REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF
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The Growth and Success
there was plurality
counting with more than one
vacancy per electoral
district, plumping (not voting for all
vacancies), allowed, in a haphazard
way, some minority voice, as it still
does in some electorates of the
world's oldest continuously operating
legislative assembly, the House
of Keys on the Isle of
was, however, often arbitrarily
prohibited in Australian electoral
systems, and it was not allowed at pre-1919
Senate elections. Hoag
and Hallett's classic 1926
In Australia, STV-PR is sometimes termed quota-preferential proportional representation, to distinguish it from Australia's use of STV with majority-preferential counting, in both single-member districts, and also multi-member districts as unfortunately used for the Senate from 1919-46, and for a few years after the Liberal Party Government of Victoria revived it in the early 1990s for municipal elections until it was abolished there in 2003.
was the PRSGB&I
that was the first society in the
world to promote the earliest
forms of the quota-preferential
(Single Transferable Vote) system
of proportional representation
election of individual
candidates, which does not take place
under the inferior proportional
systems known as party list systems,
which have become the predominant
electoral systems for lower houses in
continental Europe. The first two
words in its title changed to 'Electoral
Reform' in 1958. It
published its history 'The Best
in 1984. Its distinguished presidents
have included the fourth and the fifth
Earls Grey (see its 1922 Council),
and in the 1980s the Hon. Dr Garret
FitzGerald while Prime Minister of
president was, until his death in
October 2004, Professor
the Earl Russell, a
great-grandson of the former Whig
Prime Minister, Lord John Russell,
set the foundation
for representation of
public in the House of Commons
and, by example, in other parliaments
in the then British Empire. The
shameful conduct of
The UK Parliament had more multi-member constituencies than single-member ones as late as 1880 (London was a four-member constituency). The number of multi-member constituencies was greatly reduced in 1885. Some were university constituencies, for which proportional representation applied from 1918. Multi-member constituencies were discontinued in 1945. A crude modicum of proportionality was achievable in the large number of non-university constituencies, in which PR never applied, by voters plumping; by not voting for two candidates, but only one. Winston Churchill (not a convert to PR) first became an MP in 1900 in Oldham, one of the 23 two-member constituencies then. See the distribution of district magnitudes in various years below:
Proportional Representation Society of
Great Britain and Ireland (later the Electoral Reform Society)
and its members influenced the
founding of Australian proportional
representation societies and helped
them by sending its Secretary,
John Humphreys, to Tasmania during
World War I where his
to a Select Committee of Tasmania's
Parliament helped defeat a proposed
change from the Hare-Clark system
to a party list system, and also led
to Tasmania's Electoral
Amendment Act 1917 (7 Geo. V No.
65), whose Section 7
- the filling of casual vacancies in
the House of Assembly by the Electoral
Office by re-examination of the
ballot-papers that formed the vacating
member's quota. It ensures that all
MPs are directly elected.
1948 the assistance
of the Proportional Representation
Society of Great Britain and Ireland
was acknowledged by
UK's ERS and STV Action work for, as does the
PRSA, quota-preferential PR, which
they call the Single
Transferable Vote. STV now
applies in Northern
Ireland for its Assembly
and for elections to the European
Parliament, although sadly, despite
opposition in the House of Lords,
elections in the rest of the United
Kingdom to the European Parliament
are by a closed
party list system.
In the mid-1980s, the
United Kingdom - Local Government: From the first establishment of local government in England, when William the Conqueror granted a charter to the City of London in 1075, until the passage of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, which introduced widespread election by ratepayers, English municipal councils were not elected by the citizens, but were self-perpetuating oligarchies with vacancies filled by the council itself. Quota-preferential PR is still not used for local government elections in England and Wales, but is now used in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
the sections below, see the table
here that lists instigators of
electoral advances and setbacks in
the first female candidate at a
public election in the then British
Empire when she
stood unsuccessfully at the 1897 election (under the
multiple vote) for the 1897Australasian
Federal Convention. A paper
by Dr Dean Jaensch describes
SA's parliamentary electoral history
is a statue
in Light Square in Adelaide, unveiled
on 10th March 1986 by Her Majesty the
Queen, that commemorates Miss
Spence. The PRSA later
launched its reprint of her booklet
there. She is remembered by her Autobiography,
and was depicted on the Australian $5 banknote
issued for the Centenary of
Federation, in 2001. Another
influential member of the Effective
Voting League was its Honorary
Jeanne Forster Young O.B.E,
who stood as an independent candidate
at the 1937
winning 6.5% of the first preference
vote, but that gave her no hope of
election under the since-discredited multiple
system then in force.
Australia - Local
Catherine Spence recorded, in
Chapter III of her Autobiography, her
witnessing, by an
early form of PR in 1840, Adelaide
City Council's first election,
as her father was the Town Clerk. It
was the world's
first public election conducted
by PR, and
PRSA's SA Branch successfully helped
persuade the Olsen
Liberal Government, when it
enacted the Local
Government (Elections) Act
1999, to make quota-preferential
the only electoral system to be used
in elections for local government in
South Australia, by discontinuing
fortunately appears to have never
been used for public elections
outside South Australia.
Regrettably, municipalities can
still be divided into single-councillor
wards, as in
arrangements in New
South Wales, there is
unfortunately no prohibition of
different wards in a given
municipality having different
numbers of councillors. Stalemate
wards, which have an even
number of councillors
per ward, are permitted. As in
Casual vacancies are filled by-election polls (not countback). The same unweighted inclusive Gregory transfer method used for transferring votes, by averaging, as is used in Senate scrutinies, applies. With partial optional preferential voting applying, voters must mark, for a valid vote, as many preferences as there are vacancies - it is optional after that number. General elections are held every four years, with polls being conducted by postal ballot.
For South Australian municipal elections:
elections are general elections,
postal ballot in November
every four years after the first
such election in 2006.
· There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to many councils’ unfortunately lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.
· There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils can unfortunately have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, as 6 councils had in 2010. In those wards, the quota-preferential PR counting system prescribed for all SA council elections reduces to a bare majority-preferential winner-take-all system.
· Partial optional preferential voting applies, so a valid ballot-paper needs as many marked preferences as there are vacancies.
· Casual vacancies are unfortunately filled by a winner-take-all by-election poll, rather than by the fairer countback system.
· Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates names being set by lot, with direct election free of Group Voting Tickets.
· Under Section 51 of the Local Government Act 1999, nearly all councils with a Mayor elect him or her at a separate, but concurrent popular election, but unfortunately without Tasmania's requirement for the separately-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors, thus diminishing overall proportionality because of the increase in all councillors' quotas, and depriving electors of the chance to elect a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate as a councillor, as mayoral candidates cannot, as they can in Tasmania, stand for both concurrent elections. For councils with a Chairperson rather than a Mayor, the Chairperson is a councillor elected by all councillors.
· Under Section 86 of the Local Government Act 1999, the Mayor, or a councillor substituting for the Mayor as the presiding officer at meetings of a council, has a casting vote only and, where the presiding officer is termed a Chairperson rather than a Mayor, the Chairperson, or a councillor substituting for the Chairperson, has a deliberative vote only. In both cases, tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are lost, and are not overridden by that officer's being able to undemocratically have a second, or casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote, which would be contrary to the Westminster parliamentary usage, and to common law. SA's position on that reduces democratic concerns - which arise in jurisdictions where an additional casting vote is prescribed - about having councils with an even number of members.
unfortunate deficiencies mentioned
in the above arrangements result in
having 33 different
and idiosyncratic electoral
combinations, leading to unnecessary
inequities and injustice. South
Regulations 2010 do not,
unlike Victoria's practice, require
the inclusion with ballot
papers posted to electors
statements of recommended preference
voting orders supplied by each
candidate. Accordingly, it does not
experience the proliferation of 'dummy
candidates' that Victoria's
practice has engendered.
