Bangers and ballots: everything you need to know about the NSW election

There’s a good chance Saturday’s poll will produce a hung parliament. Here’s how to make your vote count – and where to buy your democracy sausage

Almost 5.3 million people are enrolled to vote at more than 8,000 voting stations in Saturday’s state election. New South Wales has fixed terms, with elections held on the fourth Saturday in March every four years since 1995. About a quarter of voters cast their ballot before election day in 2015, and this is expected to rise in 2019. Almost 850,000 people had voted by Thursday morning.

What’s the most likely outcome based on the polling?

There have been four statewide polls this year. Two showed a 50-50 tie, while two others put Labor on 51% in two-party-preferred terms. Newspoll and ReachTel conducted their most recent polls on 10 March. All polls point towards a close result, with a good chance of a hung parliament.

There are currently seven crossbenchers in the Legislative Assembly (the lower house), with the potential for more to be elected on Saturday. This will make it harder for either side to win a majority.

Gladys Berejiklian with John Howard in Penrith
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (second from right) is joined by former prime minister John Howard on the campaign trail in Penrith. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

How many seats can the Coalition afford to lose?

The Coalition holds 52 lower house seats. It won 54 in 2015, but lost the seat of Orange at a 2016 byelection to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party and Wagga Wagga at a 2018 byelection to the independent Joe McGirr.

If the Coalition were to lose six seats, it would lose its majority. There are six Coalition seats held by margins of 3.2% or less.

How many seats does Labor need for a majority?

Labor holds 34 lower house seats, so needs 13 more to form government in its own right. If the swing was uniform in every seat, this would require a swing of 8.7%.

Michael Daley
NSW Labor leader Michael Daley in front of Allianz Stadium at Moore Park. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

So if the government loses six seats or more, and Labor gains fewer than 13, we will end up with a hung parliament.

If seats were to swing in a uniform manner, this would translate to a two-party-preferred vote for the Coalition of between 45.6% and 51.1%. But swings are rarely uniform, and the Coalition is in trouble in some seats it holds with bigger margins.

What are the betting markets saying?

The bookmakers are giving the Coalition an edge, but it’s close. Sportsbet has the Coalition on $1.78 and Labor on $2.05, while Tabcorp has the major parties on $1.67 and $2.15 respectively. The punters are relatively confident of a hung parliament, with Sportsbet giving odds of $1.27 for a hung parliament.

How will Michael Daley’s comments about Asian immigration affect the outcome?

The short answer is we don’t know.

The Labor leader is largely an unknown figure to NSW voters, which makes his public image more open to being shaped than a better-known politician. We don’t have the detailed research that would give us a better sense of how the key players in NSW politics are appealing to various communities, so it’s hard to say how this might shift.

There are a handful of multicultural marginal electorates in places like Seven Hills, Oatley and Holsworthy where Daley’s comments may be more harmful, but there are also a large number of marginal seats on the fringe of Sydney and in regional NSW which are much less multicultural.

Do I have to vote?

Yes, if you have lived in NSW for more than a month and are an Australian citizen over the age of 18.

What would a hung parliament look like?

There are two minor parties with realistic chances of winning seats in the lower house. The Greens hold three seats, with the chance of gaining a fourth. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers hold three seats, with the chance of gaining up to three neighbouring seats. But both could also lose seats.

Independents hold the seats of Sydney, Lake Macquarie and Wagga Wagga, while others are considered serious chances at this election in Dubbo, Wollondilly and Cabramatta.

The hung parliament would look very different depending on which, if any, of these candidates won, and on the relative balance of the major parties. A crossbench dominated by the Greens would have a very different dynamic to one dominated by the Shooters.

Labor is in a stronger position to work with either the Shooters or the Greens than the Coalition, but it seems very unlikely they would be able to form a government relying on both. If Labor is that far away from a majority it’s more likely the Coalition would stay in power.

Mark Latham
NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham is expected to pick up a seat in the Legislative Council. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Which minor parties are likely to win seats in the upper house?

There is a much wider range of possibilities in the Legislative Council, or upper house.

The Greens are likely to retain two of the three seats they won in 2011. A number of other parties competing for space on the centre-left have a chance of a seat, in particular Keep Sydney Open and Animal Justice (which won a seat in 2015).

On the right, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and Christian Democrats are each defending a seat. One Nation is running former Labor leader Mark Latham and is expected to pick up a seat. The Liberal Democrats leader, David Leyonhjelm, has resigned from the federal Senate to run for the upper house. It’s hard to see all four of these parties winning seats.

