Counting councillor votes

Note: The description of how the following count is done is simplified and quite general.

The distribution of preferences in any Councillor election cannot commence until after 6.00pm on Monday following Election Day to ensure that all postal votes are included following the deadline for receipt of postal votes at 6.00pm on the Monday following Election Day.

To be elected a candidate generally must gain a quota of the formal votes. The quota cannot be worked out until the total number of formal first preference votes is known. Once the first preference count has taken place, the quota is calculated. The informal votes do not form part of the quota.

Quota = (total number of formal votes ÷ one more than the number of vacancies) + 1

For example, if there are 12,000 formal votes and 5 vacancies to be filled, the quota is:

12,000 formal votes ÷ 6 = 2,000 + 1 = 2001.

Therefore, in this example, a candidate needs at least 2001 votes to get elected.

The count is conducted by distributing votes according to the preferences shown on the ballot paper. When candidates reach a quota and are elected, their surplus or extra votes above the quota are distributed to the remaining candidates.

Candidates with the lowest number of votes are then excluded and their ballot papers are redistributed according to the next valid preference shown. This process continues until all the vacancies are filled.

Candidates can also be elected if the remaining number of candidates in the count equals the number of vacant positions still to be filled.

Animation: How votes are counted (Proportional Representation)

This animation is a general and simplified explanation of how votes are counted in a 'proportional representation' election.

While this animation was developed specifically to explain the counting process for the NSW Legislative Council at State Elections, it is also relevant as a general explanation of the counting process at Local Government elections where there are 2 or more councillors to be elected.

PRCC Data Entry System

The Proportional Representation Computer Count (PRCC) system is the software program in which ballot papers are data entered. This includes:

  • allocating ballot papers (in batches) to Data Entry Operators for round 1 and round 2 data entry;
  • Data Entry Operators undertaking round 1 and round 2 data entry;
  • undertaking reconciliation on those batches where round 1 and round 2 data entry do not match; and
  • distribution of preferences in the count to determine the elected Councillors

Certification

The NSW Electoral Commission's PRCC system for the 2017 Local Government elections was audited by independent experts. The certification confirms the NSWEC's system conforms with legislation.