Definitions of Voting Systems
Voting systems can generally be divided into three major groups-
Under the majority system, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of votes to be elected.
The Commonwealth House of Representatives uses a majoritarian electoral system.
In Australia majority systems are sometimes called preferential systems. However, the term "preferential" refers to an elector being able to indicate an order of preference for the candidates on the ballot paper.
Exhaustive preferential (sometimes called Block Majority) is a variation of a majority system that can be used in multi-member electorates. Under this system, once a candidate is elected, all ballot papers are returned to the count to elect the next member.
Proportional representation systems are used for elections in multi-member electorates to elect candidates who receive a set proportion of the vote. In Australia, these systems are classified into two categories — List Systems and Single Transferable Vote (STV).
List Systems are used in multi-member electorates where the elector indicates an order of preference for the parties which then choose candidates to be elected as members of the parliament. In Single Transferable Vote, the elector indicates an order of preference for individual candidates.
All Australian Proportional Representation systems are STV types, although the South Australian, Western Australian and NSW Upper Houses and the Senate may be thought of as semi-List Systems as the ballot paper provides for above the line voting and left and right of the line in the case of Western Australia.
The term preferential refers to an elector being required to indicate an order of preference for candidates on the ballot paper. Different types of preferential voting include:—
Full preferential — the elector must show a preference for all candidates listed for the ballot paper to be formal.
Partial preferential — the elector must show a minimum number of preferences for candidates — usually equal to the number to be elected.
Optional preferential — the elector need only indicate a preference for the candidate of his/her first choice and the allocation of any further preference is optional.
Absolute majority 50% of the formal vote, plus one more.
Consensus election Electors decide the successful candidates/s through a process of discussion, rather than by a formal vote. This system is used in some Northern Territory community government elections.
More than one member is elected to represent an electorate at a single election.
A process of rotating candidates’ names within a column on the ballot paper, so favoured positions (i.e, top and bottom of the ballot paper) are shared equally between all candidates. Neil Robson MHA, introduced these rotations to the Tasmanian Parliament in 1977.
The ACT adopted Robson rotation for elections to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1995.
One member is elected to represent an electorate.
A written statement, registered with the electoral authority by a candidate or group of candidates, which expresses the order in which preferences are to be further allocated for an elector marking a 1 in one of the boxes in an above-the-line (SA and NSW upper houses, the Senate and also used in SA lower house when incomplete preferences are given by an elector) or left and right of the line (WA upper house) vote.
Issued by the Electoral Council of Australia
PO Box 272 Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone 02 6207 0619, fax 02 6205 0382
The Electoral Council is a consultative council of Electoral Commissioners and Chief Electoral Officers from the electoral authorities of the Commonwealth, States and Territories. The ECA consults on the management of the electoral rolls for Commonwealth State, Territory and Local Government elections to maximise their accuracy and integrity and ensure efficient and effective roll methdodologies are implemented and considers matters which will facilitate or improve Australian electoral administration.