Each electoral system principle leads to one or more electoral system design elements:
- The views of representatives should reflect the views of the electorate:
-> Representative bodies should be elected using multi-member electoral districts with a gold-standard district magnitude of 5 or 7.
- Representatives should be directly elected:
-> Members should be elected using the single transferable vote form of proportional representation.
-> Electors should explicitly mark each candidate in their order of preference.
-> Casual vacancies should be filled by countback.
- Each vote should have equal value:
-> Electoral districts should each return the same number of members.
-> Each member should represent the same number of voters.
-> Allocation of votes to candidates should use either the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer method or the Meek method.
-> The chair, president, speaker or mayor should have either a deliberative or a casting vote (among members), but not both.
- Voters should have the maximum opportunity to indicate their democratic preferences:
-> Ballot papers should allow fully optional preferential voting, i.e. electors should be able to mark as many or as few preferences as they wish.
- Representative bodies should be able to form a majority:
-> Representative bodies should consist of an odd number of members.
- Candidates should have an equal opportunity to attract votes:
-> Ballot papers should be printed in multiple different versions, using Robson Rotation.
- A majority of votes should elect a majority of members:
-> Electoral districts should each return an odd number of representatives.
Based on the above principles and design elements, the gold standard electoral system uses an odd number of districts that each return an odd number of members, either 5 or 7.
To clarify, PRSA principles lead to opposition of design elements with known deficiencies:
- Systems where the views of representatives do not effectively reflect the views of the electorate:
-> The district magnitude should be at least 5.
- Systems where voters do not directly elect their representatives (via the explicit marking of preferences next to each candidate’s name):
-> Party list systems or Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) systems should not be used.
-> Group Voting Tickets should not be used.
-> Above-the-line voting should not be used.
-> Casual vacancies should not be filled by party appointment.
- Systems that vary the value of votes:
-> Exclusionary thresholds should not be used.
-> Chair, president, speaker or mayor should not have both a deliberative and a casting vote.
-> Systems with districts returning differing numbers of members should not be used.
-> Systems where members represent differing numbers of voters should not be used.
- Systems that risk the ability of a representative body to form a majority:
-> Representative bodies should not contain an even number of members.
-> Electoral districts should not return an even number of members.
The PRSA acknowledges that some exceptions to the above principles and design elements are required to comply with the Australian Constitution:
- Senate structure – the Constitution requires senators to be divided into two classes with overlapping terms, which means that the number of senators should be even. This is reflected in the Representation Act 1983 which requires States to each return an even number of senators (specifically, twelve). Therefore, an exception is required to allow an even number senators to be returned at a double dissolution election.
- House of Representatives structure – the Constitution requires members to be returned from each State or Territory, i.e. that electoral districts cannot cross State or Territory boundaries. Therefore, to enable multi-member districts, an exception is required to permit at least one district in each State or Territory to return a different number of members to the other districts.
The PRSA acknowledges that some exceptions to the above principles and design elements are required to deliver more options for smaller representative bodies such as Local Government Councils:
- Option for 3-member districts – instead of being limited to Council sizes of 5, 7, 15 or 21 (assuming a maximum size of 21), adding the option of 3-member districts enables the additional option of a 9-member council, and the flexibility that a 15-member Council can either be elected using either three 5-member districts or five 3-member districts.