National Tally Room, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

National Archive of Australia/AAP. Election night 5 March 1983.


Is an election night tally board a scoreboard? Certainly!

As the Australian Electoral Commission said so eleoquently in its 2013-2014 annual report:

It was the backdrop for some of the most important events in Australian political history but in 2013 technology finally caught up with the National Tally Room.

The National Tally Room was a uniquely Australian institution, born in the mid-20th century, when state and national electoral authorities began using telephones to capture election results in a central location.

By the late 1960s, the National Tally Room in Canberra was where the public, the media and candidates of all political hues gathered to hear official federal election results as they were phoned in from across the country. A central feature was the wooden tally board – two storeys high – displaying results for each electoral division. Is a tally board a scoreboard? Certainly!

Image via
Image via

It was the introduction of computerised election results in 1974 that marked the first, albeit tiny, step in a long path that ultimately led to the tally room’s demise. As technology became more sophisticated, media still gathered in the tally room on election night, but they now relied on the AEC’s computer system for results rather than the tally board. Finally the advent of the Internet allowed the AEC to provide results directly to anyone with a computer and a web connection, regardless of their location.

Though it was no longer relevant to collating and relaying results, for some time the tally room continued to serve as a focal point for media coverage of federal elections. In 2013, however, all major media outlets announced they would not be attending the tally room on election night. With no media presence, the AEC could no longer justify the $1.2 million staging costs and announced that the National Tally Room would be retired.

The 2010 election (Abbott v Gillard) was the final use of the the Tally Board. Image via

In recognition of the role played by the National Tally Room, the AEC donated the historic tally board to the Museum of Australian Democracy so that future generations will be able appreciate a little of the colour and flavour of what was once an iconic institution in Australia’s electoral history.

Image via Museum of Australian Democracy.

Source: Farewell to the National Tally Room

See also: the Museum of Australian Democracy article, The Last Post…

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