TASMANIA - PARLIAMENT: Tasmania's Attorney-General in the 1890s, Hon. Andrew Inglis Clark, who sat on the four-member committee of the 1891 National Australasian Convention (see P. 588 of debates)  that, on the Queensland Government Paddle Steamer, S.S. Lucinda, cruising on the Hawkesbury River, NSW, drafted a Bill to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia, which was adopted by that Convention. He spoke about proportional representation (PR) then. He did not stand for election to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention, but a Tasmanian Delegate, Matthew Clarke MHA, spoke there in support of the Hare system, which Tasmania's Hare-Clark electoral system is based on.
legislation for PR elections, with
Hare-Clark's Single Transferable
Vote, for part of Tasmania's
House of Assembly in
1896. Under the Electoral
Act 1907 (7 Edw. VII No.
Hare-Clark, improved by
election by countback
in 1918, for the filling of casual
vacancies, after the evidence given by
John Humphreys in successfully
opposing a retrograde Labor Party
proposal to replace Hare-Clark with a
list system, (see
"UNITED KINGDOM" section above),
is Australia's longest-established
electoral system. The first result of
Hare-Clark impressed the Maltese-born Sir Gerald (later Lord) Strickland while he was the Governor of Tasmania from 1904-09, so that when he became Prime Minister of Malta from 1927-32 he had a prior acquaintance with its successful operation in Tasmania, and could continue to support its already well-established use for the election of Malta's MPs.
Recognizing that Number of Vacancies to Fill Should be an Odd Number: In 1958, a Tasmanian political scientist, Dr George Howatt, wrote his classic PR paper "Democratic Representation under the Hare-Clark System - The Need for Seven-Member Electorates", which the Government tabled in the House of Assembly in support of its Bill that succeeded in correcting the flaw in the original Hare-Clark system of having an even number of seats per electorate, rather than an uneven number, to ensure a majority outcome in any electorate where a party gained a majority vote, by changing the number of MHAs per electorate from the original number, six, to the recommended uneven number, seven.
Regimentation of Voters:
1979 report, similarly tabled, "Voting
- By Party Direction or Free
another PR classic. Fortunately,
Optional Preferential Voting:
Unlike the Senate
system, where full (or
almost full) marking of
preferences has been required, since
1934, for a ballot to be formal,
Tasmania's Hare-Clark system has never
required voters to mark more
preferences than the number of
vacancies and, as Dame
Enid Lyons pointed out
in the 1948 debates on PR for the
Senate, that has not resulted in a
high or unacceptable incidence
of exhausted votes. The
minimum number of consecutive
preferences, beginning with a unique
first preference, had been three
before Section 18 of the Electoral
Act 1973 increased it to
seven, which was the number of
vacancies to be filled by then, but
the number was reduced to five by
Section 21 of the Parliamentary
Reform Act 1998. The Group
Voting Ticket device was imposed
for Senate polls ostensibly to reduce
the incidence of informal ballots, but
a much more reasonable way to reduce
it would be to adopt partial optional
preferential voting, as
Tasmania has avoided adopting the Group Voting Tickets that are now used for elections to the Senate, and the SA, NSW, and WA Legislative Councils. That system has managed to persuade a large majority of voters for those houses to take the relatively easy course of abandoning individual consideration of the relative merits of a party's candidates, and instead accepting the preference order for their party's candidates, and all other candidates, decided by their party, which is generally not made very evident to voters, and register an above-the-line vote.
A key part of Tasmania's Electoral
Act 2004, Robson
Rotation, is specified
in Sections 97
3. It requires
ballot-papers to be printed in different
batches, of equal size,
so that candidates' names have an
equal incidence of appearance in
prescribed positions down the columns.
Applying also to polls in all
municipal elections, and the
House electorates, it disarms
organized 'tickets', and neutralizes
the unintended effects of 'donkey
voting'. A former
Tasmanian MHA, the late Hon.
Neil Robson AM, who was
Honorary Life Member,
was its initiator
in by means of his successful private
member's bill, which resulted in the Electoral
Amendment Act 1979. The
1992 Tasmanian book "Hare-Clark in
Prior to the 1976 Assembly election, the order of candidates' surnames in party columns on the ballot-paper was alphabetical. Tasmania's high incidence of election, and re-election, of MPs with surnames like Abbott, Adams, Agnew, Amos, Anderson, Batt etc. had started to remind some Tasmanians of the ALP's notorious four A's ploy in the 1937 Senate election in NSW, which led to the Menzies Government retaliating, in 1940, by introducing the present listing of Senate candidates' names by mutual consent (effectively by party decision). Tasmania's first change from an alphabetical list of candidates' names in the party columns was fortunately not to adopt that party machine concession, but instead the Electoral Act 1973 made the order set by lot, but that was in force for the 1976 and 1979 elections only, as circumstances happily resulted in the adoption of Robson Rotation in 1979.
Unlike the mainland States, where electors in State lower house elections had only one candidate from each party to choose from, the existence of multi-member electorates, with casual vacancies filled by countback since 1918, meant that parties normally stood more candidates than the number of seats they expected to win, thus giving Tasmania's voters a wide choice of candidates within each party. How-to-vote cards that list a party's candidates in a particular recommended order were not used in Tasmanian Assembly elections, and attempts to introduce them were nullified by the introduction of Robson Rotation.
Entrenchment by Referendum
Act 1934 does not
prescribe a method for counting votes,
or require a referendum or special
majority to alter it, or the electoral
system; or even to abolish either
House, except for alterations
to the term of the House of
Assembly. Hare-Clark, although very
popular, could be abolished by
number of members in each house of the
Parliament has varied over the years.
The number of members in each of the
five House of Assembly electoral
districts was increased from six to
seven following the 1958 Howatt Report
Report reviewed that increase
and considered that it had been
appropriate. The Morling Board of
Inquiry in 1994
agreed with that view, but in 1998
an ALP private member's bill was
passed that reduced the size of the
Legislative Council from 19 to 15, and
the size of the House of Assembly from
35 to 25, which increased the quota
for election as an MHA from 12.5% to
16.7%. PRSA and many Tasmanians
opposed that reduction
in size, which has come to be
seen as a mistake, as is evidenced by
a 2012 House of Assembly resolution
that supported a return to a 35-member
Tasmania - Local Government: The Groom Liberal Government's Local Government Act 1993 introduced Hare-Clark proportional representation (Section 299 invokes Part 3 of Schedule 7) for all Tasmanian municipalities (PR had previously applied just to Hobart City Council), with Section 25 invoking Schedule 3, which specifies the number of councillors in each of Tasmania's 29 municipalities, and the number of subdivisions in each municipality if there are to be any (Schedule 3 has to date shown no municipalities as being subdivided, but its details may be varied by the Governor on the Minister's recommendation), and with vacancies filled (Section 307), Assembly-style, by countback, for all municipal polls. The Act provided that councillors' terms be for four years, with the term of as near to practicable half the councillors ending every two years. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission website commendably shows the complete and detailed results of municipal elections and countbacks since 1994, when Hare-Clark first applied to all elections of municipal councillors.
For Tasmanian State and municipal polls, partial optional preferential voting applies. As a result of requests from MHAs that had been municipal councillors, ballot-papers for election of councillors have, since 2002, been required to be printed using Robson Rotation by Section 288(2) of the Act, which refers to a prescribed order, and that appears in Schedule 1 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2005.
