Electoral Law

Local Seats for Local People – Who Should be Allowed to Contest Elections

Whether candidates live in the electorate they contest is a question that induces rage with some voters.

Who are these blow-in candidates they’ve never heard of contesting the local seat?

It is a matter that raises particular attention in country seats, where being an outsider is a major disadvantage for a candidate.

But for political parties, trying to find candidates for your opponent’s safest seats is always difficult. It is an obvious truth of politics that the quality of a party’s candidates dips as the chances of the party winning a seat declines. It is a truth that becomes even more evident at elections where a party looks certain of defeat.

Serious political parties contest every seat, even if only to attract a few extra dollars from public election funding. But trying to find candidates that are qualified to stand, (think dual citizenship issues at Federal elections), doesn’t have an embarrassing social media history, and won’t start spouting loopy ideas that attract mainstream media attention, can be something of a challenge.Read More »Local Seats for Local People – Who Should be Allowed to Contest Elections

Should we Count Pre-poll votes before 6pm on Election Day?

The last decade has seen a dramatic surge in pre-poll voting at both state and federal elections. At the 2007 Federal election, just 8.3% of votes were cast as pre-polls. Twelve years later that figure had quadrupled to 32.3%.

In 2007 80.0% of votes were ordinary polling day votes, in 2019 just 54.5%. Without the efforts of a horde of additional staff brought in to count pre-polls late into the evening, few recent elections would have produced a clear winner on election night.

The growth of pre-poll voting has altered the flow of results on election night. By 9pm most polling places have reported their results, but count completion for some of the country’s largest pre-poll centres can take several hours longer. It was pre-poll votes as much as the closeness of result that pushed coverage of the last two Federal elections into the early hours of Sunday morning.

This has led to calls for pre-poll counting to commence before 6pm on election day, something that is currently illegal. The call has come from several electoral authorities, including the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). It has also been suggested by some state political parties.

Is this a good idea? In my view the answer is unambiguously yes, as long as the results of pre-poll vote counts remain secret until after the close of polling at 6pm.

Read More »Should we Count Pre-poll votes before 6pm on Election Day?

The Growing Weight of Country and Remote Votes in the WA Legislative Council

In my last post I published an analysis of the new state electoral boundaries for Western Australia. The boundaries were drawn on one-vote one-value principles, a signature reform introduced by the Gallop government in 2005, and one that helped deliver Labor a record majority at the 2017 election. (see this post)

The unfinished business of the 2005 reforms was the Legislative Council. One-vote one-value only applied to the Legislative Assembly, the state’s lower house. It undid a two-to-oneĀ  weighting against Perth that had applied since 1989, but left in place a three-to-one weighting in the Legislative Council, the state’s upper house.

In 2005, Labor and the Greens could not agree on a reform model for the Legislative Council. As part of the deal for lower house reform, the Greens wanted the existing six regions retained, but with six member per region instead of the existing five and seven member regions. This left in place the three-to-one weight against Perth, but added a new bias to the system by increasing the weight of votes in Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region at the expense of South West Region. At the 2017 election, a vote in Mining and Pastoral Region carried seven times the weight of a vote in Perth, a weighting that can only increase at future elections.

Read More »The Growing Weight of Country and Remote Votes in the WA Legislative Council