How do I fill in my ballot paper?


We're going to break this page into two.

First, we'll give you a simple guide as to how to fill in the ballot papers. If that's all you came for, that's fine.

For those that are curious, in the second part we will explore why our ballot papers are so complex, and what happens to your vote once you put it in the box.



**Note: before you read this, please make sure you're registered to vote. There's nothing worse than showing up on election day and finding out you didn't register, and can't vote. Click here to make sure you're enrolled to vote.



There are two ballot papers: The small green one, and the big white one. We'll break them down separately.

First, some key points:

  • The ballot papers have the instructions on them, so you don't have to memorise this. It's just to help you be know what you will be faced with.

  • If you make a mistake, you can always ask for another ballot paper.

  • Technically, legally, you don't need to fill in the ballot papers. You can hand them in blank if you really want to.

  • If you draw an illustration, or write things on your ballot papers, and those drawings or writing enters the square boxes... there's a chance your vote could not count. So... be smart.


Ok. Let's go.


Proper title: House of Representatives Ballot Paper

Who am I voting for: A person to represent your electorate in the lower house (House of Representatives)

What does that actually mean: You’re picking someone who will represent you and your area in Canberra.

What does it look like:


How do I fill it in:

  • Put a '1' in the box next to your favourite candidate (or party).

  • Put a '2' in the next next to your second favourite.

  • Keep going until all the boxes are marked.

  • Alternatively, you can mark the candidate or party you like the least with the lowest possible number, and work your way up.

  • Make sure the numbers are clear.

  • You have to mark all the boxes for your vote to be valid.



Proper Title: Australian Senate Ballot Paper

Who am I voting for: 6 people to sit in the 'Senate' - the upper house of the Federal Parliament.

What does that actually mean: You’re voting for who you think should represent South Australia. Each state gets 12 seats each in the Senate (except NT and ACT). Every election, half of those seats are up for election.


How do I fill it in:

  • Same as above, in that you put a '1' next to your favourite candidate, a '2' for your second favourite, and so on.

  • If you vote 'above the line', you need to mark at least six boxes 1-6.

  • If you vote 'below the line', you need to mark at least twelve boxes 1-12.

  • However, with both, you are free to mark as many as you like.



Click the boxes below to be taken to a site where you can practice filling in a ballot. The site lets you check to make sure you've filled the ballot paper in correctly.

Congratulations, you are now ready to cast a valid vote!


Now, you can either finish there, or check out some videos that explain why we vote the way we do using monkeys and tigers.


A lot of countries vote 'first past the post' - where the person with the most votes in an electorate, state or country 'wins'. The UK and the USA are examples of this.

This video explains why 'first past the post' can be a terrible way to conduct elections:

Essentially, it mathematically leads to outcomes that are not ideal, and not representative.

Australia and South Australia's democratic process is slightly more modern. We use 'Alternative' or 'Preferential' voting in the lower house (the small green ballot paper). The creator of the above video explains why this system is better:

*Note, in this video, it says you only need to number one square. But in SA and Australia, you need to number every square.

In brief, it's a way of ensuring that the 'winners' are people that at least half the people in the electorate support.

But, that's not enough. The lower house voting still makes it very hard for smaller parties to win seats, meaning people who agree with their policies and ideas may not be represented in parliament.

That's why we have an upper house. The Legislative Council (the big white ballot paper) uses 'proportional' voting. Proportional voting is very complex and mathematical, but it aims to ensure that a party has the amount of seats proportional to it's support.

So, say a group of people wanted to make a fruit salad.

You ask everyone what should go in it.

10% say apples, 10% say banana, 20% say berries and 60% say Kiwi fruit.

Under preferential voting (the green ballot paper model), Kiwi fruit would be the winner, and everyone would eat only Kiwi fruit. While nutritious, it would mean many go without what they wanted.

Under proportional voting, the salad would be made with roughly 10% apple, 10% banana, 20% berries and 60% kiwi fruit.

So preferential voting makes it a bit easier for minority voices to have a say in the law making process.

Once the votes have been counted, and the results have been announced, the 'winners' will form the upper and lower house. For laws to be passed, the law must pass through both houses of parliament. So through both voting systems, it ensures in some way, shape or form, your views will be as best represented as possible when laws are being made.

In practicality, what this all means is that, it's important to think about who you give your '2' and '3' vote to, because it could impact the parliament and government we get after the election.

What do you think? Does the voting system make sense? Could it be better? How?