The result is not totally disheartening for the PR campaigners. Nearly half the voters were more impressed with PR, despite its never having been used in San Francisco, than they were with the familiar single-member plurality system - that unfortunate mainstay of nearly all US elections. It is also important that this support is for quota-preferential rather than party list PR.
The appeal in QN1996C enabled the PRSA to donate US$625 to the San Francisco campaign, for which we received their thanks. Major donors were the NSW Branch (A$200) and the Victorian Branch (A$100). Most of the balance came from the National Society's funds.
The submission, full copies of which are available upon request, included a summary of each of its six major sections. An abridgement follows:
Electors have a single transferable vote in all our major public elections, but the proliferation of formality rules arbitrarily disregarding voters' intentions is inexcusable.
Australian Electoral Commission research after the 1987 election showed that 1 in 5 attempts to vote below-the-line failed. In the trade-off between informal and exhausted votes, the PRSA comes down firmly on the side of respecting voters' expressed wishes, while strongly encouraging the marking of preferences to maximize the likelihood of achieving full vote effectiveness. If party boxes remain, there will be no risk of high levels of vote exhaustion under significantly-liberalized below-the-line requirements.
Altogether, 117 Group Voting Tickets were registered by 58 separate entities. In about a third of cases, parties or groups lodged two or three tickets. Sections 272 (4)-(5) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act anticipate constitutional problems with multiple tickets in the absence of individuals having voted directly for a single stream of candidates. It is unclear how the Court of Disputed Returns would deal with this contingency plan in the event of a challenge to the validity of registering multiple tickets. Western Australia, which has similar constitutional restrictions, allows only a single ticket to be registered in its PR Legislative Council elections.
The PRSA calls upon the Committee to recommend remedial action before a future election is thrown into chaos by last-moment uncertainty arising from a legal challenge. Suggestions are also made about how to improve the quality of information about numbering in registered Group Voting Tickets that is available to voters before polling day.
Ideas of imposing an initial exclusion or qualifying threshold for eligibility to receive preferences from other candidates are incompatible with the current quota-preferential counting methods. Past experience with the now discontinued Dunstan version of PR in South Australia and Modified d'Hondt procedure in the ACT shows such inherently unstable schemes to be entirely without merit. On the 1996 election figures, both a 50% and 80% threshold would have provoked a major outcry about their arbitrary unfairness.
|Party||Constituency Votes||Party Votes||Constituency Seats||Party Seats||Total Seats||Party Votes (%)||Total Seats (%)|
|SUB-TOTAL (Seats won)||1,969,650||1,915,625||65||55||120||92.45||100.00|
|Asia Pacific United||293||478||0.02|
|12 OTHER PARTIES||1,657||16,434|
|INDEPENDENTS SUB-TOTAL (No seats won)||75,362||156,431||7.55|
The results for the 65 constituency seats (a majority of the seats in the House), which continue to be filled by that plurality system, failed to show a clear majority party as that system's supporters might have hoped. The largest number of constituency seats for a single party was the 30 of the 65 available obtained by the National Party. That suggests that the result under the old system would have been no different from MMP in that, to govern, the Nationals would still need a coalition partner.
The 4.33% voting for the Christian Coalition formed the largest single group of victims of the arbitrary 5% threshold below which party votes suddenly change from being able to ensure filling of at least 6 seats for a party to filling none. Contrary to quota-preferential PR practice, MMP's threshold prevented voters for the Christian Coalition from having any effect on which of the larger groupings would gain priority in being elected, thus unnecessarily narrowing the ultimate support base of those larger groupings and their legitimacy in gaining seats. That contrasts with the 6.10% voting for the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (ACT) being rewarded with seven party seats. Had the Christian Coalition rather than ACT won a constituency seat, a bonus of four party seats would have been reaped, with each of the five biggest parties dropping a party seat.
The incidence of female nomination ranged from 23% in the Northern Territory to 38-39% in New South Wales and Victoria. Average nominations per vacancy varied from 2.8 in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania to 4.7 in Queensland. Voters in the larger Wards and undivided Regions generally had the widest range of candidates to choose from, as shown below:
|Classes of ATSIC electoral district in terms of no. of vacancies per district||No. of ATSIC electoral districts with that no. of vacancies||No. of vacancies per class of ATSIC electoral district||Mean No. of candidates per ATSIC electoral district|
* These are the ten undivided Regions.
The 1st, 2nd & 3rd quartile classes are shown in bold type.
