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2023 NSW State election: Political participants bulletin No.1

Issued 30 August 2022

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1. Your feedback on proposed Legislative Council initial count process

We are seeking input from elected members and registered political parties on a proposed update to the Legislative Council initial count process at the 2023 NSW State election.

2. Why the Legislative Council initial count process has been under review

To manage the counting process at the 2019 State election safely, the Electoral Commissioner decided to limit sorting and counting of Legislative Council ballot papers to seven groups on election night.

Limiting the participants in this initial count avoided NSW Electoral Commission staff and candidate volunteers working excessive hours on election day, while also providing interested stakeholders with an early indication of results. The seven groups were chosen on the basis that each had previously held seats in the Legislative Council.

Some other groups raised concerns with the Electoral Commissioner, however, that their results were not being reported in the initial count on election night.

In its report on the administration of the 2019 NSW State election, the NSW Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) recommended that Legislative Assembly counts still be given priority on election night (Recommendation 26) and that the Legislative Council count not take place until those initial Legislative Assembly counts are complete (Recommendation 27). The JSCEM noted, however, its preference that an initial count of Legislative Council ballot papers happen on election night, if possible.

Following feedback received in relation to the initial count process in 2019, the Electoral Commissioner announced that the initial count process for the Legislative Council would be reviewed in consultation with political participants before the 2023 NSW State election. Three options have since been considered by the Electoral Commissioner for the 2023 initial count:

  1. not conducting an initial count of Legislative Council ballot papers on election night

  2. continuing with a limited initial count for a select number of groups (as happened in 2019); and

  3. conducting an initial count for each group of candidates who have a group voting square (GVS) until 10.30pm – this is the preferred option and is further described below.

3. Preferred process: group voting square votes counted to 10:30pm

Under the preferred option 3, ballot papers would be sorted according to the first preference vote for each group of candidates for the Legislative Council who have a GVS above the line. The ballot papers would then be counted and a report of this initial count published on the NSW Electoral Commission website on the election night.

This is the same process as the initial count of Senate ballot papers at a federal election and for the NSW State election in 2015. The Electoral Commissioner considers option 3 is most likely to achieve the right balance between the public interest in having a transparent and accurate initial count process on election night, and meeting the work health and safety obligations that must apply in relation to all count centres.

On the election night, the ballot papers would be sorted into the following categories for the initial count:

Sorting and counting category

Sorting rules

Each group with a GVS

Ballot papers marked above the line only with a:

  • single 1

  • single ✓

  • single X

  • 1 and other preferences


No marks on the ballot paper

Others (including informal)

Ballot papers marked:

  • below the line only

  • both above and below the line

  • obvious informal ballot papers

4. Any initial count not completed by 10:30pm will continue from Monday

To ensure staff and candidate volunteers’ work health and safety, counting would cease on the election night by 10:30pm. Factors that may contribute to the process not being completed by that time include:

  • the number of voters attending a particular voting centre being higher than projected

  • the capability and capacity of voting centre staff at a particular centre

  • unexpected logistical issues at a particular centre.

Initial counts of Legislative Council ballot papers not completed by 10:30pm on the election night would continue from the Monday following the election day.

5. Feedback on the proposed process by 23 September 2022

Please provide any comments on the proposed process to the Counting and Results team at candidates@elections.nsw.gov.au by 23 September 2022. The Electoral Commissioner intends to make a final decision on this matter before 30 September 2022 and will inform all election participants about the outcome of the consultation process.