For Tasmanian municipal elections:
· All councillors are regularly elected, by quota-preferential proportional representation, for four-year terms at general elections, by postal ballot, with the total number of councillors in some municipalities at the 2014 elections being reduced, and with no wards in any municipality - as governed by Schedule 3 above, which is alterable by vice-regal proclamation. Ballot material posted to electors does not include photographs of candidates, nor does it follow the practice - peculiar to Victoria - of including statements by the candidates of their recommended preference voting order, so the proliferation of 'dummy candidates' that occurs in Victoria is not a problem in Tasmania. The printing of ballot papers using Robson Rotation also ensures that voters do not easily copy slavishly onto ballot papers such voting orders.
· Partial optional preferential voting applies, so a valid ballot-paper needs only as many marked preferences as there are
· Casual vacancies are filled by the very fair and direct countback system.
· Robson Rotation applies for ballot-papers, which fortunately forestalls "donkey votes" and organized "how-to-vote"
· The presiding officer at meetings of Tasmania's 29 councils or their committees has a deliberative vote only, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are lost, and are not overridden by that officer's being able to undemocratically have, contrary to the Westminster parliamentary usage, and to common law, a second, or casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote. Tasmania's position on that reduces democratic concerns about having councils with an even number of members.
· In all Tasmanian municipalities, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected separately for a four-year term, at each quadrennial general election of councillors, by direct, popular election, but there is an important requirement - unfortunately not yet found elsewhere in Australia for other elections of the Mayor or Deputy Mayor by popular vote - for the separately-elected Mayor and Deputy to also stand and succeed at the concurrent election of councillors. A report in April 2000 by Tasmania's Local Government Board provides a good analysis of Tasmanians' views on the method of election of Mayors and Deputy Mayors.
A 2011 election for a Deputy Mayor, who might have thought he would be continuing as Deputy Mayor unopposed, shows how that provision properly denies election to candidates for such offices if they do not also win a Council seat - as he failed to do - in competition with all other candidates for Council, and can rightly transfer the power to the Council as a whole to fill such offices from among the councillors, all of whom must have been first elected councillors as such by the electors. Candidates for those offices cannot stand for both offices concurrently.
That superior approach gives maximum flexibility and choice to both candidates and voters. It fully maintains overall proportionality. It gives electors the chance to elect, as a councillor, a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor or Deputy ahead of a less preferred candidate standing for a councillor's position only. If a candidate at an election for Mayor or Deputy fails to win a quota in the concurrent election of councillors, each voter's vote for that candidate at the election for Mayor or Deputy is transferred to the voter's next preference. If necessary, the election of Mayor or Deputy reverts to the Council.
VICTORIA - PARLIAMENT: As named on an
early letterhead, the
Proportional Representation League
of Victoria's Secretary, from the
late 1800s, was Edward
University of Melbourne's
Mathematics Professor from 1875 to
1922. Also named is the
league's President, Sir James Barrett, who was
Vice-chancellor of the
University of Melbourne from
1931-34 and Chancellor from
convinced the University of
Melbourne to adopt
for polls for its Senate, of
which he was a member.
proportional representation was
used for that body, later renamed
of Convocation, until it
in 2011 by an Alumni
Clause 3(d) of Regulation
requires its elected members to be
elected using the crude and unfair
in 1943, was the Proportional
Representation Society of Victoria, which
for PR for Senate elections. The
PRSV became the PRSA's Victorian
Branch in 1981, and was renamed
Society of Australia
(Victoria-Tasmania) in 2000, and
incorporated as Proportional
Representation Society of
PRSAV-T Inc. has successfully helped promote proportional representation for elections for Victoria's Legislative Council, Victoria's municipal councils, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Diocesan Council of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, the ALP Victorian Branch and other bodies. It has had less involvement in Tasmania because Tasmania's longstanding use of PR for its Lower House has led to widespread understanding of its value there, and most of Australia's PR advances have been instigated there. See details here of some of PRSAV-T Inc's present and former members, and here for some AGM Guest Speakers.
Years of Winner-take-all
Periodic Upper House Polls Ended
count for that first general
election used a multiple,
elections being the
filling of single vacancies by a
first-past-the-post (plurality) method
until that was changed to a
preferential method in 1921.
for Hare-Clark in
Victoria's Constitutional Commission: The PRSAV-T made a submission to the Constitution Commission of Victoria set up to report on the Bill. In 2001 the PRSAV-T brought Hon. Neil Robson, a former Tasmanian minister administering Tasmania's Electoral Act, and also the instigator of Tasmania's excellent Robson Rotation system, to Melbourne for a meeting the three Commissioners agreed to have with him, and for a public meeting. Section 11 of the Commission's Report foreshadowed future benefit in instituting Robson Rotation for Legislative Council elections and also for dispensing with above-the-line voting. In 2002 the Bracks ALP Government constructively transferred legislative detail on its electoral systems from the obscurely-named The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958 to the new Electoral Act 2002.
of PR for the Legislative Council:
Proclamation of the Royal Assent to
(Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003,
which enabled alteration of Victoria's
Act 1975 and its
Act 2002 to
proportional representation elections
for the Legislative Council, appeared
Government Gazette S57 of 8th
Section 36 of the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, operated to insert, on that day, a Section 93A into the Electoral Act 2002, which reversed the retrograde trend mentioned above, and to cause Victoria's rule on below-the-line voting to differ markedly from the Senate below-the-line rule, by deeming a ballot-paper to be valid provided that the number of preferences indicated is at least equal to the number of candidates to be elected. Likewise, Section 42 of that Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, on that day, operated to insert Schedules 1A and 1B into the Electoral Act 2002, which provides for the new form of ballot-paper and introduces, in its Section 74(3B)(b), a novel aspect to the Legislative Council ballot-papers that was specifically recommended by the Constitution Commission above, viz. the printing - to the right of each candidate's name on the ballot-paper - after the name of that candidate's party (if any), the name of the suburb or locality at which that candidate is enrolled.
· the insertion of a Section 114A into Victoria's Electoral Act 2002, which provided for quota-preferential proportional representation counting for Legislative Council polls,
· changes to Section 27 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 to provide for 8 electoral regions each electing 5 MLCs, and
· changes to Section 28 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 to provide for the dissolution of the Legislative Council at the same time as the Legislative Assembly.
importantly, changes to Section
18 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975
entrenched the above Sections 27
(in Subdivision 1 of
Division 5 of Part II of that Act)
by requiring any alteration to them,
or other sections in that Subdivision,
or to Section 18
itself, to be approved by a referendum
before they can take effect. This was
the first time a requirement for a
referendum appeared in
PRSAV-T wrote to all MLAs and MLCs
Rotation, and the
omission of the unfortunate Group
provision, but those aspects did not
form part of the Act. The Minister
that introduced the Act into the Upper
House, the Hon.
John Lenders MLC, had
met a deputation from the PRSAV-T to
discuss those aspects, and the Upper
House Opposition Leader acknowledged
the PRSAV-T's advocacy to him in his
speech (Hansard Page 437)
in the House. The first Legislative
Council casual vacancy, that of Evan
Thornley, who had been directly
elected by a quota of votes in
Victoria's Southern Metropolitan
Region, was filled in 2009 by a Joint
Sitting of Victoria's
Parliament, using the undemocratic party
appointment method, by a person
nominated by the Australian Labor
Other PRSAV-T Inc. Work: Evidence of PRSA permission to incorporate the Rules for conducting elections by the quota-preferential method from the Society's PR Manual in Schedule 1 of the Health Services (Community Health Centre Elections ) Regulations 2001 appeared as Endnote 1 to those regulations, until those PRSA rules were superseded by a reference to the proportional representation rules in Victoria's Local Government Act 1989.
The PRSAV-T Inc. provides a vote-counting service for organizations, which particularly assists those that conduct proportional representation polls.
