Understanding Preferences

Preferential Voting is vital to our democracy.

Preferential voting enables smaller “start-up” parties to get a foot-hold into the political system and then grow into a party that can get its candidates elected to a seat in parliament and then they have a voice and influence the parliament and government.


Would you like to understand how preferences work?

Definition – Preferential Voting

In both federal and state elections Australia uses the preferential system of voting in elections for the House of Representatives. This means that voters are required to number the candidates on the ballot paper in order of preference. It is not acceptable to vote using ticks and crosses.

To win, a candidate needs to secure an absolute majority, or 50% plus one, of valid votes cast. If a candidate does not secure an absolute majority of primary, or first preference votes, then the candidate with the least number of primary votes is eliminated and his/her votes reallocated in accordance with their second preferences.

This process continues until a candidate has secured 50% plus one of the total votes. Hence, a winning candidate’s majority may be comprised of primary and preference votes. The system ensures that the candidate who is most preferred or least disliked will win.

  • The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of Australia’s Commonwealth Parliament, and known as the “Lower House” (the Senate is the Upper House). There are 150 representatives elected by the Australian people. The House of Representatives is the house in which government is formed.

    The House of Representatives has a number of important functions:  it determines the government, debates and passes laws, watches over government administration and expenditure, and provides a forum for public debate on issues of national importance.

Why preferences are important to the ACP?

As the vote for the two major parties in elections has declined in recent years, preferences have become more important. It is now common for minor parties, like the ACP, and independent members to determine election outcomes via their preferences. This gives the smaller parties negotiating powers – to get things done.

For example, at the 1998 Federal election, 99 of the 148 electorates in the House of Representatives required the distribution of preferences. In 7 of these seats the candidate who led on primary votes lost after the distribution of preferences – so not only is your vote 1 critical to the success of the ACP, but so too are our negotiations with other political parties to agree preference swaps.

ACP Preference Strategy

The ACP is committed to transparency in all of its preferencing arrangements and endorsements for selected contests or non-grouped candidates. These are negotiated and established specifically for each federal and state election. See below for details.

Federal and State Election Preferences

We have committed to being open about our preference arrangements. Your “How To Vote Card” will reflect the ACP preference arrangements and will be posted at least 8 weeks prior to the next Federal Election, sometime between July 2016 and 14 January 2017.

Please go to the How To Vote page when it is election time and you need to vote. You have the option to exercise your right to control your own preferences. We encourage you to understand and manage your preferences in the Lower House (or Representatives).