PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA

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2014-04-26

 

 

Robson Rotation

 

AIM:

Robson Rotation is used, where preferential voting systems apply, to avoid advantages being unjustifiably gained by certain candidates that might otherwise happen to have their names appear, on all the ballot-papers issued, in advantageous or prominent positions on a ballot-paper with a single column for all candidates, like those used for elections to Tasmania's Legislative Council or, as it applies for elections to Tasmania's House of Assembly, within their party's column on the ballot-paper, leaving other candidates' names appearing - on all the ballot-papers - in less advantageous or prominent positions. Such relative advantage always occurs, for no good reason, when all ballot-papers issued show all the candidates listed in an identical order.

 

EFFECT:

Robson Rotation has completely overcome two difficulties that soon became evident with preferential voting:

 

  • the first was the small, but in close contests, significant percentage of "donkey voters" - uncaring or ill-informed persons that simply vote down a ballot-paper column in numerical order because that is the simplest way to do it regardless of the order of the candidates' names, and

  • the second was the use by political parties of "how-to-vote" cards handed to voters by party workers outside polling booths, on which a representation of a completed ballot-paper was shown, with a request that it be copied exactly in order to meet the party's wishes. If numerous voters follow such cards, the decision as to which of a party's candidates is elected is effectively transferred from the voters to the party organizations. That regimentation of voters preferences has always succeeded on the Australian mainland, but the freedom and choice Hare-Clark has always given Tasmanians led to their State parties' avoiding that tactic until an ALP headquarters attempt to do so in 1979. That was immediately perceived as the threat it was to the wider democratic power base of MHAs, and was forestalled by the prompt introduction of Robson Rotation.

 

Robson Rotation has put an end to those problems in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. The Tasmanian and Australian Capital Territory use of Robson Rotation each reduces the artificial concentration of votes on a party organization's proclaimed number one candidate, and instead reflects voters' explicit choices of other candidates within their preferred party, in striking contrast to the Australian Senate.


Robson Rotation can remove a handicap that major parties heedlessly inflict on themselves by their practice, even in Tasmania at Senate polls, of plying voters with how-to-vote cards that urge voters to concentrate their vote on a single preferred candidate. That concentration keeps progress totals of their lower-ranked candidates during the count much lower than they would be if the party's first preference vote was much more evenly spread, as Robson Rotation tends to produce in Tasmanian and ACT Assembly polls, and that often sees such candidates falling behind minor party candidates, who have thus sometimes succeeded in being elected to the final place being filled, rather than them.


ORIGIN:

Robson Rotation requires that ballot-papers for elections for both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament are printed in batches of equal numbers with each batch having the name of a candidate or candidates in different positions in the party column. Robson Rotation was the subject of a private member's bill introduced in 1979 by Neil Robson, a Liberal MHA for Bass (1976-89), supported by the Lowe ALP Government, and passed by the Legislative Council.


A self-interested Tasmanian ALP factional backlash against Robson Rotation in 1990 failed. Hon. Neil Robson AM, who was made an Honorary Life Member of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia, died in 2013. Speeches on a condolence motion in Tasmania's House of Assembly at 11:28 am on 17 May 2014 appear in that day's Hansard.

 

The late Hn. Neil Robson AM

BALLOT-PAPERS: The rotation of names from batch to batch is designed to prevent such relative advantage, and results in a prescribed number of different batches of ballot-papers, each with different prescribed permutations of candidates' names within the party columns. Examples are easiest seen in the single column of candidates' names in Tasmanian municipal elections, where no party affiliations or groupings are evident in the electoral provisions.

 

LAWS: The legislative provisions for Robson Rotation for both houses of the Parliament of Tasmania appeared in Tasmania's Electoral Act 1985. The relevant Sections 106 and 107, and Schedule 2 of that Act are shown below. The current, consolidated Principal Act is the Electoral Act 2004, whose Sections 97 (House of Assembly polls) and 98 (Legislative Council polls), and Schedule 3 deal with Robson Rotation. Robson Rotation applies in the Electoral Act 1992 of the Australian Capital Territory, and its existence there was entrenched by the Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Act 1994.  Tasmania's municipal use of Robson Rotation is prescribed by a Regulation made under the Local Government Act.

 

                                                 

                                                                      

 

 

 


AN ACT to provide for the holding of elections to elect persons as members of the Tasmanian Parliament, to regulate the conduct of those elections, to provide for the enrolment of electors for the purposes of those elections, to repeal the Electoral Act 1907 and other enactments, and to provide for related matters.

[Reserved 5 June 1985]

[Royal Assent 21 August 1985]

BE it enacted by His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and House of Assembly, in Parliament assembled, as follows: -

PART I

PRELIMINARY

1 -        This Act may be cited as the Electoral Act 1985.

2 -       (1)     This Act shall be reserved for the signification of the Sovereign's pleasure thereon.

(2)     This section and section 1 shall commence on the day on which a proclamation of the Governor signifying the Sovereign's assenting to this Act is notified in the Gazette.

 

(3)     Except as provided in subsection (2), this Act shall commence on such day after the day referred to in that subsection as may be fixed by proclamation.

 

* * * * * * *

105 -   Whenever a poll is required to take place in accordance with section 94 (3) or 102 (2), the Chief Electoral Officer shall, before and in time for the poll, ensure that the returning officer responsible for the conduct of the poll is provided with sufficient ballot-papers to enable him to carry out that responsibility.