Unfortunately, owing to Coalition amendment in the Legislative Council, the ALP's PR option was omitted, so where a municipality used the general election model, with all three seats in each ward being filled as a group, they were filled by the winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential method that had previously been used only by certain municipalities that had chosen not to be divided into wards. That method had been discredited and superseded for Senate elections in 1948 by quota-preferential proportional representation. That method used to apply in some municipal elections in both New South Wales and the Northern Territory, but it has not applied in either of those places since 2012.
Victorian Liberal MPs have been slower to support PR than their counterparts in other States and the ACT, but in 1995 the Kennett Liberal Government amended the Local Government Act 1989 to prescribe quota-preferential PR election at large for 5 of the 9 seats on Melbourne City Council, which were filled in 1996. PR in the City of
The PRSAV-T wrote to all of Victoria's Councils in August 2003 advocating Hare-Clark features for the PR system that is now mandatory for all multi-vacancy polls, in place of the previous winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential method. By the Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act 2003, whose relevant sections came into effect on 10 December 2003, the Bracks Labor Government amended the Local Government Act 1989 resulting in its Section 42. That section invokes Schedule 3, Clause 11B of which provides - for any poll where more than one councillor is to be elected for a ward or electorate - that quota-preferential proportional representation shall apply, thus fortunately discontinuing that previous multiple majority-preferential method (identical to the 1919-46 Senate system), which had lingered until its last use at the March 2003 municipal elections, for the 21 municipalities then still encumbered with it.
See the example of the 2000 Strathbogie Shire elections in the last year in which that now discredited multiple majority-preferential method was used there, where the candidate with the second highest number of first preference votes was not one of the five candidates elected, but where the candidate with the fewest first preference votes - who would have lost his deposit for failing to obtain at least 4% of first preference votes had he not been elected - was the last candidate elected from the nine standing. By the 2003 elections, Strathbogie Shire had been reconfigured to consist of seven single-councillor wards, but by the 2005 elections two of those wards had been joined to form a sole two-councillor ward, which gave some local indication of the benefits of PR. At the electoral representation review of Strathbogie Shire in 2011, the former Deputy Premier and Nationals leader when the now-abolished former system had been left as the only alternative to a single-councillor ward system made a submission advocating proportional representation in a single undivided electoral district for the Shire, and criticizing the single-councillor ward system.
Countback provisions arise from Section 37A of the Local Government Act 1989, which invokes Schedule 3A, under which countback is to be used to fill casual vacancies following PR polls. Unlike the Tasmanian Electoral Commission website, that for the Victorian Electoral Commission regrettably failed to give more than first preference and final total votes for general elections until the 2012 polls, but since PRSAV-T Inc. asked for the July 2011countback for Melbourne City Council to be detailed on its website, the VEC remedied that oversight and now gives hyperlinks to both its general election and its countback distribution reports.
Single-councillor wards, which can only give winner-take-all results, had not applied in any Australian jurisdiction, except Queensland, until the Kennett Government introduced them for Victoria. Their use in a given municipality is now decided by ad hoc and rather opaque periodic Representation Reviews conducted under Sections 219A-219G of the Local Government Act 1989, which require formal ratification by the Minister for Local Government before they can take effect, but a system like the NSW Constitutional Referendum would be much sounder. The Act regrettably is so loose that its provision for the structure of councils does not require elementary conditions:
The PRSAV-T Inc. has made submissions to most of those reviews. Of
A PRSAV-T submission, concerned about the 'dummy candidates' problem peculiar to Victorian municipal elections since postal voting was introduced late last century, supported a draft of what are now Victoria's Local Government (Electoral) Regulations 2005 which - had it been adopted - would have discontinued the circulation, with postal ballot-papers, of indications of candidates' preferences. Unfortunately, that circulation was not discontinued, so a distinctive weakness of Victorian municipal electoral arrangements, which are the provisions in Section 37 and Section 39 of the continuing form of those regulations, that Returning Officers rely upon for their practice of circulating to electors in postal ballots voting preference orders lodged by candidates, remains. It is this practice that seems to have created Victoria's 'dummy candidate' problem. That circulation, at public expense, encourages in Victoria's municipal elections a confusing proliferation of 'dummy candidates', who are people nominated at the behest of more serious candidates, simply to appeal superficially, on account of certain characteristics, such as their appearance or particular hobby horses, to different relatively small groups of uninformed voters, with the intention that they collect a low enough vote to be excluded reasonably early in the count, with the result that their ballots are then transferred to the intended principal beneficiaries, who are those listed later in the preference order that they have lodged, and that has been circulated to voters with their ballot-papers. Recommendation 26 of the 2014 report of the Local Government Electoral Review Panel is that the circulation by Returning Officers of preference orders lodged by candidates should be discontinued.
Victoria's 'dummy candidates' problem became the subject of press reports in the March 2003 municipal polls when nearly all municipalities' postal ballots were still for single-councillor wards, as the then alternative multiple majority-preferential system for multi-councillor wards was confined to a minority of municipalities, before proportional representation became Victoria's standard system for multi-councillor electoral districts in December 2003, leading to most municipalities using proportional representation by the 2008 elections.
The use of 'dummy candidates' is far less effective in PR polls as, in those polls, ballot papers are first transferred for surpluses of elected candidates, who are usually the highest-polling candidates, whereas if only a single position is being filled, all transfers are from the lowest-polling candidates, who are more likely to be 'dummy candidates'.
For the City of Melbourne, the City of Melbourne Act 2001 regrettably provides for popular, but indirect, election of the Lord Mayor and of the Deputy Lord Mayor, and segregates candidates for that election from those standing for the remaining Council positions, which are filled with the undesirable Group Voting Ticket system. See the PRSAV-T Inc. submission to a 2007 Elections Process Forum.
The use by Victoria in the 19th Century, and up till 1920, of multiple plurality counting for municipal elections is illustrated by an 1888 report of the results of an election for the Moorabbin Shire, as is its use 124 years later, of quota-preferential proportional representation for the 2012 elections for Bayside City Council, which is a municipality within the area of that former shire, where many of the old councillors' names are commemorated by street names.
For Victorian municipalities other than Melbourne:
· All regular elections are general elections, on the fourth Saturday in October in every leap year, with nearly all municipalities using postal ballots, except for a small number that have chosen to use attendance voting.
· There is no requirement for all wards in a particular municipality to have the same number of councillors, so unfortunately election quotas can differ for different wards. Section 5B(1) of the Local Government Act 1989 fixes the number of councillors in a council in Australia's narrowest range, from 5 to 12.
· There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to many councils lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.
· There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils can unfortunately have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, as 29 of Victoria's 79 councils (37%) had in 2008.
· Unlike any other Australian State's municipal elections, an unnecessary, and often onerous, full marking of all preferences is required for a ballot-paper to be valid. The absence of optional preferential voting, or partial optional preferntial voting, encourages the problem, peculiar to Victoria, of the nomination of many "dummy candidates" in single-councillor wards, and leaves the percentage of informal votes higher than it need be. The notorious proliferation of "dummy candidates" is also greatly facilitated by Victoria's unique practice of inclusion of candidates' recommended preference orders with the ballot-paper posted to voters for each candidate that submits such a list. The combination of these two features, which is unique to Victoria, creates an arrangement where some serious candidates procure "dummy candidates", who are not seriously trying to be elected, to appeal to a certain section of the electorate that would not normally vote for the serious candidate in question, but could be expected to vote for the "dummy", and be likely, as many voters are, to slavishly follow the "dummy's" recommended order of preferences. The result of the exercise is that the "dummy" is excluded early in the count, thus giving his or her procurer votes transferred at that exclusion. Once the practice begins, the pressure to be elected convinces most serious candidates that they, too, need to procure a "dummy", even though they would rather not. The recommended preference orders circulated with the ballot papers have something of the same corrupting effect as the Group Voting Ticket device imposed for Senate elections.
