Preferential Voting – Multi-Member

2019 WA Senate Election – Ballot Paper and Preferences Analysis

This is my latest look back at how the Senate’s new electoral system worked at the 2019 election, how voters completed their ballot papers, what preference flows were produced, and what was the influence of how-to-vote material.

In summary, the smaller a party’s vote, the more likely its preferences will scatter widely or exhaust. The more that a party has an identifiable position on the left-right spectrum, the more likely that its preferences will flow in a particular direction.

And the more obvious a party’s how-to-vote recommendation, and the more how-to-votes are handed out, the more likely that voters will follow or guess the recommendation.Read More »2019 WA Senate Election – Ballot Paper and Preferences Analysis

WA to Adopt State-Wide Election for the Legislative Council

The WA Government has announced its reform proposals for the Legislative Council. The proposals are based on a report by the government appointed Ministerial Expert Committee on Electoral Reform.

You can find the Committee’s report at this link. The government has made some minor tweaks to the recommendations and will introduce legislation to Parliament tomorrow.

In summary the major features of the proposal are –
Read More »WA to Adopt State-Wide Election for the Legislative Council

How the Liberals stopped No Mandatory Vaccination Winning a Seat in the WA Legislative Council

The victory of the Daylight Saving Party’s Wilson Tucker from only 98 votes at March’s WA Legislative Council election has attracted much attention and derision. It has also become the justification for the McGowan government’s plans to reform the Legislative Council’s electoral system.

But Tucker’s victory was not the only example in March of group voting tickets being used to engineer results. In South Metropolitan Region, a well co-ordinated preference “harvesting” operation almost delivered the final seat in the region to Cam Tinley of the No Mandatory Vaccination Party.

These examples highlight how the manipulation of group voting tickets (GVTs) by the tactic of preference harvesting can distort the intent of voters. Voters for 19 of the 26 party and independent groups on the ballot paper had their votes delivered by GVTs to Cam Tinley.

That’s more than 40,000 voters with no idea their above-the-line vote for a chosen party or independent would be sent off to try an elect a representative from the No Mandatory Vaccination Party.

The only thing that prevented Cam Tinley beating the Green’s Brad Pettitt was a decision announced early in the campaign by the Liberal Party that it would put No Mandatory Vaccination behind Labor and the Greens on how-to-votes and upper house GVTs.

At the very end of the South Metropolitan Region count, that decision sent around 12,200 Liberal GVT preferences Pettitt’s way, delivering the Greens a seat that could otherwise would have gone to No Mandatory Vaccination. None of the 20 parties that contributed to Tinley’s final tally polled more than 1.9% of the vote, and 11 polled less than half a percent.

Despite these parties attracting few votes, GVTs delivered their preference negotiators total control over how ballot papers would have their preferences transferred. It allowed party votes to be stacked in a way that would have been impossible if voters controlled how preference were distributed.Read More »How the Liberals stopped No Mandatory Vaccination Winning a Seat in the WA Legislative Council

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 WA Election – How the Daylight Saving Party turned 98 votes into a seat in the Legislative Council

The election of Wilson Tucker from the Daylight Saving Party at March’s Western Australian election has become the catalyst for abolishing group voting tickets in Western Australia.

Mr Tucker polled 98 votes or just 0.2% of the vote in the vast Mining and Pastoral Region. His low vote is not surprising as four referendums over five decades have shown little support for daylight saving in this vast region covering the state’s most remote areas.

Anyone familiar with how to engineer results using group voting tickets knows the system can elect parties with little support. But even I, with two decades of covering the perversity of elections using group voting tickets, find myself startled that such an egregious distortion of the electorate’s will could be constructed.

It is the most magnificent example of preference harvesting yet achieved by well-known preference ‘whisperer’ Glenn Druery. It is the crowning glory of his art, but will also be the death knell of the group voting ticket system he used to achieve it.

The back-story to Mr Tucker’s election gets even weirder. Tucker left Western Australia three years ago and has been working as a software engineer for Amazon on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in Seattle. It is a better paid job than his new four year position in the WA Legislative Council. That is assuming, in this period of pandemic, he can get a flight back, is allowed entry to Australia and can cross the Western Australian border. (Update: I’m informed Mr Tucker has arrived back ready to take his seat.) Tucker’s term is due to begin on 22 May. If he is unable to return and vacates the seat, a re-count would create the farcical situation where his his running mate, Janet Wilson, would take his seat despite receiving zero votes at the state election.Read More »2021 WA Election – How the Daylight Saving Party turned 98 votes into a seat in the Legislative Council

WA’s Zonal Electoral System and the Legislative Council Reform Debate

This post is a detailed look at Western Australia’s zonal electoral system ahead of a major review of how the Legislative Council is elected.

The malapportionment that applied to lower house boundaries was abolished with the introduction of one-vote one-value electoral boundaries at the 2008 election.

But malapportionment remains for the Legislative Council, and was in fact made worse by changes to region representation in 2008.

The bias in the electoral system against Perth has drifted out from 2.80-to-1 when the current system was adopted in 1989, to 3.07-to-1 in 2021.

But this hides another developing bias, an increased weighting against voters in South West Region. Where in 1989 average enrolment per MLC in the three non-metropolitan regions was equal, by the 2021 election, average enrolment in Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region had blown out to a ratio of 2.81-to-1 against voters in South West Region.

Western Australia’s current electoral regions defined by land usage rather than population is unsustainable given demographic trends.

The McGowan government has appointed a Ministerial Expert Committee chaired by QC and former WA Governor Malcolm McCusker to examine reform options for the Legislative Council. The existing malapportionment of the Legislative Council’s electoral system is one amongst several issues it will be addressing. (You can find details of the Committee here)

In this post I set out in detail the problems with the current malapportionment. In future posts I’ll return to other issues such as whether Western Australia should follow the Commonwealth, New South Wales and South Australia by abolishing group voting tickets for elections to the upper house.
Read More »WA’s Zonal Electoral System and the Legislative Council Reform Debate

2018 Tasmanian election – Animations of the Distributions of Preferences

Thanks to the excellent animation work of the ABC’s Markus Mannheim, I’ve pulled together animations that show the distribution of preferences in all five seats at the 2018 Tasmanian election.

These are good illustration of how the system works to fit seats to votes recorded by candidate.

Below the animation on each page I have included some notes on the key points in each count.Read More »2018 Tasmanian election – Animations of the Distributions of Preferences

Bass – Distribution of Preferences – 2018 Tasmanian Election

To help explain the mysteries of the Hare-Clark electoral system, I’ve prepared a series of posts that summarise the key points of the distribution of preferences in the five electorates at the 2018 Tasmanian election.

This post summarises the count in Bass.

An important point I feel needs to be stressed is that while the Hare-Clark counting system is complex, voting is NOT complex.

All preferences in the Hare-Clark system are under the control of you the voter. Parties and candidate have no say on how preferences on your ballot paper are counted.

All you need to do is number a minimum of five preferences for your vote to be counted as formal. And you are free to keep numbering preferences beyond five if you want to order other candidates. If you number candidates in the order you would like to them elected, then the complex counting system will apply your votes to your chosen candidates in the order that you specified.

Some people like to bet their preference order against how every one else will vote. Unless you want to spend a lot of time researching guestimates of how candidates will poll, the best tactic to adopt is the one I stated above – simply number candidates in the order you would like to see them elected.
Read More »Bass – Distribution of Preferences – 2018 Tasmanian Election