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Australia votes: What’s a donkey vote?

What’s the difference between a donkey vote and an informal vote?

The main reason that a voter’s ballot won’t be counted is because they’ve filled out the form improperly. Voters may vote informally because they’re apathetic, are only voting to avoid a fine, to protest, or simply because they don’t fully understand the voting process.

And we get it, it can be completely fucking insane.

Hello my name is Benjamin Law and I am here to tell you that the NSW Senate ballot paper—and by extension, Australian democracy—is delightfully fucking insane.

A photo posted by Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) on

Donkey votes

A Donkey vote is one where you just number candidates from top to bottom, or bottom to top. It is considered a donkey vote when it does not make sense for someone to vote this way.

What defines these votes as donkey votes is the confused preferences. But just because it doesn’t technically make sense to vote like this-
1 Labor
2 Liberal
3 Greens

– doesn’t mean that the vote won’t be counted. Which is so counterproductive.

FUN FACT: Political parties used to take advantage of the “top to bottom” approach of donkey voters, so they’d intentionally put forward candidates who’d rank well when listed alphabetically.


Donkey voting isn’t a protest, because it’s still preferential. You’re voting blind, but someone is still getting another vote added to their tally. Yep, donkey votes are still counted, even if the preferences are all over the place.

Essentially, it’s a waste of your time, and the polling official’s time too. Don’t be a dick about it.

An example of a random (donkey) vote:
2 Liberal
3 One Nation
4 Democrats
5 Greens

Informal votes

Informal votes are even dumber, and even. more. useless. The AEC defines a vote as ‘informal’ “if the ballot paper has not been completed properly. Informal ballot papers are not counted towards any candidate but are set aside.”

That means if you write your name on the ballot, write nothing, draw a dick or a fre$h hot slogan about your opinions without actually numbering the ballot, or even if you tick (instead of number) your intended candidate’s box, you’ve spoiled your vote. These votes can’t be counted because the intention behind them isn’t clear in any way. You might as well have walked in, set the ballot paper on fire, and dropped that into the ballot box. Please don’t do that though, that’s not at all what we’re encouraging.

But it’s true that your vote is valuable, and that Australians are lucky to have the opportunity to cast votes, so please make sure your ballot is valid.

About the author

Larissa is Techly’s Assistant Editor. She watches so much Youtube that she’s narrowed down her favourite categories – goats, innocent dads getting pranked, and toddlers falling over.

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Comment (4)


    Tuesday 5 July 2016

    so if these types of voting are so counter productive, then maybe they should stop making voting compulsory…I’m just saying…



    Tuesday 5 July 2016

    A picture on the ballot paper does NOT spoil it nor does it make it informal. It can only be declared informal if you can identify the elector OR there is no clear intention in your voting. So pictures, slogans and so on – provided they don’t obscure your vote preference, do not render a vote informal. It is myth.



    Tuesday 5 July 2016

    So is it still treated as an informal vote when you are instructed incorrectly by the AEC employees at the voting booth? Myself and a lot of others at the one polling booth were instructed to vote on the Senate white paper by placing a 1 above the line (or we could vote to a MAXIMUM of 6 above the line) or by numbering every single box below the line.

    When I spoke to one of the AEC officers supervising at the polling booth and asked her about these instructions, she initially thought that they were correct, despite being told that the instructions on the form were different and then I also should her the instructions on the AEC website. She decided that maybe she should go speak to one of the other supervisors and the she may have to call through to someone.



    Sunday 20 May 2018

    I would argue that donkey voting is much worse than informal voting. If you want to throw your vote away, that’s your right. But don’t give your preference to whoever drew the lucky spot on the ballot without thinking about it.