Filling casual vacancies after a PR-STV election
Ensuring voters directly elect all the representatives:
The PRSA recommends that the important principle of direct election by the electors of all the representatives, as also specified in Sections 7 and 24 of the Australian Constitution for general and periodic elections, but unfortunately not for filling Senate casual vacancies, whose filling is determined by Section 15, aspects of which regressed in 1977, be maintained in the filling of casual vacancies by a prescribed re-examination of the ballots cast at the election at which the vacating representatives were elected.
It is necessary for this that either the ballot-papers (manual count) or the ballot files (computer count) be securely retained until the next general or periodic election. It is also recommended, if the inconvenience of finding that a candidate that would fill the vacancy does not wish to do so is to be avoided, that expressions of interest in filling the vacancy, and serving for the remainder of the vacating representative's term, be invited from all the candidates at the last election that were unelected and still remain eligible for election. The alternative to inviting that before the count would be to conduct a further count if the candidate indicated by the first recount declines to accept the position. The candidates that accept that invitation and meet those criteria are termed consenting candidates.
For a countback where a vacating candidate had a quota or more of first preference votes, very little time is needed, but more time is required where that is not the case, and the pattern of the vacating member's support is more fragmented. The alternative, which is a full recount approach, gives an extremely quick, impartial result that is, like countback, based entirely on the decisions recorded by the voters at the same poll as filled the seat that has been vacated.
An organizationís electoral rules can be altered to provide for such recounts by whichever method its Constitution prescribes, i.e. either a referendum of electors, a general meeting, or a resolution of the governing body. It is also desirable for the rules to include a default proviso that the governing body should fill the vacancy if a countback or total recount is not practicable for lack of consenting candidates, or other valid reason.
The two alternative approaches for conducting that re-examination that have been used are:
recommended by the PRSA is the countback
approach as prescribed for House of Assembly and
muncipal council elections in
Tasmania, any PR
municipal council elections in Victoria,
Legislative Assembly elections in the
Australian Capital Territory.
The reason for countback
being the alternative recommended by the PRSA is
its strict adherence to the principle that the
only votes that should determine who should fill
a casual vacancy are those votes that formed the
quota of votes that elected the vacating
candidate. The other quotas of votes are already
associated with elected, continuing
representatives. The residue of votes that is
less than a quota, and therefore did not elect
anybody at the original election, should not
contribute to the election of a replacement
representative any more than they should have
contributed to the election of those originally
That approach normally results in the election of a candidate of the same school of thought, or the same associates, as the vacating candidate presented to the electorate at the preceding general or periodic election, unless the voters have specifically voted otherwise. In a countback, only the quota of votes that elected the vacating representative is examined. This recommended method of filling casual vacancies best ensures that the voting balance on the representative body is maintained at the same position it was after the original election, and is not arbitrarily or unexpectedly disturbed. Where the re-examination shows a continuing candidate that gained, at that election, an absolute majority of the next available preference votes after the preferences of the vacating candidate at that election, that continuing candidate is declared elected to fill that vacancy.
If no candidate gains an
absolute majority then, the candidate with the
fewest next available preference votes is
declared to be excluded, and that candidate's
next available preference votes within the quota
of votes being re-examined are transferred to
the remaining continuing candidates. If a
continuing candidate then gains an absolute
majority of next available preference votes,
that candidate is declared to be elected, but if
no candidate does, the process of excluding the
continuing candidate with the lowest total of
next available preference votes and transferring
that candidate's votes continues, and is
repeated for successive continuing candidates
until one such candidate gains an absolute
majority of next available preference votes.
If a vacating member gained a quota or more of first preference votes at the election at which that person was elected, and if an organization used for the original election the economical computer-based service PRSAV-T Inc. offers, and it authorizes PRSAV-T Inc. to retain the computer files involved, until the next general or periodic election, PRSAV-T Inc. will conduct a countback to fill any first such casual vacancy during that time for no charge, as the computer program readily enables that to be done in those special circumstances. The result, with full details, can be provided by return email.