Tasmania legislative council partial election

Tasmania has a legislative council election today. There is no general election for all 15 MLCs. 2 or 3 MLCs are elected from uninominal districts for 6 year terms each year. A large majority are independents.

10 thoughts on “Tasmania legislative council partial election

  1. Also one of the world’s very few cases (that l know of) of semi-optional preferences in single-seat elections. As in PNG (last l looked), a minimum three candidates must be numbered. All other AV-IRO systems either count one candidate as sufficient in an SMD (NSW, Qld, Fiji, and Irish presidential and by-elections) or else require voters to number all, or all but one, of the candidates (rest of Australia). Even those variations that cap the maximum number of preferences (London, Sri Lanka, San Francisco, etc) all (?) accept a first as a sufficient minimum.
    Before 1972, Tasmania also had a three-preference minimum for the Assembly as well, but now it’s the number of seats (ie, the same rule as ACT and also Victorian upper house).
    I can see the logic of a “trifecta” rule that limits vote-splitting in single-seat races but operates 99% of the time like fully optional preferences in multi-seat races. One could use the Northern Ireland STV education slogan “PR [sic] is as easy as 1, 2, 3…”

  2. I think some sort of minimum ranking scheme would work. Tell voters they must rank more than one but not all of the candidates. Include the option to put a write-in candidate as well.

  3. The ACT tells voters they must rank at least [five/ seven – the number of seats for that district] candidates, but in practice counts all votes that have a unique first preference.

    I have heard a similar method advocated for the Australian Senate by a senior ALP politician – ie, direct voters to “number every candidate” but in practice treat a first preference as sufficient. However, since the repeal of the 1984-98 “Langer votes” experiment, this probably wouldn’t be popular with the Parliament.

  4. Another idea would be to have something I call “automatic preferencing”. It goes like this. Suppose you have the following ballot:

    Goode
    Johnson
    Obama
    Romney
    Stein

    Now, let’s assume that you need to rank 2 candidates in order to have a “viable ballot”.

    Goode
    Johnson 1
    Obama
    Romney 2
    Stein

    What happens next? This voter ranked Johnson 1st and Romney 2nd. The “automatic preferencing” would’ve gone: Stein 3rd, Goode 4th and Obama 5th.

  5. @Derek, 4

    Would “automatic preferencing” automatically continue down the ballot from the lowest rank choice? Or would it follow the “How to Vote” card of a ranked candidate; and if so, which ranked candidate?

  6. I am profoundly opposed to both compulsory preferences and automatic preferences. Both are simply polite ways for political parties to conscript votes from electors who did not want to vote for them.

    I have to say that ACT Elections is playing very fast and loose with the legislation, which bans compulsory preferences. That is particularly scurrilous because the legislation was adopted by popular vote and is entrenched against repeal by the legislative assembly, let alone the electoral commission. Their advice to electors is:

    You should fill in at least as many squares as there are vacancies in your electorate: 7 for Molonglo, 5 for Brindabella or Ginninderra.

    If you don’t fill in this many squares (even if you vote for only one candidate) your vote will still be counted. However, to make the most of your vote, we suggest you continue to fill in the squares until all your preferences are recorded. You may fill in every square if you wish.

    If you don’t vote for any candidates, your vote will be informal.

    A more accurate statement would be:

    Vote for one candidate. You can also fill in as many squares as you choose.

    We suggest you continue to fill in the squares until all your preferences are recorded. You may fill in every square if you wish.

    If you don’t vote for any candidates, your vote will be informal.

    I cast a single preference for the legislative assembly in the last NSW election. I did not wish to vote for either major party and compulsory preferences would have forced me to vote for parties I did not support.

    It’s more than faintly damning that in the only electoral system in the country adopted by popular decision you have optional preferences. The compulsory preference systems were all adopted solely by parliaments.

  7. My own support for optional preferences is less a concern that voters are forced to number candidates they don’t support (I don’t dismiss it, but find it hard to espouse it vigorously in conjunction with compulsory voting) and more a concern that having to number a large field of candidates is an imposition in time and physical and mental effort on the voter. (Filling out my Senate ballot-paper usually takes a good 15 minutes.)