· Casual vacancies are filled by countback, except for single-councillor wards, or where there are no continuing candidates, in which by-election polls are held. PRSA's Victoria-Tasmania Branch strongly opposed Recommendation 54 of the 2014 Local Government Review Panel as it recommended a change to a process inferior to countback.
· Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling donkey votes or organized how-to-vote cards. Instead, the order of candidates' names is set by lot, together with - except for the City of Melbourne - direct election free of Group Voting Tickets.
· The Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected by the Council, except for the City of Melbourne and the City of Greater Geelong. In the City of Melbourne, they are popularly elected, but indirectly as a team, but that Melbourne arrangement unfortunately lacks Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor and Deputy to not only be popularly elected by separate concurrent ballots, but to also succeed at the election of councillors if they are not to be excluded in the counts of the elections for Mayor and Deputy, which are, in the Tasmanian system, undertaken after the count for the election of councillors has been concluded. That important democratic provision avoids diminishing overall proportionality in the election of all those that will ultimately sit on the Council, and depriving electors of the chance to elect as a councillor a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor or Deputy ahead of a less preferred candidate that is standing for a councillor position only. Candidates for Melbourne's Lord Mayor and Deputy cannot, as in Tasmania, stand for the concurrent election for councillors. In the City of Greater Geelong, the Mayor is directly elected by the voters, but cannot, as in Tasmania, stand for the concurrent election for councillors; and an elected councillor is elected as Deputy Mayor by the Council.
· Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of Victorian councils or their committees has, by statute, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors, as well as distorting the representation of voters.
· Deficiencies in the above arrangements result in a miscellaneous collection of electoral combinations with little overall rationale, where 50 of Victoria's 79 municipalities in 2008 used PR in multi-councillor electoral districts exclusively, with only 37 of those avoiding districts with an even number of councillors to be elected, but 14 other municipalities used a mixture of multi-councillor and single-councillor districts, and 15 others used exclusively single-councillor districts, leading to unnecessary institutionalized electoral inequities and injustice.
repealed the proportional
in its first term (1925-27), but
lost the ensuing 1927
election, which was held on the
system of single-member electoral
districts with fully optional
preferential voting that it had
introduced in Section 8(10) of a 1926
of that particular proportional
representation system included its
failure to make satisfactory
provision, such as countback,
for filling casual vacancies, and
the difference in the quota for the
5-member urban dstricts and the
larger quota fro the 3-member rural
A requirement that all
preferences be marked for a valid
vote was first introduced by a
non-Labor Coalition by Section 28 of
Act. That took effect for the
Assembly elections, and remained
until Labor re-introduced fully
optional preferential voting for the
Legislative Council of NSW elected by PR: The first NSW Legislative Council had all of its members appointed by the Governor-in-Council. It became part of a bicameral NSW Parliament, from 1856 to 1933. In 1861, George Holden MLC, supported by Sir John Darvall MLC, introduced a bill to have its members elected by proportional representation, which was passed by the Legislative Council, but lapsed after the Legislative Assembly rejected it. The Legislative Council was reconstituted, by a 1933 referendum, to be indirectly elected by an electoral college of MPs, whereby the third of that Council's seats that became vacant at each Assembly election were elected by PR by an electoral college of all MLAs and the continuing MLCs. The Heffron ALP Government's attempt to abolish the Legislative Council, and prohibit its restoration, was defeated at a 1961 referendum.
PRSA's NSW Branch influenced the Wran
Government away from 
list system of PR
towards the present direct
election by a quota-preferential
system (albeit marred
by the imposition of a Group
device) when that
Government introduced a Bill for direct
popular voting for the
Legislative Council, which was
approved at a 1978
referendum. The NSW Parliamentary
Elections and Electorates Act
in the NSW Legislative Council
Exploitation of the weaknesses of the
Group Voting Tickets device referred
to above reached such a level at the
1999 election that an enormous 720 x
1010 mm 'tablecloth'
was used for the State-wide electoral
district. Retrograde changes to
supposedly overcome those weaknesses,
including the imposition of a 'threshold'
of the type being proposed for Senate
elections by a NSW Liberal senator,
were proposed by the then NSW
Treasurer, but fortunately neither of
his ill-considered proposals went any
further. Legislative changes made
another 'tablecloth' ballot-paper less
likely at the 2003
voting: Here, 'Group
Voting Squares', which only relate to
the candidates of the party lodging
them. replaced Group Voting Tickets.
They let voters mark preferences in
to enable transfers to take effect
of 129EA of the Act, in a
similar unsatisfactory manner as was
proposed in a bill
unsuccessfully introduced by former
Tasmanian Senator, Bob Brown, and
later by others, such as Senator Nick
transfer still uses random
selection of ballots: The
electoral system for NSW Legislative
Council elections still uses, under
Clause 10(f) of Schedule
6 of the Constitution Act
1902, the random transfer of
ballots to transfer surplus votes,
rather than a Weighted
Inclusive Gregory Transfer
system. That random transfer also
persists for NSW Local
Government elections, but was
Senate elections in 1983.
Work: Since 1984, the
Branch has assisted in the
incorporation of quota-preferential PR
(the Single Transferable Vote) in Schedule
2 to the Constitution of the
University of Sydney Students'
As a result of the Branch's advice a
PRSA(NSW) Vice-Presidents, Andrew Gunter and Edwin Haber, were 2 of the 20 candidates elected for NSW at a national postal ballot, to Australia's 1998 Constitutional Convention. Entrenching proportional representation in the Australian Constitution was raised by Ted Mack (Page 44 on 1998-02-02) and by Edwin Haber (Pages 252-254 on 1998-02-04 and Pages 368-369 on 1998-02-05) at that forum, but without success.
New South Wales - Local Government: In 1928 the Council of the then City of Armidale in north-eastern NSW became the first municipal council in NSW to be elected by quota-preferential proportional representation as a result of a local referendum to adopt it. What is now the PRSA's NSW Branch helped NSW to become the first State in Australia to have PR as its predominant electoral system for local government, which the Cahill ALP Government began in 1953. In 1968, the Askin Liberal Government had reverted to a "winner-take-all" system for all councils, but the PR option was restored by the Wran ALP Government in 1976.
PR is one of the two electoral systems in Section 285 of the Local Government Act 1993. The detail of the PR used appears in Schedule 5 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2009, which shows that the transfer of surpluses still takes place by the primitive random sampling method that was discontinued for Senate elections in 1983. Quota-preferential PR used to apply only where more than 2 councillors are to be elected from an electoral district but, since April 2012, an amendment by the O'Farrell Liberal Government has extended it to all cases except single-councillor wards. The official term for the alternative system is "optional preferential", but that is a confusing term, as the other option of quota-preferential PR is also an optional preferential system. That system, where only one, and formerly two, councillors are to be elected from a ward or district, is a preferential winner-take-all system.
In 2008, 139 councils used PR, compared with only 13 councils using the then available multiple majority-preferential winner-take-all system for any polls they had, as they had wards with fewer than 3 councillors. When 2 councillors were to be elected in a ward, that system - which is the same system that the Chifley ALP Government, with the support of the Opposition led by Robert Menzies, discontinued for Senate elections in favour of the present quota-preferential PR system in 1948 - usually results in both vacancies being filled by the same bare majority of voters, even where the second candidate elected gains a much lower first preference vote than the strongest-polling unelected candidate. For more details, see the third dot point below.