What we know for sure is the Liberal party will lose ground. It is defending 11 seats won in 2011, at the peak of its popularity. It will be lucky to hold nine. If the Coalition is re-elected, it will face a more difficult upper house.

How do preferences work in the upper house?

The Legislative Council consists of 42 members, who serve eight-year terms. Half are elected every four years, with the entire group representing the whole state.

The ballot paper is huge, with 346 candidates spread across 21 columns. You can largely ignore most of the candidates below the line: parties are required to run at least 15 candidates, but only one has a chance of winning in most cases.

You can choose to vote above the line or below the line. If you vote above the line, you are preferencing each party successively. You can simply vote 1 above the line, but your vote will have a greater chance of affecting the final result if you number more boxes. You should number the boxes of as many candidates as you would be willing to help get elected, and stop there.

If you vote below the line, you must number at least 15 boxes.

Do I have to number every box?

No. In the case of the lower house, it’s OK to just put a 1 in the box of your preferred candidate, but if you want your vote to help decide who wins (particularly if your candidate isn’t one of the more popular contenders) it’s better to number more boxes.

Do I need to take ID?

Most voters don’t need to provide ID to vote.

If you are voting outside your electorate, or your name doesn’t appear on the roll, or if it appears (possibly by mistake) that you have already voted, you may cast a “declaration vote”. You will need to provide a driver’s licence or photo card, and your eligibility can be checked after the fact before your vote is counted.

Gladys Berejiklian, Andrew Constance and Kevin Conolly
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, transport minister Andrew Constance and the member for Riverstone, Kevin Conolly, with the Liberal campaign bus in Sydney. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

You can enrol to vote or update your enrolment details at the polling booth, and you will be able to vote immediately. You will definitely need ID if you want to do this.

Can I buy a democracy sausage at the polling booth?

Probably! You can see if a community group has plans for a cake stall or barbecue at polling stations near you at

When are we likely to know the result?

Polls close at 6pm, and most votes will be counted on Saturday night. The vast majority of electorates will be decided on the night.

But there is an increasing number of electorates where it may not be clear which two candidates will make the final count. These races will take longer to count.

If neither side wins a majority it may take longer for the shape of the new government to become clear, as the major parties will have to negotiate with the crossbench to establish a working majority.


Ben Raue

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
NSW election: Labor fights to regain inner-Sydney strongholds
Josephine Tovey visits Sydney’s marginal inner city electorates where discontent runs deep over WestConnex and the stalled light rail project

Josephine Tovey

09, Mar, 2019 @7:00 PM

Article image
Independents Kerryn Phelps and Zali Steggall buoyed by NSW election results
High-profile federal candidates point to progressive swings in Sydney’s east and north shore as evidence climate change remains key issue

Anne Davies

24, Mar, 2019 @1:42 AM

Article image
One Nation-Shooters party feud sets up NSW election day showdown
Once there was talk of preference deals, now the rightwing parties are in a bitter fight for votes

Michael McGowan

20, Mar, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
Seats to watch: where the NSW election will be won or lost
Three-cornered contests, independents and minor parties make calling this election more challenging than usual

Anne Davies

22, Mar, 2019 @9:00 PM

Article image
Essential poll shows one in four NSW voters opting for minor parties
Latest poll shows Labor with slim lead ahead of 23 March election, but result is difficult to predict given drift away from major parties

Josephine Tovey

17, Feb, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
NSW election: Gladys Berejiklian confident Coalition will win a majority
Government clings to power despite big gains from minor parties and independents

Josephine Tovey

24, Mar, 2019 @7:59 AM

Article image
NSW election: Michael Daley stumbles over spending in final debate
Labor leader unsure on his party’s figures in debate with Gladys Berejiklian, two days before state poll

Naaman Zhou

20, Mar, 2019 @9:00 PM

Article image
Everything you need to know about the NSW election: when is it, how to vote and who will win?
Voting is underway across the state and polls favour Labor to win. But the 25 March election could also produce a hung parliament

Mostafa Rachwani and Abhranil Hazra

24, Mar, 2023 @11:55 PM

Article image
NSW election: slim rightwing majority in upper house is under threat, polls suggest
The Legislative Council, which is finely balanced between left and right, will be critical to the direction of the state in next four years

Ben Raue

23, Mar, 2023 @4:23 AM

Article image
State of emergency: healthcare a sore point in NSW election
An ageing population, rising GP costs and ailing regional hospitals are testing Australia’s most populous state. The Coalition and ALP are pledging more funding, but experts want ‘new solutions to old problems’

Anne Davies

14, Mar, 2019 @11:42 PM