Legislative Councils

The following text describes how our electoral system principles and design elements could be applied to State Legislative Councils:

Summary: State Legislative Councils should be directly elected using multi-member electoral districts and the single transferable vote form of proportional representation, with no exclusionary threshold applying. The voting and counting systems should closely resemble the Hare-Clark systems used in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, but with the transfer values described below.

Council structure: The Council should consist of an odd number of members. The Speaker should have a deliberative vote only. Where the voting is equal the question should be determined in the negative.

Multi-member electoral districts: Members should be elected from multi-member districts. Each district should return an odd number of members, either five or seven. Each district should elect the same number of members, and each member should represent the same number of electors, its ratio of electors to members should be within a range of plus or minus ten per cent of the Council’s average enrolment per member.

Neutral ballot-paper format: The ballot paper format should as clear and simple as practicable, similar to the ballot papers used for the Tasmanian Legislative Assembly. A ballot paper statement should advise electors to mark at least as many preferences as there are vacancies, and encourage them to mark further preferences, but a ballot should be considered formal if it is marked with a unique first preference. Candidates should be listed in columns, with the names of candidates rotated in different positions within each column, using Robson Rotation. Ideally, Robson Rotation should also apply to the order of the columns from left to right across the ballot paper.

One vote, one value: In the rules for counting votes, transfer values should be determined using the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer method presently used for the transfer of surplus votes for Western Australia’s Legislative Council; or the Meek method prescribed in Schedule 1A of New Zealand’s Local Electoral Regulations 2001.

Direct election of all members: Casual vacancies should be filled using the countback system, with Tasmania’s contingency provision for a by-election poll if necessary.

Discussion

Compared with existing electoral systems for State Legislative Councils, the above policy proposes the following changes:

  • Discontinue above-the-line voting, to ensure that preference flows between candidates are determined by voters
  • Use countback to fill casual vacancies, to ensure all representatives are elected by the preferences of voters
  • Use fully optional preferential voting, to provide maximum flexibility to voters to indicate their preferences
  • Use Robson Rotation within columns and for the order of columns, to offer each candidate an equal opportunity to attract votes
  • Improve the method of counting votes and determining transfer values, to ensure ‘one vote, one value’

Overlapping terms: a PRSA design element is that representative bodies should have an odd number of members. This means that Legislative Councils should not have staggered overlapping terms with half the Council elected at a time, but rather the whole Council should be elected at one time.

District magnitude: a gold standard district magnitude is either 5 or 7. This means that Legislative Councils should not use a single un-subdivided district.

Mal-apportionment: a PRSA design element is that each member should represent the same number of electors (within a tolerance of 10%). This means that the mal-apportionment used in Western Australia should be discontinued.

Examples

The table below shows how State Legislative Councils can be elected using 5 or 7-member districts.

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