Why do NSW elections have two ballot papers? Because we have two Houses of Parliament of course!
Our Parliament is bicameral. Which means?
Bicameral parliaments have two Houses. In New South Wales we have a bicameral Parliament, which means we have two Houses: The Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. In contrast, neighbouring parliaments like Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, have one house, and are called unicameral.
Why do we need two Houses?
The rationale for bicameralism is to avoid the concentration of power in a single body. Distributing the power across two legislative bodies means laws can be considered by two Houses who represent the community in different ways.
In the Legislative Assembly, members are elected to represent specific areas of the state, known as an electorates.
The Legislative Council is different. Members of the Council are elected by the people of the whole state, and the proportion of votes received translates to the number of seats in the chamber.
Both Houses are different, and so are the ballot papers used to elect their members.
The Legislative Assembly uses optional preferential voting. When the votes are counted for the Legislative Assembly, they use a system called preferential voting. The voter places the number “1” in the square next to the name of the candidate who is the voter’s first choice. No other vote is necessary but in NSW the voter has the option of allocating as many preferences as there are members on the ballot paper. The preferences are placed in the squares next to the candidates.
Sample Legislative Assembly ballot paper supplied by NSW Electoral Commission
Members of the Legislative Council (the Upper House) are elected through an optional preferential proportional representation voting system. Parties or individuals are elected according to the proportion of the total vote they receive.
On the Legislative Council ballot paper, you have two ways to vote – above or below the line.
- Vote above the line: The voter has the choice of group voting (usually for a particular party). This is done above the line. The voter places the number “1” in one of the squares to indicate the political party selected as the first choice. Independents are also listed above the line. The political party candidates are shown below the line in the order which the party has selected them.
- Alternatively, voters can choose to vote for more than one group above the line. You may record the number “1” in the square next to the name of the group of their first choice. Then vote “2” for your second preference and so forth for as many choices as you wish to make.
- Vote below the line: The voter has the choice of individual voting (for individual candidates) by placing the numbers “1” to “15” in the squares opposite the names of fifteen candidates in order of preference. The voter can add more candidates ensuring consecutive numbers are used in the squares opposite candidates’ names.
Sample Legislative Council ballot paper supplied by NSW Electoral Commission