    If we are talking about voters having a free choice, we have to balance the incursion made by requiring them to mark several numbers on the ballot against the empirical fact that, if preferences are completely optional, the threat of vote-splitting may well encourage ideologically-allied parties to coordinate their endorsements on a single unity candidate.

    Thus, in NSW since 1981, the Liberals and Nationals have almost completely eliminated three-cornered contests in State elections. In Qld, the two conservative parties merged and offered only a single LNP candidate in each district.

    The right of, say, a National voter to put a 1 next to the National candidate only while leaving the Liberal blank becomes illusory if, because Labor wins 45% 4o 42%, in the long term the Nationals agree not to run their own candidate in that district (being compensated by their Liberal allies standing down elsewhere) so our National voter is now required to give the Liberal not merely a 2 but a 1 if he/she wants to keep the Labor candidate from winning.

    I understand anecdotally that this was one reason why Tasmania changed from a minimum three to a minimum seven preferences in 1972. That minimum (plus the use of countbacks to fill casual vacancies) means that Tasmanian parties usually offer their supporters a choice of 5 or 6 candidates in each 5-seat district. In Ireland, where fully optional preferences make vote-splitting a real threat (and where absence of countbacks means no incentive to run spare candidates), a party will typically only run 3 or at most 4 candidates in a 5-seat Dail constituency.

    Thus I can live with a small number of required preferences – say, a minimum of three preferences, or as many preferences as seats, or ten preferences, whichever is the second-largest. (Thus: minimum three preferences in a SMD, six preferences in a six-seat Senate race, but ten preferences sufficient in an 11-seat or 21-seat race for the NSW or SA Upper House).

  8. I cannot see any serious linkage between compulsory voting and compulsory preferences, or more correctly compulsory attendance at the polls. Compulsory voting does not require you to support a party you do not support, and while should be an option for a negative vote, there is always the legitimate (if legally dubious) option of deliberately spoiling the ballot and for that matter the unofficial No Dams vote we saw in 1983. Compulsory preferences, by contrast, forces you to cast your ultimate preference for Labor or the Coalition, whether you support them or not.

    I grant the Queensland argument, but I’d note the peculiar circumstances of Queensland where there is no PR chamber at the state level, and where demographics clearly meant the old NP was unlikely to win government again in its own right or as the dominant party of a coalition. Sidenote, I’m fascinated by how quickly ‘LNP’ is becoming the standard acronym for the Coalition outside Queensland.

  9. I’ve thought of the idea of advocating equal preferences. What if, in a 5-candidate race, you want to give a first choice to the Libertarians and Greens, third choice to the Constitutionalists and fourth choice to the Republicans and Democrats?

    There could be a proposal that says that if a voter wants to give equal preferences, it may do so but the number of equal preferences may not be more than half the total number of candidates for example.

  10. > “I cannot see any serious linkage between compulsory voting and compulsory preferences, or more correctly compulsory attendance at the polls. Compulsory voting does not require you to support a party you do not support”

    No, but the very act of turning up to vote can be interpreted as a statement of confidence in the legitimacy of the political process.

    While courts (eg, Austria) can and do draw legal distinctions between (a) being compelled to attend a polling place, take a ballot, and drop said ballot in a ballot-box (on pain of a fine), (b) being compelled to actually mark said ballot (on pain of a fine), and (c) being compelled to mark a minimum number of the candidates listed on the said ballot (on pain of having said ballot set aside as invalid) – but in practice, most self-identified libertarians are just as philosophically opposed to (a) and (b) as Alan is to (c).

    > “while [there] should be an option for a negative vote”

    Agreed in principle. What about the details? Would it be purely advisory (as in Nevada? or Colorado?). Or would NOTA “win” if it had a plurality, or just if it polled enough to deny any candidate 50%? Would nominations be re-opened, or the seat left vacant for the remainder of the term? If the former, would candidates who failed to get in at the first attempt be barred from re-nominating?

    (I’m not trying to shoot down the idea. I’m genuinely curious about best practice in this regard).

    I have filled the backs of many envelopes trying to work out how to apply NOTA (and similarly a right of recall) to PR elections, then eventually concluded that it isn’t necessary because most PR systems give a wide choice of candidates and parties and also ensure that 85% or more of votes elect someone they support. There is a far stronger case for NOTA and recall in winner-take-all elections (whether single- or multi-seat) to balance the fact that up to 49% of voters might be unrepresented.

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