The systems, neither of which uses Robson Rotation, appear in NSW Local Government (General) Regulation 2005, Schedule 4 [majority-preferential winner-take-all] and Schedule 5 [quota-preferential PR]. The first of those systems is termed "optional preferential" in the regulation, which is confusing, because the PR option is also an "optional preferential" voting system. The PR option unfortunately does not fill casual vacancies by countback. It is good that partial optional preferential voting applies, but NSW regressed when it introduced Group Voting Tickets into local government in
A flexible and reasonably democratic feature in NSW is the requirement for a council to hold a municipal Constitutional Referendum, under Sections 15, 16 and 17 of the Act, to enable certain aspects of a municipality, such as the number of councillors or wards, and hence the electoral system, to be changed, but the electors have no ability to initiate such a referendum, so a council that is one of the few councils to have a winner-take-all rather than a PR electoral system is unlikely to move for a change to its status. If electors wish to initiate a change, they have to elect a majority of councillors supporting such a change, which is possible if there is enough support for a change. View the worksheet here that shows the details and results of the Constitutional Referendums held in 16 municipalities in 2008.
For New South Wales municipal elections:
· All regular elections are general elections, on the second Saturday in October in every leap year. Attendance voting is the standard procedure, but electors may apply for a postal ballot instead.
· Section 210 of the Local Government Act 1993 requires that for all wards in a given municipality divided into wards the number of electors per ward must not differ by more than 10 per cent, so for a given municipality all wards must have the same number of councillors. Fortunately election quotas are thus essentially equal for all its councillors. Section 224 of the Act fixes the number of councillors in a council in a range from 5 to 15.
· All but 13 of the 152 municipalities in NSW had 3 or more councillors per electoral district for the 2008 polls, in which case PR elections applied, but those remaining thirteen municipalities each had provision for only two councillors per district - in which case the multiple majority-preferential winner-take-all electoral system, which could easily result in one-party, group, or school of thought gaining all, or nearly all, of the available seats - applied, examples being Wollongong Council, where corruption led to the councillors being replaced by administrators, and Botany Bay Council, whose Mayor and all six other councillors belonged to the same political party in 2008, the Australian Labor Party, which had all seven councillors elected unopposed. As at 2012, six of Botany Bay Council's seven councillors had first been elected 15 or more years ago, with the Mayor having been first elected 31 years ago. Botany Bay Council's exclusionary winner-take-all regime has been defensively protected by the Council's changing from its previous two-councillor ward system, which would, since April 2012, be counted by PR, to a single-councillor ward system. In 2008, only 8 of the 138 PR councils in NSW that held elections (just 6%) had some unopposed elections, whereas eight of the eleven non-PR councils that held elections (73%) had some unopposed elections. Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils will hold elections again in 2012, but they will use proportional representation instead of the previous winner-take-all system, as will all councils, except those such as Botany Bay Council, which expediently reconfigured its electoral arrangements ahead of the 2012 elections.
· There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to some councils lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.
· There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils could have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, although few are used at present, and it would appear to be an option that would win little support at a referendum.
· Partial optional preferential voting applies, where the number of preferences to be marked must not be less than the number of candidates to be elected.
· Casual vacancies are unfortunately not filled by countback, but by by-election polls.
· Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates' names being set by lot, together with - for all proportional representation polls - the use of a Group Voting Tickets option, which detracts from the ideal of direct election of candidates.
· The Mayor can either be elected by the Council, as in most councils, or by a separate, but concurrent popular election. A person can stand for the position of Mayor and also for that of a councillor, and if elected Mayor, his or her votes in the election for councillors pass on to the next available preference of those that voted for him or her. Unfortunately Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors does not apply, thus diminishing overall proportionality, as the Mayor's seat on the council does not depend, as it does in Tasmania, on his or her receiving the same quota of votes, on the same basis, as every other councillor.
· Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of NSW councils or their committees has, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors.
· Deficiencies in the above arrangements, including the use of electoral districts unfortunately returning an even number of candidates, result in a less than ideal pattern overall, but nearly all councils are elected with PR, with the main deficiency being that, instead of Robson Rotation applying to enhance electors' role in themselves participating in the choice of which of a party's candidates become elected, all PR municipal elections in NSW have imposed on them a Group Voting Ticket option, which is the aspect that greatly facilitates the domination of political party organizations in the decision of who is ultimately elected from a party.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:
Representation Society of Western
Australia” was formed in 1913,
Douglas Gawler MLC as its
President, and Mr Frederick J Esmond as
its Hon. Secretary, but it would
appear that the onset of the First
World War led to its early demise.
(Electoral Reform Society of Western
Australia Inc.) was established in
the latter part of the 20th Century.
It promoted the 1987 law for
Senate-style PR for the Legislative
Council, with its 36 members
being elected from six 6-member
electoral districts, and having
concurrent terms. An ERSWA member, Hon.
MLC, spoke of its work, and
that of one of its founders, the
late Roland Stephens, in his inaugural
12th March 1997 to the WA
Legislative Council. The paper, Proportional
Representation in Western
Australia, details much
of WA's PR history.
of Western Australia's Electoral
Act 1907 provides that
casual vacancies are to be filled
directly by the people's votes, and
not by political party appointment
like the Senate, as had originally
been intended. That filling is
unfortunately conducted by a method
that is inferior
to the Tasmanian and A.C.T.
countback method, as it
involves a total recount of the
ballot papers at the original
election, with a savings provision
that continuing MLCs are not to be
displaced. The direct election
results from an excellent prior
alteration of Western Australia's Constitution
by the Government of Sir Charles
Court in 1978. Its Part
VII Section 73(2)(c)
- alterable only by referendum -
entrenches a requirement that all
WA MPs be directly
by the people.
Mr Jack Wright, PRSA National President, was keynote speaker at the WA Government's 1984 Parliament Week seminar. The unfortunate Unweighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer provision for the Legislative Council, which replicated the present Senate system, was after Dr Narelle Miragliotta's 2002 monograph commissioned by the WA Electoral Commission, replaced in 2006 with the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer provision in Schedule 1 of Western Australia's Electoral Act 1907.
Australia - Local
Richard Court's Coalition Government
replaced the preferential system used
for local government with the
procedure, in both its single and multiple
form, which ran
counter to enlightened electoral
systems for Australian local
government that began in South
Australia in 1840. The
Act, whose Schedule 4.1 provides
for plurality counting, at least did
not prohibit "plumping",
nor did the Regulation 35 of Part 7 of
the then Local Government
(Elections) Regulations 1997.
The PRSA's WA Branch campaigned for the replacement of this anomalous plurality throwback by a quota-preferential proportional representation system. In 2006 the then WA Government introduced a Bill for that purpose. A hostile and negative campaign by the Western Australian Local Government Association resulted in that bill being referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny, but the bill was enacted in 2007. Regulation 35 of WA's Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997 then required the full marking of preferences for a vote to be valid.
The WA Local Government Association continued its campaign against that excellent new quota-preferential proportional representation system then provided for in Schedule 4.1 of WA's Local Government Act 1995. The WA Liberal Government announced that it would legislate to revert to the previous crude plurality procedure to take effect for the October 2009 municipal polls, and it did so via a 2009 Act.
For Western Australian municipal elections:
· WA holds municipal elections for as nearly as practicable half the councillors on the third Saturday in October in every
odd-numbered year. Some councils use attendance voting, whereas others use postal voting.
· The number of councillors in a council is fixed by vice-regal proclamation.
· Schedule 4.1 of the Local Government Act 1995 now unfortunately prescribes a plurality procedure for the filling of both
single and multiple positions on councils in WA, but plumping by voters is permitted.
· Municipalities in WA may be undivided or may be divided into wards.
· Mayors and presiding officers at a meeting have both a deliberative and a casting vote, under Section 5.21 of WA's Local
Government Act 1995.
· The system to elect the Mayor or President of a municipality may be either by councillors, or by electors. The latter may
requisition a referendum on that.
In the late 1980s, a major
judicial inquiry (FitzGerald), led
of electoral districts being greatly
reduced, but the PRSA's
former Queensland Branch
had steadfastly warned that equal
enrolments will, by definition, stop
but will not prevent gerrymanders,
either accidental or intentional.
