Australia Elections Federal

Proposed Electoral Act changes for the 2022 Federal Election

Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters, Ben Morton, introduced four bills today to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act ahead of next year’s Federal election.

It’s important to say first that the bills do not include controversial proposals to introduce voter ID and optional preferential voting. Those were put forward by LNP Senator James McGrath in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ (JSCEM’s) review of the 2019 election.

The bills also do not include any of JSCEM’s recent proposals to change the Electoral Act to deal with holding elections in a period when Covid is widespread or lockdowns are in place. Presumably any changes related to Covid will be introduced closer to the election.

These bills introduce a number of changes to counting procedures, party registration, non-party campaign expenditure, multiple voters and other campaigning offences. Some of the changes are more controversial than others, so the changes have been split into four bills.

The most controversial changes concern party registration, and splitting the changes avoids the problem where important changes in an omnibus amendment bill are delayed by more controversial parts of the bill.

Below is my summary of the proposed changes with links to the source documents on the bills.
Read More »Proposed Electoral Act changes for the 2022 Federal Election

2022 Federal Electoral Pendulum

With redistributions of electoral boundaries now complete for Victoria and Western Australia, it is time to publish an updated electoral pendulum for the 2022 election.

The redistributions have abolished the WA Liberal seat of Stirling and created the new notionally Labor held seat of Hawke in Victoria. (See my previous posts on the redistributions, in Victoria here and Western Australia here.)

Compared to the 2019 election result, the changes reduce the Coalition from 77 to 76 seats and lift Labor from 68 to 69 seats. In the 151 member House of Representatives, 76 seats are needed for majority government.

As well as the web formatted pendulum inside this post, I’ve prepared a well laid out printable ‘pdf’ version with seats listed in double-sided A4 format. You can find it at this link.
Read More »2022 Federal Electoral Pendulum

2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Western Australia

The draft Federal electoral boundaries for Western Australia released in March were finalised at the end of June.

Today the supporting documentation has been published, including the the new maps and enrolment data. That allows me to calculate estimated margins for the new boundaries. There are only minor changes compared to the draft boundaries released in March.

The overall summary of the redistribution’s impact is that the Liberal held division of Stirling has been abolished. This has caused major changes to the boundaries of Cowan, Pearce and Hasluck, with smaller changes propagating across the rest of the state.

The re-drawn electorate of Cowan includes a roughly equal number of voters from the old Cowan and the abolished Stirling. Pearce has been completely re-arranged, losing its former rural component to Durack and O’Connor, and the rapidly growing suburban areas around Ellenbrook to Hasluck. Pearce is now based entirely in Perth’s northern suburbs. Read More »2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Western Australia

2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Victoria

Draft Federal electoral boundaries were released in March and finalised at the end of June.

Today the supporting documentation, the maps and enrolment data, have been published which allows me to publish estimated margins for the finalised boundaries.

There were two changes of significance from the draft boundaries. Most of the proposed suburb swaps between Macnamara and Higgins have been reversed, and the proposal to re-name Corangamite as Tucker has also been abandoned.

The overall summary of the redistribution is that all 38 continuing seats remain held by the party that won the division in 2019, and the newly created 39th division is called Hawke and is a safe Labor seat.Read More »2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Victoria

When can the Next Federal Election be Held?

On Twitter recently, the most frequent question I am asked is when “can” the next federal election be held. Second place goes to when “will” the election be held.

This post attempts to answer both questions.

The three-part answer on “when can” the election be held is –

  • The first date for a normal house and half-Senate election is 7 August 2021, if announced this weekend and writs are issued by Monday 5 July.
  • The last date for a normal house and half-Senate election is 21 May 2022. This date gives six weeks to complete the complex Senate count and allows Senators to be declared elected and start their terms on 1 July. A mid-May election would be announced in early April 2022.
  • There is a highly improbable option for a half-Senate election by 21 May 2022 and a separate House election as late as 3 September 2022.

The short answer on “when will” the election be held is –

  • when the Prime Minister thinks his government has the best chance of winning, or
  • if prospects look grim, the last possible date.

Read More »When can the Next Federal Election be Held?

Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

Someone reading my article on reforming the WA Legislative Council’s electoral system reminded me of a speech I did a number of years ago on Senate electoral reform and issues to do with savings provisions.

The speech was at the launch of a UNSW Law Journal special Issue number 39(1) with various papers on electoral law.

The Journal had several papers on different areas of electoral law. I addressed each of the papers before spending much of the speech on savings provisions and in particular looking at the issue of savings provisions with the reformed Senate electoral system.

The speech was shortly before the 2016 election, after the Senate electoral reforms had passed, but before they were ruled constitutional by the High Court.

Having watched the speech back, I thought it worth sharing and it can be viewed via the YouTube link in the post.Read More »Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences

The McGowan government in Western Australia has appointed a Ministerial Expert Committee to recommend changes to the electoral system for the state’s Legislative Council. (You can find the Committee’s website here.)

