Federal Election 2022: The big mistake that means your vote won't count

As Australians head to the polls for the Federal Election today, a number of votes that were cast in good faith may be deemed informal and chucked out.

To help you make sure your vote today counts, Yahoo News Australia has put together a list of errors voters make when filling out the ballot papers.

The most common mistake that voters make is not following the preference system correctly, or not numbering all the boxes in order of your preference.

In some electorates, as many as one in every eight ballots was disregarded in the 2019 election. According to the AEC, NSW electorates of Blaxland and Fowler had more than 13 per cent of votes thrown out – the highest in the nation.

In total 5.5 per cent of votes were deemed informal, deliberate or otherwise.

In some electorates, nearly one in eight votes were chucked out in 2019. Source: Getty
In some electorates, nearly one in eight votes were chucked out in 2019. Source: Getty

The preference system

With the House of Representatives ballot paper, your vote only counts or is considered ‘formal’ if you number all boxes available, starting with the number ‘1’.

You also can’t skip or repeat a number in the series.

If you make a mistake and scribble out a number, you can rewrite it but it must be clearly legible in the box or next to the box. Otherwise the ballot paper will be considered informal.

You can also ask one of the staff at the polling booth for a new ballot paper if you make a mistake.

Ballot papers
Ensure that you follow the guidelines for voting today or your vote could be considered informal. Source: Getty.

Above or below the line

For the Senate, voters can choose to vote ‘above or below the line’

For an above the line vote, you must consecutively number at least six boxes above the black line, in the order of your preference, starting with number ‘1’.

For a below the line vote, you must consecutively number at least 12 boxes alongside individual candidates in order of your preference.

However, ‘vote saving’ provisions mean ballot papers marked above the line with a number one only (or a sequence of numbers less than six) will still be included in the count.

The same provision applies for below the line votes with at least six consecutive preferences starting with the number ‘1’.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) guidelines for voting state that other forms of numbering, such as Roman numerals, are also acceptable as long as they follow the correct sequence.

Other reasons for a vote being considered informal include crossing out candidate names and writing in others, unless the box next to the name written in is left blank or allocated the last preference.

'Tell everyone': Warnings about voting disinformation on social media

Independent candidate Zoe Daniel, challenging for the Victorian seat of Goldstein, warned earlier this week for people not to fall for claims on social media about just labelling one box.

"In a new low, ‘people’ on social media are spreading the lie that it’s only necessary to mark me number 1 for the vote to be valid. This is orchestrated DISINFORMATION designed to cause informal voting. Tell your young people, tell everyone. NUMBER EVERY BOX," she tweeted.

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