above the line voting

Above the line voting—sometimes referred to as group ticket voting—is a way of designing a ballot paper for proportional representation by STV so that voters can mark a single party box for their preferred party rather than rank all the candidates on the ballot paper (or a specified minimum number) in a preferred order. If the party box is marked—a so-called above the line vote because of the design of the ballot paper—all the candidates on the ballot paper are automatically ranked in the order preferred by the party grouping contesting the election. The party preferred order for ranking the candidates is set out by each party in a schedule which must be lodged with the relevant electoral commission before election day.

Voters who choose to ignore the 'above the line' box and rank individual candidates in the voter's preferred order, are said to vote 'below the line'.

Above the line voting was first introduced for Senate elections as one of the changes to Commonwealth electoral law which applied to the 1984 federal elections. It has since been adopted, sometimes with modifications, by all state legislative councils (upper houses) which use proportional representation by STV for electing their members (on some ballots, ‘above the line’ is to one side of the ballot paper).

Where above the line voting has been adopted, it has proved popular with voters but makes STV, as a candidate based system of proportional representation, work in much the same way as party list systems of proportional representation.

An electoral system which permits above the line voting can be seen as discriminating against Independent candidates because it denies supporters of individual candidates the opportunity to vote 'above the line' (see ungrouped candidates). Some candidates who would otherwise have run as Independent candidates for Senate or similar elections, get around this problem by forming a group with another candidate and register their name as a party grouping. When these groups meet any of the criteria to be a listed party in this database, they are listed in the appropriate election summaries; for example, ‘Brian Harradine Group’ (Senate elections 1984-2001, national and Tasmanian summaries), and ‘Pauline’s United Australia Party’ (Senate election 2007, Queensland summary). If such a party grouping does not meet the criteria for listing, its votes are included under ‘Independents’ in Senate election summaries, or ‘other than listed parties’, if the representation or total vote share for Independents falls below the threshold for listing in the relevant summary.

At the 2007 Senate election in South Australia, Nick Xenophon ran with another candidate as a party grouping without a name (Group S on the ballot paper) and campaigned as an Independent. He was elected to the Senate, but his votes are included in the 'Independents' total in both national and South Australian summaries of the Senate election in this database. A note for both summaries indicates the number of votes and vote share gained by Xenophon's group.