The Committee has a number of issues to examine. Some are controversial, such as whether to change the state’s zonal electoral system. I wrote on the zonal electoral system and its unequal enrolments two weeks ago.

The proposal that has attracted least criticism is the abolition of group voting tickets (GVTs). GVTs were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were introduced as a solution to a chronic high rate of informal voting and designed to make voting easier while retaining full preferential voting.

What has not been fully appreciated is that the tickets sped up voting and also simplified the counting process. GVTs meant that less than 10% of ballot papers needed to be examined for formality and re-examined for preferences during the count. The rest of the ballot papers were ticket votes, and all ticket votes for a party being the same, could be treated as block votes.

These benefits have since been outweighed by the manipulation of results produced by GVTs giving parties almost total control over between-party preferences.

For major parties, GVTs strengthened the strong flow of preferences that parties had previously achieved through influencing voters with how-to-votes. But GVTs gave the same power to small parties that previously struggled to influence preferences due to lack of members distributing how-to-votes. Even the smallest micro-parties that didn’t bother to campaign suddenly had total control over their preferences. Over time, as participants learnt how to use GVTs strategically, the system began to elect candidate from parties with tiny votes who would never been elected had voters controlled preferences.

Three jurisdictions have now abolished GVTs. In this process, great attention was paid to ensuring voters did not have to revert to the pre-1984 situation of completing vast numbers of preferences. But a price of abolishing GVTs has been to make counting more complex. It has required a switch to scanning rather than hand counting and data entering ballot papers. Complexity has also been increased by changes to formulas calculating transfer values for surplus to quota preferences.

As the Ministerial Expert Committee searches for a replacement Legislative Council electoral system, it has the advantage of being able to draw on experience with abolishing GVTs for elections to the NSW and South Australian Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

Two models for electing the WA Legislative Council are being discussed. One retains regions, a four region model with each electing nine members the most discussed. The second is a switch to a single state-wide model.

The state-wide model in particular requires careful design. Careful thought needs to be given to ballot paper design, voter instructions, and the counting method.

Without careful design, using a single electorate to elect the WA Legislative Council could end up producing a ballot paper that is unprintable or uncountable.Read More »WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences

2021 Federal Redistribution – Draft Boundaries for Western Australia

UPDATE 4 June – the AEC finalised the boundaries today with some minor nips and tucks. Data files have yet to be published, but the changes described in the final report do not suggests any significant changes to the new margins set out in this post. The new boundaries will be gazetted on 2 August, which perhaps gives a hint that the Prime Minister won’t be calling an election for Augsut.

Last year’s review of state representation in the House of Representatives recommended that Western Australia lose a seat, its representation falling from 16 to 15 members.

The draft boundaries are released at noon eastern time and I will update this post through the day with information on the new boundaries and estimated new margins.

In summary, the Liberal seat of Stirling is abolished and there is not much shift in margins for other seats.

The change in margins shown in the table below don’t show much shift in margins, but in going from 16 to 15 seats there are substantial changes in boundaries.
Read More »2021 Federal Redistribution – Draft Boundaries for Western Australia

2021 Federal Redistribution – Draft Boundaries for Victoria

26 July 2021 – google searches still find this post but a much more complete analysis of the final boundaries has now been published at 2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Victoria This includes maps of the major boundary changes.

UPDATE 29 June 2021 – The boundaries have been finalised with various nips and tucks. New maps haven’t been published yet which makes it hard to calculate new margins. The major change appear to be the changes to Macnamara have been undone, and Tucker has reverted back to being known as Corangamite. I’ll review all the calculations after the map details are published on 26 July.

Last year’s review of state representation in the House of Representatives recommended that Victoria gain a seat, increasing its number of members from 38 to 39 seats.

The short story is the seat of Corangamite has been re-named Tucker and becomes a more urban seat centred on southern Geelong.

There is a new seat called Hawke covering Melbourne’s outer west and north-west fringe including Sunbury, Melton, Bacchus Marsh and Ballan.

Most urban seats have had some boundary changes. The transfer of Springvale and Noble Park from Bruce to Hotham means the two seats more or less swap margins. Chisholm is slightly weakened for Liberal Gladys Liu and suburb swaps between Macnamara and Higgins opens an opportunity for the Greens to pass Labor and win Macnamara.

Read More »2021 Federal Redistribution – Draft Boundaries for Victoria

2019 SA Senate Election Part 2 – the Preference Distribution

Part 1 of my post on the 2019 SA Senate election analysed how voters completed their ballot papers under the new Senate system, how preferences flowed between parties and what was the impact of how-to-votes.

This post will be more descriptive in summarising the formal distribution of preferences. It highlights major exclusions and distributions during the count and comments on differences with how the count might have unfolded had the abolished group voting ticket system still been in place.
Read More »2019 SA Senate Election Part 2 – the Preference Distribution