ABN 31 010 090 247

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA
(VICTORIA-TASMANIA)

Tel +613 9589 1802

Tel +61429176725

info@prsa.org.au

www.prsa.org.au

 



2003-08-21*

 

To Victorian Councils: Hare-Clark Features Desirable for a Municipal Electoral System

 

(* References below to the Local Government Act 1989 have been updated to reflect changes since this letter was sent in 2003.)

 

The Bracks Government has successfully introduced amendments to the Local Government Act 1989 to provide for Proportional Representation to apply in Local Government elections. The quota-preferential form of proportional representation used would allow both minority and majority opinions to be represented fairly on municipal councils, reducing the confrontation and campaign excesses associated with the present winner-take-all electoral system. Proportional representation leads to increased satisfaction by the voting population; people feel that their views are being heard and taken account of not just at election time, but throughout the Council's term of office.

The Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania Branch) supports the Government's intention to give councils the option of PR for municipal elections, which is now included in Section 42 of the Local Government Act 1989, which invokes Schedule 3 Part 4A of that Act where the quota-preferential proportional representation system is prescribed in detail, but it is concerned that certain important features of a sound PR system have not been included. We believe that the following four key objectives should be adopted:

  • All elections should be by proportional representation with councillors being directly elected, either from an unsubdivided municipality electing an odd number of councillors, or from subdivisions having three members, or a higher odd number.
  • A requirement that all councillors must be directly elected by the citizens should be specifically prescribed in the Act, so that replacement councillors could not be appointed by a council or other person or body.
  • Casual vacancies to fill one or more of several seats originally filled as a group should be not be filled by a by-election to fill a single seat, or any fewer seats than the number in the group filled at the last general election, but should instead be filled by countback, where ballots cast in the original election are recounted by an appropriate procedure (see Section 37A of the Local Government Act 1989, which invokes Schedule 3A of that Act where the countback procedure is prescribed in detail.).
  • To overcome the unfair advantage that candidates on the top of the ballot paper have (the so-called donkey vote), the PRSAV-T recommends the adoption of Robson Rotation, a system of rotating the order in which candidates appear on the ballot paper. This system has been successfully adopted in Tasmania. Under Robson Rotation, there are the same number of ballot papers showing each candidate in the top position and in other positions on the ballot paper. Some Tasmanian examples of Robson Rotation ballot-papers accompany this letter below. Further details about Robson Rotation and countback appear on our Web site at www.prsa.org.au

 

Councils can influence the writing of the rules for what might be possible in future Local Government elections, and their powers of persuasion could greatly assist the strengthening of Local Government in Victoria. It is hoped that they will convey their support to the Government of as many of the key objectives above as they can.

 

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Click on each group of ballot-papers below to see magnifiable full-screen views of the different orders of the 11 different ballot-papers for this Robson Rotation.

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ROBSON ROTATION BALLOT-PAPERS
USED IN TASMANIAN MUNICIPAL POLLS
Below, for a 2002 Tasmanian Council election, are the 11 different permutations (R1-R11) of the order of the 11 candidates' names on the ballot-papers for that election. The ballot-papers are printed by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, which conducts all council elections in Tasmania, and has, at the PRSA's request, given it copies of cancelled former ballot-papers so it can explain the Robson Rotation system, used in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Computerized printing of ballot-papers allows this rotation of names at very little cost, as the names are electronically rotated much like a mail-merge program.

Each voter is given a ballot-paper that is one of those permutations. Section 18 of Tasmania's Local Government (General) Regulations 2005 invokes Schedule 1 of those regulations, which requires Robson Rotation to be applied in the printing of ballot-papers, and that the order in which ballot-papers are issued to voters to be randomized, so that each candidate has an equal advantage, as far as position on the ballot-paper is concerned.

This rotation of candidates' names on the ballot-paper makes the slavish following of how-to-vote tickets impracticable, thus nullifying 'donkey voting', and discouraging the device of 'dummy candidates' peculiar to municipal elections in Victoria, and excessive influence of party groups.
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