Ballot papers: formality guidelines
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Determination of final formality
The Electoral Commissioner has approved the NSW Electoral Commission computer count system (PRCC) to determine the final formality of a ballot paper based on the markings on the ballot papers data entered into the system during the Check Count.
General formality rules
Ballot papers are read as a whole. Poorly formed numbers are interpreted in the context of other numbers on the ballot paper:
A poorly formed number must bear a reasonable resemblance to an identifiable number.
Unconventional but recognisable numbers such as a ‘continental’ number formats are acceptable.
Numbers written in English words are acceptable (i.e., ‘one’ is counted as ‘1’, ‘two’ is counted as ‘2’, ‘three’ is counted as ‘3’, etc).
Roman numerals are acceptable (i.e., ‘i’ is counted as ‘1’, ‘ii’ is counted as ’2’, ‘iii’ is counted as ‘3’, ‘iv’ is counted as ‘4’, etc). An ‘X’ is only considered a Roman numeral and counted as 10 when in a sequence of other Roman numerals.
A number or tick ‘✓’ or cross ‘X’ may be adjacent to but outside a square, or at the end of the candidate’s name, if, in the returning officer’s opinion (i.e., the Electoral Commissioner), the elector’s intention is clearly indicated.
A ballot paper is not informal by reason only that it has not been initialled by an election official if it bears the prescribed mark.
A ballot paper is not informal by reason only of it having any unnecessary mark or writing (e.g., drawings or comments) if, in the returning officer’s opinion, the elector’s intention is clearly indicated, or
In relation to any ballot paper written by hand, a ballot paper is not informal only because a candidate’s surname is included (provided no other candidate with the same surname is on the ballot paper) or because of any mistake in spelling, if the elector’s intention is clear.
A ballot paper is informal if it has a mark or writing that, in the returning officer’s opinion, would enable the elector to be identified and that elector’s name is found on the roll for the electoral area
Formality guidelines – single preference required
These guidelines apply to a ballot paper where only a single preference is required:
a Legislative Assembly ballot paper
the ‘above the line’ section of a Legislative Council ballot paper.
A ballot paper, or section of a ballot paper, from the above list is formal if:
it contains only one first preference ‘1’ but no ticks or crosses (it may contain other preferences)
it contains only one tick ‘✓’ and no other preferences recorded
it contains only one cross ‘X’ and no other preferences recorded
it contains only one first preference ‘1’ in a square and a cross 'X’ (or a line through) in two or more of the other squares and no other preferences
it contains only one tick ‘✓’ in a square, and a cross ‘X’ (or a line through) in two or more of the other squares and no other preferences.
A ballot paper, or section of a ballot paper, on which the elector has recorded a vote by placing in one square the number ’1’ is not informal by reason only that:
the elector has recorded the same preference (other than the first preference) on the ballot-paper for more than one candidate - the ballot-paper will be treated as if those preferences, and any subsequent preferences, had not been recorded; or
there is a break in the order of preferences recorded on the ballot-paper - the ballot-paper will be treated as if any preference after the break had not been recorded.
Single-preference formality examples
How votes are counted
How votes are counted
Not applicable – in each instance the ballot paper is informal
Voting instructions on electoral material
It is an offence to distribute electoral material (for example, how to vote material) instructing electors to mark their ballot paper using ticks or crosses.
Electoral material which contains voting instructions to the elector must clearly indicate the number of preferences required to be marked on the ballot paper, either above the line or below the line as applicable, to cast a formal vote.