Marking preferences other than a
first preference became fully
optional in 1992.
Electoral Legislation: The electoral provisions for Queensland's unicameral Parliament are in Queensland's Electoral Act 1992. The former PRSA Branch sought the re-introduction of an Upper House, elected by PR. The former Upper House was abolished by the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1922. It was not until twelve years later that the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1934 amended the Constitution Act 1867 (which still operates concurrently with the Constitution of Queensland 2001) to entrench that abolition, so that approval at a referendum is required before any Bill to restore an Upper House, or to extend the term of the Legislative Assembly beyond three years, could take effect.
Queensland - Local Government: The Local Government Electoral Act 2011 provides two methods for voting and counting, depending on whether the municipality is divided into separate electoral districts, or is undivided. In single-councillor electoral districts, known as wards, which are usually found in urban or near-urban areas, fully optional preferential counting applies. Attendance voting is the standard procedure, but electors may apply for a postal ballot instead.
For multi-member electoral districts, which are found typically in rural areas, the highly unsatisfactory multiple first-past-the-post procedure that was abandoned for Senate elections in 1919 applies, except that plumping is allowed, and that Section 84(3)(b)(ii) of the Act makes rather unusual and deceptive provisions that allow the voter's marks in ballot paper boxes to include sequential numbers, which can give voters the false impression that their ballots might be counted using one of Australia's normal transferable vote counting systems. Section 87(5) of the Act requires that voters mark a number of boxes equal to the number of vacancies to be filled, but its also provides that any numbers marked beyond the sequence required will be disregarded, without that rendering the ballot informal. Certain unions also use this surreptitious variant.
There is no provision for PR in Queensland municipal elections. Parliament in 2010 resolved to refer its possible introduction to a parliamentary inquiry, but the Inquiry did not recommend PR.
For Queensland municipal elections:
· All regular elections are general elections, on the last Saturday in March in every leap year. Access details and results
· Section 285 of the Local Government Act 1993 requires that for all wards in a given municipality divided into wards
the number of electors per ward must not differ by more than a defined percentage, so for a given municipality all wards
must have the same number of councillors, and fortunately election quotas are thus relatively equal for all its councillors.
· The number of councillors for a municipality is five unless a regulation requires otherwise for that municipality. Wards
are winner-take-all single-councillor wards.
· Section 65 of the Local Government Elections Act 2011 prescribes the two different counting methods used. Fully
optional preferential voting applies for polls in municipalities with single-councillor wards, where a single, unique first
preference constitutes a valid ballot-paper. For municipalities with multi-councillor electoral districts, the unsatisfactory
multiple first-past-the-post system applies.
· Plumping is allowed, but the law requires, unlike nearly all plurality systems, that all preferences after the first, which
can be marked with a tick, a cross or the number 1, must be marked as consecutive numbers 2, 3, etc. The law provides
that if the number of marks exceeds the number of positions to be filled, the preference numbers marked beyond the
number of vacancies to be filled are disregarded. Despite an order of preference having to be marked, as in normal public
polls in Australia, which have used preferential voting and counting since the 1920s, that order as such is disregarded in
the count, as the highest number marked and recognized, up to the number of vacancies to be filled, counts equally with
the lowest number marked and recognized.
· Allowing voters to mark preference numbers when the counting system treats a defined number of those markings as
each carrying equal weight and significance, with preferences marked beyond the number of vacancies to be filled being
disregarded, appears to be deceiving voters into believing that the counting is preferential, when it is not. That apparent
subterfuge succeeds in overcoming what has always been a major difficulty with the multiple first-past-the-post system,
namely avoiding the tendency for many voters to vote for more than the number of candidates to be elected, and thus to
cast invalid votes.
· Casual vacancies are filled by by-election polls.
· Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for where preferential voting applies, thus unfortunately not
forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates' names being set by lot, but
fortunately a Group Voting Tickets option, which detracts from the ideal of direct election of candidates, does not apply.
· The Mayor is elected by a separate, but concurrent popular election. Unfortunately Tasmania's requirement for the
popularly-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors does not apply thus depriving electors of the
chance to elect a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate as a councillor, as
candidates for Mayor cannot, as they can in Tasmania, stand for both concurrent elections.
· Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at
meetings of Queensland councils or their committees has, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his her
deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that
officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be
simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors.
CAPITAL TERRITORY - LEGISLATIVE
electoral system used for the first self-government
election, in 1989,
instituted by the then Labor Federal
Government, was a modified
party list form of
proportional representation called the
The modified d'Hondt system was a highly unsatisfactory system that was widely ridiculed and regarded as unfair. Its last use was at the 1992 election, as the Hawke Federal Government had acknowledged its failure, and had decided, as its preference for 17 single-member electorates was blocked by the Senate's preference for Hare-Clark, to have the matter resolved by holding a plebiscite in conjunction with the election to enable ACT electors to indicate which of two alternative replacement systems they preferred for future ACT polls.
Capital Territory plebiscite
(the informative brochure
all electors received is accessible
from that hyperlink), which was
officially, but misleadingly,
described as a
had 65% of voters favouring a Hare-Clark
form of PR over the alternative of 17
single-member electorates. The Labor
Party, which regularly receives a
majority of ACT votes at Federal
elections, campaigned for 17
single-member electorates, but the
Liberal Party and the Australian
Democrats Party campaigned for
Hare-Clark. The ACT's Electoral
Act 1992 implemented the
choice made by the plebiscite, but
only after elements not revealed
during the plebiscite, such as Group Voting
Tickets, had been expunged
from the Bill. That attempt to
enact something different from what
was proposed at the plebiscite shows
how voters can be disadvantaged by the
use of plebiscites,
rather than the far more
straightforward use of referendums,
where precisely what is to be enacted
becomes law if the referendum is
A 16-1 Assembly vote in December then passed the Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Bill 1994. Approved by 65% of ACT voters at a 1995 referendum (the informative brochure all electors received is accessible from that hyperlink) where the PRSA(ACT) campaigned strongly, the resulting Act prohibits the Assembly making changes to the major Hare-Clark aspects of the electoral law without a two-thirds Assembly majority or a referendum. See sample ballot papers and an explanation of the Robson Rotation used in their printing.
ACT - Local Government: As there is no separate system of local government in the ACT, the functions of local government are carried out by the ACT Assembly and the ACT Government.
|NORTHERN TERRITORY OF AUSTRALIA - LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY: The Electoral Act of the Northern Territory specifies preferential voting in the single-member districts prescribed by Section 13(4) of the Commonwealth's Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (which is effectively the Territory's Constitution), and also specifies a requirement for voters to indicate all preferences. The ballot-papers have, for Australia, the novel requirement that a photograph of the candidate must be printed against the name of each candidate, and a requirement, superseded elsewhere in Australia, that names be listed in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper.|
At the first election of the Northern Territory’s Legislative Assembly, in 1974, before self-government, the Australian Labor Party won none of the 17 seats available, despite – over the NT as a whole – having gained more than 30% of the first preference vote. As NT Electoral Commission figures show, a huge imbalance between seats and votes still occurred at the 2005 NT elections.
Northern Territory - Local Government: Local government elections in the Northern Territory are held under Schedule 1 of the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations. Until 2011, these prescribed a winner-take-all majority-preferential system if there was only one seat per electorate, but where there was more than one seat per electoral district, it prescribed a winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential system, of the type that became discredited, and was abandoned for Senate elections in 1948. Fortunately that multiple system has now been replaced by a quota-preferential proportional representation electoral system, which was first used in the municipal elections held in March 2012.