Optional preferential voting is specified in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989, and a quota-preferential counting method is set out in a Schedule. The PRSA's submission to the independent review panel in August 1994 examined the problem of the last few elected candidates sometimes succeeding with significantly less than a full quota.
As quotas are typically low (often less than 100), giving each ballot-paper a value of 10 or 100 would stop the quota being adjusted too far upwards, and also help avoid most losses by fractions. Abandoning the flawed Senate transfer value approach that has sometimes led to ballot-papers rising in value during the course of a scrutiny, would greatly lower the level of exhausted votes.
The PRSA showed that in tandem, these measures would normally result in the last elected candidates obtaining a quota of votes, or close to it. As our suggestions were not acted upon this time, we will analyse a selection of the most recent elections to illustrate what improvements would have accrued from applying our approach.
It appears that voters would cast their ballot by a toll-free call with secure identification by means of a personal identification number. Presumably some sort of cross-check would apply to prevent people dialling with randomly invented numbers hoping they might be taken as valid voters. A recorded message will explain the procedure and voters will then key in numbers for their preferences.
A major reason for implementing the system is the large cost saving possible. At present a major election costs at least $3.1 million. The main cost of the telephone alternative would be $0.5 million, which would be for the total telephone charges involved. Mr Becker said that he would examine a voting system being developed by a consortium of Telstra and an Auckland-based company.
The SA Attorney-General said that counting would be much quicker than the several weeks it took manually. That would remove one of the major arguments of quota-preferential PR opponents - that the time taken by such a scrupulously fair system is too great to be acceptable.
A great advantage of electronic voting is the efficient retention of records of every vote, and the ability to rapidly access those records to conduct recounts, whether to deal with errors subsequently detected, to resolve disputes, or to fill casual vacancies by Tasmanian-style countback.
As distinct from the hybrid New Zealand system where national party list votes determine the final outcome in terms of the Lower House's composition by parties, in Japan the two votes cast by each person are treated independently. Consequently a party can obtain a huge benefit from the distortions of first-past-the-post methods, and not have this tempered very much by the proportional representation component of the system. That candidates were allowed to nominate for both individual and list seats has aroused continuing public controversy.
As is to be expected with any list system, the fragmentation and rearrangement of parties that began in the early 1990s continued. In particular, the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ), traditionally the major opposition party, but supplying a Prime Minister during part of the previous Diet, lost about half of its sitting members to the newly-formed Democratic Party (DP) shortly before the election. With much trade union support switching to this grouping, the former Socialists have now been reduced to just 15 members, compared with 70 immediately following the 1993 elections.
The second-largest grouping became the New Frontier Party (NFP), melded together in stages by Ichiro Ozawa, two-party-system proponent and one-time LDP heavyweight. Surpassed on the Left by both the DP and Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the SDPJ retains some clout because of its 35 prefectural and national seats won in the 252-member Upper House, the House of Councillors, in 1992 and 1995 (the LDP has 110). Every 3 years, half of the members of the Upper House are elected for a 6-year term by single non-transferable voting determining 76 seats in the 47 prefectures (from 1 to 4 vacancies in each), and a d'Hondt allocation applied to national lists determining the remaining 50.
The LDP's overall vote stayed around 36%, but its Lower House numbers rose from 44% to 48% because of large single-member bonuses gained in 7 of the 11 regions. Exit polls indicated that up to 30% of electors split their votes in some areas, at times because their most preferred party did not nominate a candidate in their single-member district. Results for the 5 largest parties are shown in the table below.
|Single-member districts||Vote (%)||38.6||28.0||10.6||12.6||2.2|
|Regional List Allocation||Vote (%)||32.8||28.1||16.1||13.1||6.4|
Those feelings have not yet become deep enough for widespread concern over the large fraction of the Senate that is often no longer directly elected. That fraction was usually much smaller prior to the major 1977 alteration to Section 15 of the Constitution, which removed all Senate casual vacancy poll provisions. The mooted possible breaking of the Coalition's promise to have half of a 1997 Constitutional Convention directly elected appears not to have aroused an immediate vociferous backlash.
|Vacating Senator (Elected by the People)||Replacement Senator (Unelected by the People)||State||Party||Date Sworn in as a Senator (Unelected by the People)||Years Able to Sit in the Senate Unelected|
©1996 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA National President: Bogey Musidlak 14 Strzelecki Crescent NARRABUNDAH ACT 2604 National Secretary: Deane Crabb 11 Yapinga Street PLYMPTON SA 5038 Telephone: (08) 8297 6441, (06) 295 8137 Facsimile: (03) 9589 1802 Internet: http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~lee/prsa Printed by PANTHER PRINTING 97 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000