106 -   (l)   The Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for ensuring that the ballot-papers for use at an Assembly election -

(a)  are in accordance with Form 13 in Schedule 1; and

(b)  are printed and collated as provided by this section and by and under Schedule 2.

107 -   (1)  The Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for ensuring that the ballot-papers for use at a Council election -

 

(a)  are in accordance with Form 14 in Schedule 1; and

(b)  are printed and collated in accordance with this section and by and under Schedule 2.

(2)  In causing ballot-papers to be printed for a Council election -

 

(a)  the Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for ensuring that -

 

(i)    the names of the candidates for election are printed in a single vertical column;

(ii)   the order in which the names of candidates for election are to be printed in each batch of ballot-papers is the order as determined in accordance with Schedule 2;

(iii)  the surname of each candidate for election is in conspicuous type;

(iv)  each candidate is identified, as is determined by the Chief Electoral Officer, by his given name or names, by the initial letter or letters of his given name or names, or by a combination of his given name or one or more of his given names and the initial letter or letters of his other given name or names (if any);

(v)   the given name or names or the initial letter or letters of the given name or names of each candidate are in less conspicuous type than the type in which his surname is printed; and

(vi)  a square is printed opposite the name of each candidate;

(b)   a given name, or the initial of a given name, of a candidate may be printed on a line after the line on which his surname is printed; and

(c)   where a similarity in the names of 2 or more candidates is likely to cause confusion - the Chief Electoral Officer may arrange the names with such description or addition as will enable them to be distinguished from each other.

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Tasmania

Electoral Act 1985

SCHEDULE 2

Sections 106 (1) (b) and 107 (1) (b)

PRINTING AND COLLATION OF BALLOT-PAPERS

1. In this Schedule, unless the contrary intention appears -

"column", in relation to -

(a)  a ballot-paper for an Assembly election in respect of which there is no group of candidates or a ballot-paper for a Council election, means the single vertical column in which the names of the candidates are to appear on the ballot- paper;

(b)  a ballot-paper for an Assembly election in respect of which there is one group or more than one group of candidates and candidates whose names are not included in such a group, means -

(i)   any of the vertical columns in which the names of candidates included in such a group are to appear on the ballot-paper; or

(ii)  the vertical column in which the names of the candidates whose names are not included in such a group are to appear on the ballot-paper; or

(c)  a ballot-paper for an Assembly election in respect of which there is one group or more than one group of candidates and no other candidates, means any of the vertical columns in which the names of candidates included in such a group are to appear on the ballot-paper; "favoured position", in relation to a column of a ballot-paper, means (reading from the top of the column) -

 

(a)   where the names of 2 candidates are to appear in the column - the first position in the column;

(b)   where the names of 3 candidates are to appear in the column - the first and third positions in the column;

(c)   where the names of 4 candidates are to appear in the column - the first and fourth positions in the column;

(d)   where the names of 5 candidates are to appear in the column - the first, third, and fifth positions in the column;

(e)   where the names of 6 candidates are to appear in the column - the first, second, fifth, and sixth positions in the column;

(f)   where the names of 7 candidates are to appear in the column - the first, second, sixth, and seventh positions in the column;

(g)   where the names of 8 candidates are to appear in the column - the first, second, seventh, and eighth positions in the column;

(h)   where the names of 9 candidates are to appear in the column - the first, second, eighth, and ninth positions in the column; and

(i)    where the names of 10 or more candidates are to appear in the column - the first, second, third, and last 3 positions in the column.

2 -  In relation to each candidate whose name is required to be included in the column or, as the case may be, one of the columns of a ballot-paper in accordance with section 106 or 107 -

 

(a)  there shall be printed, in respect of each of the favoured positions for that column, a batch of ballot-papers on which the name of that candidate appears in such a favoured position; and

(b)  the number of ballot-papers in each batch on which the name of that candidate appears in that column in a particular favoured position shall, as far as is practicable, be equal to the number of ballot-papers in each of the other batches of ballot-papers on which the name of every other candidate whose name is to be included in that column appears in that favoured position.

3 -    For the printing of the first batch of ballot-papers, the names of the candidates in the column or, as the case may be, in each of the columns shall be listed in the alphabetical sequence of the surnames of those candidates.

4 -    Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, the printing order for subsequent batches shall be as prescribed by the regulations.

5 -    Where 6 or more names are to be included in a column, the name of a candidate shall not appear immediately above the name of a particular other candidate on more than one batch of ballot-papers where the names of both candidates would be in favoured positions in that column.

6 -    Before ballot-papers for an election in respect of an electoral division are distributed to returning officers, the Chief Electoral Officer shall, as far as is practicable, ensure that each issue of ballot-papers is collated in such a way that the ballot-paper immediately following another ballot-paper in the issue is in a form different from that of the other ballot-paper.

7 -    The officer in charge of each polling-booth at which voting for an election is taking place or, as the case may be, the retiring officer or another electoral officer under Division 7, 8, or 9 of Part V, shall issue ballot-papers so that, as nearly as practicable, each elector who enters the polling-booth, or who applies for a ballot-paper after the first elector, is given a ballot-paper, in a form that is different from the form of the ballot-paper that was issued to the elector who immediately preceded him.

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