A state general election is held in NSW on the fourth Saturday in March every four years. Only if the Governor dissolves the Parliament can a state general election be held earlier.

The last state general election was held on Saturday 23 March 2019.

Caretaker conventions apply in the period immediately before a state general election.

State elections

State elections are conducted by the NSW Electoral Commissioner.

The rules for the election of members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council are contained in the Constitution Act 1902 (Constitution Act) and the Electoral Act 2017 (Electoral Act).

The NSW Electoral Commission is empowered under the Electoral Act to investigate and enforce election offences in relation to state government elections.

It is compulsory to vote in an election if you are on the electoral roll. Each elector votes for one candidate to represent their electoral district in the Legislative Assembly, and for all the candidates they wish to represent the state in the Legislative Council.

Parliament of NSW

Legislative Assembly

In the Legislative Assembly one member represents a single electoral district for a term of four years.

There are currently 93 electoral districts in New South Wales, with the boundaries drawn in such a way as to ensure that approximately the same number of voters is present in each. To keep in line with changes in population, the boundaries of electoral districts are changed from time to time according to processes outlined in the Constitution Act and the Electoral Act.

Legislative Council 

Legislative Council members represent the state as a whole rather than particular electoral districts, and are elected for a term of eight years.

There are 42 members in the Legislative Council, with 21 elected at each election.

Calling a state election

A state election is held following the issue of the Writs by the Governor (or the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the case of a state by-election), which direct the NSW Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election according to the procedure set down in the Electoral Act.

The Governor issues Writs on the advice of the government.

Writs for a general election of members of the Legislative Assembly must be issued within four days after the proclamation dissolving the Assembly has been published in the Government Gazette. Alternatively, they must be issued within four days of the date of the expiration of the Assembly, that is, on the completion of the four year term.

The Writ for a periodic Legislative Council election cannot be issued until after the issue of the Writs for the Legislative Assembly. Both elections must be on the same day.

The Writs contain the date:

  • by which nominations must be made
  • of the election
  • by which the Writs must be returned.

The Electoral Commissioner is required to give public notice of the information contained in the Writs.

Following the election the Writs must be returned to the Governor within 60 days after their date of issue, unless directed to be later, by the Governor by a notice in the Government Gazette.

The Electoral Commissioner is required to certify on the Writs, the name of the elected candidate for each Legislative Assembly district, and the names of the elected candidates for the Legislative Council.

The issue and return of the Writs represent the official beginning and end of the election.

The caretaker period

The caretaker period runs from the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly until the election result is clear (if the current government is returned) or the new Premier is commissioned to form government (if there is a change of government).  For the 2019 election the caretaker period was on and from 1 March 2019.

During the caretaker period, the routine business of government should continue.  However, the general rule is that no significant new decisions, appointments or contractual commitments should be made.

Caretaker conventions

A Premier’s Memorandum is issued prior to each state general election, providing information in relation to the caretaker conventions. For more information about the latest Premier's Memorandum, see: Further information in this topic.