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

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

2021 WA Election – Legislative Council Update

6 April – all six regions have been declared and I’ve included the updated results in the table below. There is more detail on the final result in each region at the ABC’s Legislative Council results page.

WA Legislative Council – Projected results

Region ALP LIB NAT GRN OTH
East Metropolitan 4 1 .. .. 1
North Metropolitan 4 2 .. .. ..
South Metropolitan 4 1 .. 1 ..
Agricultural 3 1 2 .. ..
Mining and Pastoral 4 1 .. .. 1
South West 3 1 1 .. 1
Council (36 seats) 22 7 3 1 3
Change +8 -2 -1 -3 -2

The ‘Other’ seats are two Legalise Cannabis WA and one Daylight Saving Party. The parties that no longer have representation in the Legislative Council are Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (-2), the Liberal Democrats (-1), Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (-1) and the Western Australian Party (-1).
Read More »2021 WA Election – Legislative Council Update

How to Vote in the Western Australian Upper House

It is VERY important that voters understand that the rules for voting in the WA upper house, the Legislative Council, are not the same as those used at the last two federal Senate elections.

Ahead of the 2016 Federal election, the rules for Senate voting were changed. Party control over preferences was ended by the abolition of group voting tickets (GVTs), previously used by parties to control preferences. The new system put control over between-party preference entirely in the hands of voters, the same as applies at lower house elections.

But these changes do not apply for WA Legislative Council elections.

This post is a Q&A explaining the differences and giving some hints on how to complete your Legislative Council ballot paper.Read More »How to Vote in the Western Australian Upper House

Western Australian Legislative Council Calculators Launched

Today I have launched my Legislative Council calculators for the Western Australian election.

You can find the calculators for each region at this link, an explanation of how they work on this page, and links to the group voting tickets for each region over here.

At the 2017 election, more than 95% of votes in all six regions were cast as single ‘1’ above the line tickets, meaning those votes were counted according to each party’s lodged group voting tickets.

The asymmetry of effort between casting a single ‘1’ for a party above the line, or laboriously numbering more than 50 preferences below the line, herds voters into accepting the preference deals and voting above the line for a single party. That sends their vote off on a preferential magical mystery tour across the ballot paper.

As usual there are complex micro-party preference harvesting deals, though not as locked together as at some previous elections. Each of the micro-parties has been allocated a region in which they will be favoured. These are – Read More »Western Australian Legislative Council Calculators Launched

More Party Name Change Nonsense Ahead of the Western Australian election

Update: The proposal to re-name the Daylight Saving Party was rejected by the WA Electoral Commission.

First it was Flux trying to re-name itself “Liberals for Climate”. (See the detail in this post)

Now it is the Daylight Saving Party trying to change its name to the “Daylight Saving Party – The National Liberals”.

What in my opinion is politically scandalous is the application attempts to adopt “National Liberals” as the party name that will appear on the ballot paper.

So not only is the party trying to confuse voters looking for the Liberal or National parties on the Legislative Council ballot paper, but wants to adopt a name that does not let voters know the party’s one big policy, to introduce daylight saving in Western Australia. Voters in Western Australian have rejected daylight saving at four referendums over the past 50 years.

In my opinion, adopting “National Liberals” as the new party name to appear on the ballot paper instead of “Daylight Saving Party” is a clear attempt to mis-lead voters as to the party’s identity and policies.
Read More »More Party Name Change Nonsense Ahead of the Western Australian election

What’s in a Party Name?

UPDATE 2 February – The name change has been approved by by the WA Electoral Commission.

For a party that argues “Australian democracy is broken”, that claims to be “Australia’s most transparent political party”, the Flux Party of Western Australia has taken a breathtakingly cynical step ahead of next March’s Western Australian election.

As shown below, the party has proposed to change its name and hopes to appear on ballot papers in March as “Liberals for Climate”.

I can’t see this as anything else but an attempt to mislead voters into confusing Liberals for Climate with the Liberal Party. It is an attempt to boost the party’s Legislative Council vote and manipulate the group voting ticket system still used in Western Australia.

The question is, will there be enough objection to this cynical name change, and strong enough legal argument against it, to prevent “Liberals for Climate” appearing on next year’s ballot papers?
Read More »What’s in a Party Name?