PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA

Tel +613 9589 1802

Tel +61429176725

nfo@prsa.org.au

www.prsa.org.au

 

i


2016-07-07

 

First Preference Votes

 

*

Absolute Entitlement: A quota or more of first preference votes under quota-preferential PR provides a properly-qualified candidate receiving them with a simple absolute entitlement to be elected. If some candidates receive well over a quota of first preference votes, there will not be enough first preference votes left for all the other successful candidates to obtain a quota of first preference votes, so their legitimate quotas will have to include first preference votes for other candidates that have had to be transferred to them in accordance with the voters’ order of preference, either as surplus votes or as votes of an excluded candidate.

 

 

*

Legitimate Election without Any First Preferences: It is possible and legitimate for a candidate gaining no first preference votes at all to receive a quota of votes, and be elected, by surplus transfers from one or more candidates that have, among them, gained two or more quotas of first preference votes. Such election is fair and reasonable if voters have explicitly voted that way, but it is not so fair and reasonable if it has arisen from the use of Group Voting Tickets, which can mislead voters that are busy, distracted or less that fully aware of their being manipulated by such Tickets.

 

 

*

Group Voting Tickets: If a party’s voters have decided, or have been persuaded or conditioned - as has happened with Group Voting Tickets since they began in Australia in 1983 - to vote for the first-listed in a single order of party candidates put forward at an election, it is usual for that first-listed candidate to receive nearly all the first preference votes for that party, leaving every other candidate of that party with only a tiny number of first preference votes. That regimentation of the vote existed before Group Voting Tickets, but they have facilitated the regimentation much further. The use of Group Voting Tickets for Senate elections was discontinued in March 2016.

 

 

*

Example of GVT Use: Controversy over the 2004 election of Senator Stephen Fielding, of the Family First Party, in Victoria with very few first preference votes has led to ill-informed critics casting doubt on the system that allowed him to be elected a senator for that reason, but such critics are silent about the even smaller number of first preference votes that nearly all larger party senators received. Like Senator Fielding, those senators assembled most of their quotas with preference votes transferred as surpluses from elected candidates, or as full value transfers from excluded candidates, but those transfers were mandated not mainly by the voters explicitly, as with Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system and its Robson Rotation, but by very dubiously-contrived Group Voting Tickets that were not widely examined by voters.

 

 

*

Misguided Criticisms: Complaints about Senator Fielding’s election based on his small personal vote, rather than on the grave defects of Group Voting Tickets, were well refuted in a 2008 letter to The Sunday Age by Chris Curtis (see 2nd letter listed) .

 

 

*

Casual Vacancies: When PR casual vacancies are properly filled using countback, the first preference votes cast for the successful replacement candidate are not relevant to that candidate’s election, as the replacement candidate is decided by the Returning Officer re-examining the ballot-papers that made up the quota of votes cast by the voters for the vacating candidate in order to determine which candidate unelected at the original poll has received, after any distribution of preferences that might be needed, an absolute majority of the next available preferences, none of which will obviously be first preferences. An example of a municipal countback election explains that.

 

* * * * * * * *