western australia

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

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

Final Two-Party Preferred result for 2021 Western Australian Election

Lower house results are now final for the 2021 Western Australian election, including the full distribution of preferences for all seats. The results reveal the extra-ordinary scale of Labor’s victory.

(The distribution of preferences for Legislative Council regions will take place later this week. I’ve provided commentary pending the release of the LC preference distributions at the page hosting my ABC Legislative Council calculators.)

Labor has won 53 of the 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly, up 13 on the 40 seats it held before the election. The Liberal Party’s representation in the lower house has collapsed from 13 seats to just two. In Parliament the opposition will now be led by National Party Leader Mia Davies, her party having emerged from the carnage with four seats, down two from the six it held before the election.

Labor has recorded 69.7% of the state-wide two-party preferred vote, a swing in it’s favour of 14.1%. That’s on top of the 12.8% swing that put Labor into office in 2017.

Of the 59 seats, 58 finished as two-party contests with the Greens finishing second in Fremantle. (Note: 31 March – That there have been some minor changes to results in this post due to correction by the WAEC. The most significant change concerned a correction to the count in Southern River which cut the Labor two-party preferred vote from 84.9% to a still substantial 83.1%.) Read More »Final Two-Party Preferred result for 2021 Western Australian Election

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

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

Western Australian Election Updates

In this post I’ll try and provide updates of election results over the next few days.

Counting resume at 10am Perth time each day.

Labor has won a smashing victory, polling more than 60% of the first preference vote and more than 69% after preferences. Labor also looks to have overcome the malapportioned electoral system for the state’s Legislative Council and is set to be the first Labor government in the state’s history to win a majority in the upper house.

Commentary reflects the live results being updated on the ABC Elections website.

And if you are looking for Legislative Council predictions, you can find them with the output from my Legislative Council calculator.

Saturday 20 March

I’ll close this post now. All seats have been decided though counting continues ahead of the formal distributions of preferences next week.

On Sunday I hope to write a separate post on the Legislative Council count where the predicted numbers are still bouncing around.
Read More »Western Australian Election Updates

WA’s Experiment with Lower House Ticket Voting

Divided Senate ballot papers and Group Voting Tickets were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were later adapted for use in the four mainland states with Legislative Councils, South Australia in 1985, NSW in 1988, Western Australia in 1989 and Victoria finally in 2006.

Divided ballot papers remain in use for electing upper houses in all jurisdictions. However, group voting tickets (GVTs), allowing parties to control between-party preferences, have fallen out of favour. GVTs were abolished in NSW in 2003, for the Senate in 2016 and in South Australia in 2018. GVTs are still part of the upper house voting system in Victoria and Western Australia.

All states except Western Australia adopted the Senate’s horizontal ballot paper where groups are listed left to right, with voters given the option of voting ‘above the line’ for party groups, or ‘below the line’ for lists of candidates. Western Australia finally adopted this ballot paper in 2017.

The original WA upper house ballot paper listed parties and groups vertically. Voters were given the choice of voting for groups on the left of the ballot paper, or for candidates on the right.

The reason Western Australia adopted a different ballot paper was because the design was intended to be used for both upper and lower house elections. The divided lower house ballot paper was used for three by-elections in 1988 but then abandoned before the 1989 state election.

A sample of the divided ballot paper used for the 1988 Ascot by-election is shown below.Read More »WA’s Experiment with Lower House Ticket Voting