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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 11 - Voting and divisions

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Voting by voices

Every sitting day the Senate determines a very large number of questions, most of which are determined by votes on the voices, that is, votes which are taken by the President calling for the ayes and noes and declaring the result without a record of how each senator voted. Most questions are determined in this way because they are uncontested, but it is not unusual for contested questions to be so determined when senators know and accept the way in which the majority is voting.

Voting on the voices is usually not regarded as voting at all, and the term vote in common usage is confined to formal recorded votes, in which the vote of each senator is counted and recorded. Votes on the voices, however, are technically votes of the Senate.

After a question is put and the senators have called aye or no, the President declares whether the ayes or the noes are in the majority. Unless the President's determination is contested by the senators declared by the President to be in the minority, the determination of the President is recorded as the result of the vote. Only senators determined by the President to be in the minority may contest that determination and require a formal recorded vote, that is, a division, to be taken. This is done by senators in the minority calling "divide" after the President has determined the result of the vote.[8]

A division is held only if two or more senators call for the division, but if one senator calls for a division, that senator is entitled to have the senator's vote recorded in the Journals.[9] If it turns out that there is only one senator voting on one side in a division, the count is not completed and the President declares the result.[10]

As a matter of practice, senators in the minority may seek leave to have their votes recorded without proceeding to a division, and leave to do this has invariably been granted by the Senate. The request for votes to be recorded often relates to senators who are not present in the chamber; for example, the request is often in the form that all members of a party have their votes recorded.[11]


8. SO 84(5), 98(1), (2).
9. SO 100(1).
10. SO 102(2); 21/9/1906, J.147.
11. See statement by President Beahan, SD, 30/5/1995, pp. 524-5.