Victoria election

The following was posted as a comment by Chris Curtis. But it really deserves to be a primary planting of its own. Please note that, except for the final, bracketed paragraph, the remainder of this post is by Chris, not me.

The state of Victoria in Australia has just conducted its first election under PR for the Legislative Council. (All bicameral legislatures in Australia now have one house elected by PR.) It is legally speaking STV, but de facto it is more like a closed list system.

There are eight five-member regions, with the quota for election being 16.66 per cent. Parties register group how to vote cards, which allocate preferences through all the candidates. Voters have a choice in voting. They can mark the number 1 above the line if they wish to follow that party’s HTV card or they can number the squares from 1 onwards below the line next to the individual candidates in any arrangement within or across the parties. In the latter case, they must number at least 1 to 5.

It seems that more than 95 per cent of voters have voted above the line and thus allowed the parties to determine their preferences (thus my comment that it is like a closed list system). The parties negotiate preference deals with each other; e,g., the Australian Labor Party has preferenced the Democratic Labor Party in Western Victoria after its own five candidates, while the DLP has preferenced the ALP No. 4 candidate after its own candidates and the No. 1 Liberal candidate in Western Metropolitan (effectively meaning the DLP preferences will flow to the ALP because the No.1 Liberal – as was expected – got a quota in his own right). The ALP was assured of three seats in Western Metropolitan, so the preferences to the fourth candidate are important and he has won the seat.

It seems that the DLP will win a seat from 2.6 per cent of the vote in Western Victoria by astute preference deals allowing it to gain votes from smaller groups which put it ahead of the next group from which it will gain more preferences and so on. This is a Buffy-like resurrection as the last Victorian DLP MP lost his seat in 1958, the last Queensland DLP MP retired in 1972, the last federal DLP senators lost their seats in 1974, the last New South Wales DLP MP lost his seat in 1976 and the Victorian party disbanded in 1978, though the senator representing overseas Italians in Australia, Nino Randazzo, is a former DLP candidate.

Election day was 25th November, but the complications of voting mean that the count is still going on. Two sites that are still tracking the election are: and

[On the above-the-line voting, is it not the case that in all Australian jurisdictions that permit this, the effect is similar to a closed list within the party? The one way in which it is different–and as Chris relates, it can be significant–is in the possibility of cross-party transfers. In closed-list systems, parties can’t make those “astute preference deals” by which their votes may transfer to candidates nominated on the ‘lists’ of other parties. Welcome aboard, Chris, and thanks for the election update!–MSS]

0 thoughts on “Victoria election

  1. Thanks for the post Chris!

    I’m a little confused about this whole DLP/ALP deal. If I understand correctly, the DLP preference list looks like this, right?

    1-5. DLP candidates
    6. #1 Liberal candidate
    7. #4 ALP candidate

    Why doesn’t the DLP just put ALP candidates one through four in places 7-10? In the case where the ALP gets its first three seats, this will have the same effect. But if by some strange chance the ALP misses the last of the three seats, the DLP’s help won’t go to waste.

    Another little note, it looks like it should be possible to get candidates elected “out of order” even with only above-the-line votes. For example, suppose the ALP’s #2 candidate was widely reviled by opponents for some reason. If all those other parties listed him after the other ALP candidates, then the #3 ALP candidate could overtake him.

  2. Matthew,

    You are almost right about the only difference with closed lists being the possibility of astute preference deals. There is also the preferntial nature of the whole STV system which as I understand it does not apply in list systems, where if your vote does not elect anyone it is wasted. Above the line voting was introduced because many voters who could not count up to 40 or 60 or whatever had their votes declared informal. Some would argue this is a pretty good educational filter as to who should vote, but those who make the laws decided to make it simpler for such people, with the other probably intended effect that the change would empower party bosses in preference deals.


    The DLP is a strong supporter of the Right to Life. It will therefore put candidates of other parties who support the Right to Life ahead of those who do not. Most ALP candidates are pro-abortion. I do not know the stances of the ALP candidates in Western Metropolitan, but it is probable that the fourth ALP candidate, Henry Barlow, is pro-Life while the first three are pro-abortion. If this is the case, it would not surprise me if the ALP had deliberately placed its pro-Life candidate in the number 4 position, as it was virtually guaranteed to win the first three seats in its own right, this being an area where the ALP polls 60 per cent plus. To have put the pro-Life candidate in the first three would have seen DLP preferences go to him (when he would not need them to be elected) and then leave him, thus not assisting the ALP to get four seats.

    The No. 6 on the DLP ticket is a pro-Life Liberal, Bernie Finn, who by chance was 30 year ago a member of the Young Democratic Labor Association.

    It is mathematically possible for above the line votes to upset the party’s chosen order if another party wants to favour the first party’s number 3 over its number 2, for example. In Tasmania, which has had STV for over 100 years, there are cases of voters dumping the parties’ preferred candidates in favour of others from the same parties. This has occurred when voters had to number all candidates in order of preference themselves. There was no above the line voting.

  3. Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, which both elect their lower houses by STV, do not have above-the-line voting. Tasmanian parties stopped handing out HTV cards years ago because Tasmanian electors refused to follow them. Ina similar manner the people of Canberra were very definite that they did not want above-the-line voting to be part of their electoral system, Tasmania and the ACT both use Robson rotation.

    The state of New South Wales, which has a fixed term parliament, will elect the whole of the Legislative Assembly and half the Legislative Council on 24 March 2007.

    The commonwealth of Australia, which does not have a fixed term parliament, will elect the whole of the House of Representatives, half the state senators and all the territory senators some time (probably) in the second half of 2007. The last possible date for the federal election is 19 January 2008.

    The horrors of the Australian electoral cycle are described at Timetable for the next Australian elections>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.