2018 State Election count schedule and results process

Preliminary election results will be progressively updated live on the Electoral Commission SA website (ecsa.sa.gov.au) from 6pm on 17 March 2018 until the final results are declared.

The counting of votes begins at 6pm on polling day and continues after election night until every declaration vote is counted. This cannot be completed until Sunday 25 March, the day after the legislative deadline for the receipt of postal votes.

Counting the votes on Election night – 17 March 2018 

On election night, polling officials at every polling booth are required to complete three main tasks after polling ends:

  1. conduct a scrutiny and indicative count of first preferences on House of Assembly ballot papers
  2. conduct a two-candidate-preferred count of the House of Assembly ballot papers
  3. conduct a preliminary count of first preferences on Legislative Council ballot papers.

Only ordinary votes from polling booths are counted on election night. Ordinary votes are those votes that are cast at a polling booth within the electoral district where a voter is enrolled.

House of Assembly count on election night

After the final voter has finished voting and the polling booth doors have been closed, polling officials open and empty the House of Assembly ballot boxes. The ballot papers are unfolded and checked for formality (i.e. if the ballot paper has been correctly marked by the voter). Separate piles are then made for the number ‘1’ votes (first preferences) for each candidate. The piles are then counted and re-counted, as are the piles of informal ballot papers (i.e. ballot papers that have not been completed correctly).

The first preference votes are then recorded by the manager of the polling booth who checks this figure against the number of ballot papers issued to voters during polling.

Polling officials then proceed to conduct an indicative two-candidate-preferred count – a distribution of ballot papers to two selected candidates. These two candidates are those who the Electoral Commission expects to receive the most first preference votes across the electoral district based on a number of factors including historical voting patterns. The two-candidate-preferred count is necessary to give an early indication of who is most likely to win the seat, since this is not always obvious from first preferences alone. 

Polling officials set aside the ballot papers for the two selected candidates. The ballot papers for all the other candidates are examined to see which of the two selected candidates the voter has put ahead in their preferences. After allocating all of the ballot papers to one or other of the two selected candidates, the polling officials have an early indication of who is most likely to win the seat. This result, as well as the first preference results, are phoned through to the Returning Officer for the electoral district, who enters them into the Electoral Commission results system. This data appears on the ECSA website and is made available to the media immediately.

Legislative Council count on election night

Soon after the House of Assembly count gets underway, polling officials open and empty the Legislative Council ballot boxes. The ballot papers are unfolded and checked for formality. The ballot papers are then sorted into first preferences for each group above the line, each candidate below the line, as well as those ballot papers that are obviously informal (i.e. ballot papers that have not been completed correctly). Separate piles are made for each. The piles are then counted and re-counted, and the numbers recorded. These preliminary figures are phoned through to the Returning Officer for the electoral district, who enters them into the ECSA results system. This data is then made available to the media, as well as to the public through the ECSA website.

Counting the votes after election night

Sunday 18 March 2018

The indicative count of ordinary House of Assembly ballot papers carried out on election night is followed the next day by a careful recheck and recount which is conducted by each electoral district’s Returning Officer. 

All House of Assembly ballot papers which were assessed to be informal on election night are reassessed and some may be admitted to the count by the Returning Officer. Likewise, ballot papers considered formal on election night may now be reclassified as informal.

Once the recheck and recount are complete, revised polling booth figures are entered into the ECSA results system and the data is made public.

From Monday 19 March 2018

The counting of declaration votes – i.e. absent votes, postal votes and pre-poll votes – does not begin until the Monday after polling day once they have been returned to the Returning Officers and can be checked against the electoral roll to ensure that voters have not voted multiple times at the election. The process of counting these votes takes longer than the counting of ordinary votes.

The scrutiny of declaration votes is done in two stages:

  • the preliminary scrutiny of declaration envelopes containing absent, pre-poll or postal votes determines whether each person is entitled to a vote, and
  • the further scrutiny where the ballot papers admitted to the scrutiny are taken out of their envelopes and counted.

In the preliminary scrutiny, each declaration vote is assessed to ensure it meets certain requirements. The requirements are:

  • the declaration on the envelope has been properly completed and signed by the voter,
  • it has been appropriately witnessed, and
  • the voter is entitled to vote.

In addition, a postal vote must have been completed prior to the polls closing at 6pm on polling day.

ECSA is required to wait seven days after polling day to receive postal votes before it can finalise counting. This ensures that voters in remote areas and overseas are not disenfranchised.

Once a declaration vote is admitted to further scrutiny, the declaration envelope has its flap removed (containing the voter’s details) and is opened with a letter opening machine. The ballot papers are then extracted, scrutinised and counted in the same way as ordinary ballot papers. 

In a small number of cases, where the voter has incorrectly identified their House of Assembly electoral district, only the Legislative Council ballot paper is admitted to the count. In these cases, the flap remains on the envelope, which is opened by hand face down, and the Legislative Council ballot paper removed and processed as an ordinary ballot paper. The envelope is then resealed to secure the remaining, invalid House of Assembly ballot paper. 

Legislative Council scrutiny

The comprehensive check and count of Legislative Council ballot papers also commences on the Monday following polling day. The ballot papers from each electoral district – ordinary and declaration - are forwarded after a preliminary formality check and count to the Returning Officer Legislative Council for sorting and counting.  

From Wednesday 21 March, Legislative Council ballot papers with multiple preferences either above or below the line begin to be scanned into the computer count system and subsequently verified. Ballot papers with single preferences for candidates are batch entered for input on the computer count system. Once all formal declaration votes have been included , the computerised count system is used to calculate the quota, distribute preferences and determine the results over multiple counts. 

Declaration of results

Final results cannot be declared until all declaration votes have been received and counted. 

House of Assembly Returning Officers will conduct the declaration of the polls in the week commencing 26 March 2018. 

The final declaration of the Legislative Council will be advised by ECSA and is anticipated to be mid-April.

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