View the 2008 count for Alice Springs Town Council aldermen to see how, with that now superseded system, the successive re-use of the same ballots that elected the early winners allowed the last candidate elected to win despite stronger support for other, unelected candidates. Compare that with the very much fairer 2012 count using quota-preferential proportional representation.
|TERRITORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND - FORMER LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY: Section 20 of the former Legislative Assembly Act 1979 of Norfolk Island had prescribed, for the election of the Territory's 9-member Legislative Assembly by a single Territory-wide electoral district, cumulative voting. That is a crude, inferior procedure that was used in Cape Colony (South Africa) in the 19th Century, and by the U.S. State of Illinois from 1870 to 1980, until Illinois's only constitutional change ever effected by a citizen-initiated referendum replaced it in 1980 with the even worse 'first-past-the-post' system that all the other U.S. States use.|
A 1982 Norfolk Island referendum had unfortunately substituted that cumulative voting for the earlier Hare-Clark PR used for the first two elections under that Act. That cumulative voting procedure required each voter to mark 9 crosses on the ballot-paper, each of equal value, and they could mark an arbitrarily prescribed maximum of 4 for any one candidate.
were wasted by
than a Single
Vote PR quota,
less, with no
such votes to
a quota. At
the 2001 polls
(at others it
beeb worse), 36.5%
of the 9,243
votes on the
voters made no
PR, in this
case of 9
by the votes
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:
Tom Roberts's painting of the Opening of the First Parliament hangs in the
Federal Parliament building in Canberra on permanent loan from HM the Queen.
from a single
used its contingent voting,
which was a
States used plurality (relative majority)
fixed by the
which used a
MHRs as a
elected its 6
senators as a
with the whole
State as one
using a multiple
system where plumping was not
of all the
elected to the
appears in the
The House of
the House of
PR for Senate
each State as
but the Senate
Citizens of internal
did not vote
after the Commonwealth
That intended form of PR was the only form that would satisfy the requirement of Section 7 of the Constitution that senators "be directly chosen by the people", but the Senate, which had, except for the senators for Tasmania, been elected by a first past the post (plurality) multiple vote, amended the Bill (see the Hansard debate on that 1902 Bill) to substitute that system, with plumping being made unavailable, as can be seen in the resulting Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902. See the Australian Electoral Commission's summary of the history of the federal electoral system. See a summary of all federal elections up until 2010.Tasmania's first federal by-election, in 1902 - to replace an MHR that had died - had the whole State voting as a single electorate, despite that method of filling a casual vacancy being inconsistent with the Hare-Clark principle used in the 1901 General Election, as the Federal Parliament had not yet used Section 31 of the Constitution to pass an Electoral Act.
The use of plumping, in which voters in multi-member electorates could, under earlier first past the post multiple votes systems, which are still the common law voting system, vote for fewer candidates than there were vacancies, and hence concentrate their vote on fewer candidates, even just one, had allowed some rudimentary proportionality. Examples were certain earlier colonial elections, a more recent reversion to that on the Isle of Man, and the 1925-94 Japanese Lower House system of multi-member districts with a Single Non-transferable Vote. The method of indicating an Australian Senate vote from 1902-17 was - unlike some of the various colonial systems used at the 1901 polls - the placing of a cross (X) against the name of each candidate voted for. The 1917 periodic Senate election, in which W. M. Hughes's Nationalist Party won all Senate seats in all States, was the last time the first past the post multiple vote was used for Senate elections.
all the 18
to be filled
and, in 1919
system - 17 of
the 18 seats
the only Labor
to be filled
for the whole
he was the
senator in the
Senate from 01 July
1920 until 30
He held the
Leader of the
even though he
had no party
Senate vote in
42.8% in 1919,
was a stark
the need for
a 12 hour
speech in the
on 13 November
days after Armistice Day) in
protest at W.M.Hughes's
orders then -
had issued his
writ for the
- so the Commonwealth
ever made in
in 1919. It
the seat of
being won by a
instead of by
who had won
only 42.5% of
the vote, and
who had been
with 54.7% of
That important Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 , which, in its current amended and consolidated form, is still the Principal Act for federal elections, changed the electoral system for MHRs from a first past the post system to its present majority-preferential system, but the Senate system was not changed until the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1919 replaced the previous multiple first past the post system (see 1917 NSW example) with a multiple majority-preferential system (see 1919 NSW example). Its Sections 7 and 8 changed the principal act to provide that, to cast a valid vote, voters had to indicate preferences for a number of candidates equal to one more than twice the number of vacancies to be filled.
The Lyons United Australia Party Government introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1934, whose Sections 8-10 and 13 began what many now see to be an oppressive and ridiculously unnecessary requirement that, to cast a valid vote, a voter in an election in a multi-member electorate must indicate a preference for each of the candidates, regardless of how many there might be. When the Chifley ALP Government introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948 to change the Senate electoral system from a multiple majority-preferential system to a Single Transferable Vote (quota-preferential) PR system, it insisted on continuing that provision despite it being imposed on a PR system, which is a very different system from the multiple majority-preferential system to which the provision was originally applied, and despite the proven success of Hare-Clark PR's partial optional preferential voting Tasmania-wide since 1907.
moved to amend
the 1948 Bill
instead for partial
a voter must
for it to be
later in its Electoral
Bill (No. 2)
but its lack
of a Senate
for that, as
its view on
the matter. It
is ironic that
the PR system
in the Commonwealth
by the 1902
for a valid
given rise, in
parties of how-to-vote
2013 Senate election, for which
there were a record 110 candidates in
New South Wales, and in which all
States had a quota of votes (16.7%)
where voters placed candidates of the
parties represented in the Parliament
below other candidates, led to calls
for changing the virtually full
preferential voting system used for
Senate elections to a system of
optional preferential voting, as
discussed in a paper
by Michael Maley.
2. Senate's 2 former Winner-take-all Electoral Systems (1903-17 & 1919-46) & Proportional Representation (1949- ):
The Proportional Representation Society of Victoria held a Melbourne Town Hall meeting in October 1943 (see Uhr, J Page 18), which resolved to urge the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. John Curtin MHR, to introduce PR for the Senate. That Society sent a letter to the Prime Minister and received his reply.
A volume of the 1948 Hansard  records on 16, and 29 April 1948 the Attorney-General, Rt. Hon. H V Evatt KC, introducing his Bill that was passed as the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948, which amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to provide for PR for the Senate, and acknowledging the help of 'the Proportional Representation Society of England'. The second reading of the Bill in the Senate was on 30 April 1948. A 1948 letter from the Proportional Representation Society of Victoria congratulated the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. J B Chifley, on the Bill that introduced PR. The Bill was not opposed by the Opposition, led by the Rt. Hon. R G Menzies KC, except that they did, unsuccessfully, move that the Bill's continuation of the existing requirement for full marking of all preferences other than the last preference in order for a ballot-paper to be valid be altered to provide for partial optional preferential voting.
Since then, the PRSA has monitored the Senate system - the world's largest scale Single Transferable Vote (quota-preferential) PR election. PR is the longest operating electoral system used for Senate elections. The PRSA has monitored other Australian elections also. Regrettably there is no constitutional or other entrenchment requiring approval at a referendum, or even an absolute majority vote in both houses of Parliament, before the Senate's PR system can be weakened or abolished.
Peter Rae, and
had a good
vacancies in a
the PRSA that
improve the original
Section 15 of
to make it
with the PR
the system of
elected by the
people via countback
and not, as
the Bill, by
speech on the
was not read,
but just taken
as read. It
can be read here.
In the Bill's
passage, a Call of
seven of whom
senators - Brian
Wright - voted
he then was,
was allowed to
need for a
Use of countback would
have ensured direct
Bill, so senators
of the Bill at
53% of voters
in each State
Section 15 of
to be filled -
until the next
election - by
until it sat,
abused in 1975
not by an
and also party
of PR for
extra place to
could have the
of causing the
places to be
than the odd
leaves an even
number to be