Australia is a representative democracy which means we elect people to make decisions on our behalf. Voting makes sure that the people who are elected are those that the majority of people prefer.

What to expect when voting for the first time

Voting looks different for everyone.

If you vote in person, you should expect to wait in line (not for too long!) to get your name marked off the electoral roll. When you get to the front of the line, you’ll be asked three questions:

  • your name
  • your address
  • if you have voted in this election before.

You must answer these questions honestly. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking, you can show your ID card to provide your name and address.

After getting your ballot papers, you’ll be directed to a voting screen where you can vote in private. If you make a mistake, take your ballot papers back to the election official and swap them for a new one.

Once you’ve filled in your ballot paper(s), be sure to place them into the relevant ballot box. You can then leave the voting centre - buy a democracy sausage on the way out!

Overview of elections

Voting options

Local election

The Minister for Local Government decides the method of voting for all councils. It can be a postal election or an attendance election. 

In a postal election ballot packs will be mailed to voters. You need to complete your ballot paper and post your vote back before a specific date.

In an attendance election you can vote at any voting centre in your council area on election day. You can also vote early at the election office in your council area.

State election

In a state election you can vote at any voting centre in Victoria on election day, or apply to vote by post.

You can also vote before election day at any early voting centre in Victoria, or at any of the early voting centres interstate or overseas. Visit the VEC website to find the most convenient early voting centre for you. Early voting generally opens approximately 2 weeks prior to the election Saturday.


Ask for help

On election day, election officials will be clearly identifiable and can help answer any questions you may have about the voting process.

If you need help voting you can also:

- Bring a family member or friend;
- Ask election staff to help you;
- Bring a written statement of how you want to vote.

No Fixed Address

Homeless does not mean voteless.

Anyone experiencing homelessness can still vote. 

You'll just need to enrol to vote using the ‘No Fixed Address’ form. This way you still get to exercise your right to vote and you won’t be fined for not voting.

You don't need any ID to enrol, you just need someone who's enrolled to vote in federal elections to say they know you.

Preferential voting

In Victoria, we use versions of the preferential voting system. In this system, you number the candidates on the ballot paper in the order of your preference. If your preferred candidate doesn’t get enough votes to win, your vote will count for your next preferred candidate.

How preferential votes are counted

Voting in the Lower House (Legislative Assembly)

Full preferential voting is used in Lower House and local council elections. For your vote to be considered a ‘formal’ vote and be counted, follow all the instructions on the ballot paper. You have to write the number 1 in the box for your most preferred candidate. Then you number all remaining boxes in the order you prefer. If you do not number every box, your vote will not be counted as it will be considered an ‘informal vote’. The VEC website preferential voting page has more information on how to avoid errors when filling out a ballot.



Voting in the Upper House (Legislative Council)

 The Upper House uses optional preferential voting.

  • In this process you have the choice of whether or not to fill in all the boxes on the ballot paper.
  • There will be a thick, black line across the page on ballot papers for the Upper House.
  • You can vote above the line or below the line but not both!

Always follow the instructions on the ballot paper so your vote is counted.

Upper House - Above the line voting

The boxes above the line (the area highlighted in yellow) are groups of candidates that have registered one or more group voting tickets. To vote above the line, write the number 1 in the box for the group you want to support. When you vote above the line, your preferences will be decided by the group voting ticket. A group voting ticket is a statement on how each party or group gives preferences to candidates. Every registered group voting ticket is made available on the VEC website before an election and is also on display in every voting centre.

Upper House - Below the line voting

The boxes below the line represent each candidate. To vote below the line write the number 1 in the box of your most preferred candidate. Next, fill in the least number of boxes required on the ballot paper in the order you prefer. In the example to the right, the instructions require the voter to number at least five boxes below the line. If you choose to vote below the line, you have more control over your preferences.

We've looked at our democracy and the voting system - now it's time for action! Let's look at how you can get involved in your community and civic life.

Next Module: 5: Taking Action