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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 11 - Voting and divisions

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Provision is made in the procedures of the Senate for decisions to be taken by secret ballot. The standing orders require that secret ballots be used if there are two or more candidates in elections for President and Deputy President and Chair of Committees,[44] and if more than the required number of senators are nominated for a committee; a ballot is used for the latter purpose if one senator so requires.[45] By order of the Senate ballots may be used to determine other matters.

The rules applying to ballots generally provide that, after the bells have been rung as for a division, each senator is issued with a ballot paper and writes on the paper the names of the senators for whom the vote is cast. The senators having the greatest number of votes are declared to be elected, and if two or more senators have equal numbers of votes the President determines by lot which senator is chosen.[46]

These rules are clearly directed to a situation in which a number of senators must be selected and there are more than the required number of candidates. The situation contemplated is the appointment of senators to a committee. The rules do not provide for an exhaustive ballot, as would be appropriate for the selection of a senator for one position, and as is provided for the election of the President and the Deputy President and Chair of Committees. Nor do the rules provide for any form of preferential and proportional voting. It is open to the Senate to prescribe such procedures in any order for a special ballot.[47]

Debate may occur before a ballot is held.[48]

The use of ballots, other than for the election of the President and the Deputy President and Chair of Committees when there are two or more candidates, is now relatively rare. Ballots are occasionally used to determine contested positions on committees.

44. SO 7, 10.
45. SO 27(1).
46. SO 163; for a ballot held again pursuant to order (and which produced a different outcome) see 17/3/2010, J.3345, 3367.
47. For a precedent of a special exhaustive ballot, on the site of Canberra, see 6/11/1908, J.74.
48. Ruling of President Givens, SD, 1/3/1923, pp. 43-4; 24/3/1992, J.2099-2100.