Optional Preferential Voting
The method of voting for the November 15 election is known as optional preferential.
To cast a formal vote, the elector must place the number ‘1’ in the square next to their first choice candidate. They have the ‘option’ to show further preferences by placing the number ‘2’ in the square next to their second choice candidate, the number ‘3’ next to their third choice and so on. They may number as many or as few squares as they wish.
To be elected in the optional preferential system, a candidate has to receive 50% + 1 of the total formal votes in the count. This is called an ‘absolute majority’.
For example – If there are 8,000 formal first preference votes in an election the absolute majority is calculated as: 8,000 ÷ 2 = 4,000 + 1 = 4,001
If a candidate has an absolute majority, that candidate is elected and no further counting is necessary.
If no candidate is elected, the candidate with the least number of votes is ‘excluded’ which means the excluded candidate’s votes are re-sorted to the other candidates according to the 2nd preference shown on each ballot paper.
However, if any of those ballot papers do not have 2nd preferences, those ballot papers are known as ‘exhausted’ ballot papers and are removed from the count. They are then only used to balance the number of votes at the end of each exclusion, to the number of first preference votes.
The process of exclusions is repeated until such time as a candidate has an absolute majority of the votes remaining in the count and that candidate is elected.
The absolute majority needed to be elected is recalculated after every candidate is excluded. This is due to exhausted ballot papers not continuing in the count.
The Electoral Commission has further information