballots. (Also see Fresh Scrutiny or Recheck).


A seat is geographic electoral entity/constituency. An elected member occupies a “seat” in parliament. The term may also refer to an Electoral District, an Electorate, a Division, Province or Electoral Province. (Also see Electorate, Electoral District/ Division, Redistribution and Seat).

Secret Ballot

Voting in secret/private without fear of intimidation. Australia was the first modern nation to adopt the principle of the secret ballot.


The Senate is the upper house of the Australian parliament. In the Australian context there are 10 Senators for each State and two (2) Senators for each Territory.

Shadow Ministry

The elected members comprising the “opposition party” front bench (the opposition parliamentary leaders). The shadow ministry develops, reviews and promotes policy alternatives.

Silent Electors

Special category electors who are permitted to enrol on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll, but their enrolled address details are suppressed from publication for reasons of privacy/security.

Simple Majority

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 “simple majority” or “plurality” of votes and is elected. (Also see Absolute Majority, Plurality and Relative Majority).

Single Transferable Vote

This is a form of 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. This system typically is used where multiple candidates are to be elected. Under single transferable vote, voters 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. Candidates must obtain a “quota” of votes to be elected. A “quota” commonly applied is the Droop Quota. The formula for this quota is the total number of formal first preference votes (in the count) divided by the number of candidates to be elected plus one, and then one is added to that quotient. Any candidate achieving a quota is elected, and if they achieve surplus over the quota, then the value of those votes comprising the surplus are transferred on to continuing (unelected) candidates, but at a reduced value (called a transfer value). The transfer value derived from a surplus of first preference votes is calculated as the number of the candidate’s surplus votes divided by the total number of ballots with further preferences shown. Following the distribution of surplus votes from first preferences, progressive totals are reviewed and any candidates achieving a quota are elected. Again, then the surplus votes of elected candidates are transferred on to continuing (unelected) candidates in accordance with a transfer value. However the transfer value applied in such circumstances is represented by the number of the elected candidate’s surplus votes divided by the number of ballots received at the last transfer. Where no candidate receives a surplus and there remain positions to be filled, then the candidate with the lowest standing in the count is excluded and his/her ballots are distributed in accordance with the preferences shown thereon, to continuing candidates. The process of excluding candidates and/or distributing surplus votes continues until all positions are filled. (Also see Hare –Clarke & Proportional Representation).


A member of parliament whose appointed role is to preside over parliamentary debates, and to control and enforce the rules for debate.

Special Hospital(s)

In Australian federal elections, selected convalescent /nursing homes are designated as “Special Hospitals”. Specially equipped and trained Mobile polling teams are appointed to visit and take the votes of patients in the Special Hospitals, and in accordance with specified schedules. The schedules and the visits are undertaken on the advice of relevant medical authorities at the establishments. (Also see Declared Institutions, Electoral Visitors and Mobile Polling).

Spoilt Ballot

A ballot on which an elector/voter makes a mistake in marking (but not a decision on a change in candidate selection) and the ballot is returned to the Issuing Officer polling official so that an replacement, unmarked ballot can be provided to the voter. Spoilt ballot papers are placed in special purpose and identifiable envelopes and are not included in the ballot count of votes. They do however form part of the reconciliation of the use of ballot papers by the polling officials. Spoilt ballots should not be confused with “Discarded Ballots” which are those ballots found on the floor of polling booths (polling places) or in the rubbish receptacles within polling booths. (See also Discarded Ballots).

Strike Ballot

In an Australian context, a Ballot ordered under the provisions of Sections 135 or 136 of the (Commonwealth) Workplace Relations Act 1996.

Strike-out Method

A ballot making approach under the first past the post method, but where voters strike out the names of candidates for whom they do not wish to vote.


The component geographic entities that comprise an (Australian) federal Electoral Division.


The right of a person to vote in Elections.


In a proportional representation based voting system, the number of votes a candidate receives over the “quota”. Surplus votes are distributed to unelected continuing candidates according to the further preferences indicated thereon the relevant ballots. (Also see Single
Transferable Vote).


A poll conducted that registers voter, member, employee or general public opinion on various issues. Surveys may be conducted by paper-based, telephone or other electronic means. The results of surveys are tabulated and reported applying various statistical methodologies.


The percentage shift in vote required for a seat (constituency) to be won or lost, by an elected incumbent representative.

Swinging Voter

A voter who does not demonstrate a steady pattern of voting for the same political party or group.

T∧ Back to the top


The process of counting ballots.

Tally Room

Usually applicable in the context of larger scale parliamentary elections, the actual accommodation used where the votes cast in an election are centrally tabulated, posted and released to the media and the public.


The amount of “sitting time” for a parliament between scheduled normal elections.

Third Party Certification

The process by which an organisation might seek to have an election process audited by some independent person or body.

Transfer value

Under a proportional representation system, the particular value that a candidate’s surplus votes are distributed and allocated to continuing candidates. (Also see Hare Clarke, Proportional Representation and Single Transferable Vote).


Turnout represents the percentage of eligible electors/eligible members/employees who vote in a ballot or election. In non-compulsory elections for office, the turnout would normally be expected to be from 10% to 33%. In Certified Agreement/Enterprise Bargaining Ballots, turnout is usually 50% to 70%. In Australian (compulsory) federal elections, turnout is of the order 90% to 96%.

Two-Candidate Preferred Count

Please refer to Two Party Preferred Count below.

Two Party Preferred Count

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 Candidate Preferred Count” or “Notional Distribution of Preferences.” Government Electoral Commissioners determine the “major candidates”. (Also see Notional Distribution of Preferences).

U∧ Back to the top


Having only one legislative chamber.

Uncontested Election

The situation of having either an insufficient number, or just the requisite number, of eligible nominees nominating for the available number of vacant positions.

Upper House

The second house of parliament – in a bicameral parliament. The upper house is usually the Legislative Council in a State parliament, and the Senate (in the case of the Australian Commonwealth parliament).

V∧ Back to the top


The process of validating a person’s entitlement to have their vote admitted to the count. Also referred to as “preliminary scrutiny”. Validation 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 Preliminary Scrutiny and Scanning). Validation may be conducted by automated means or by means of electronic scanning.

Voluntary Voting

Under systems of voluntary voting, eligible electors/eligible members/employees have a choice as to whether or not they exercise the franchise – their right to vote. (Also see Compulsory Voting).


The formal process by which an eligible voter participates in a ballot/election/referendum by marking/selecting candidate(s), issues, or proposals, (as the case may be), but according to their free choice.


The persons who participate by voting in an ballot/election/referendum.

Voter Database

The list, electronic format, of persons deemed eligible to vote in a ballot/election/referendum. (Also see Roll/Roll of Voters).

Voter Roll

See Voter database above and Roll/Roll of Voters.

Voting Compartment/Voting Screen

These are a special cubicle in which eligible voters secretly cast votes in a ballot/election/referendum. Voting compartments are often manufactured of collapsible wood or cardboard construction to facilitate their transportation to/from polling booths/polling places. The number of screens provided in a poling booth will be a function of the anticipated turnout (the number of voters voting at the polling booth). In Australian elections, a fairly standard allocation is based upon approximately 150 voters per screen. Provision as to suitable voting facilities is also made in polling booths to ensure that the special needs of electors having a physical disability are also met.

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). 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 Voting Tickets (and through “how to vote cards”, the manner in which electors might mark their ballot(s).

(Also see Group Voting Ticket).

W∧ Back to the top

Westminster System

The British parliamentary system Australia’s parliamentary system has its basis in a Westminster system.


The formal, legal document authorising the conduct of an election. (Also see Return of the Writ).