Redistribution (Australia)

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In Australia, a redistribution is the process of redrawing the boundaries of electoral divisions of the House of Representatives, a process that in the United States is called redistricting.

In the House of Representatives each State and Territory is divided into electoral divisions. The number of divisions in each state is calculated by reference to population, with a minimum of five divisions guaranteed for each original state by section 24 of the Constitution. To ensure that there are as much as practicable an equal number of electors in each division within a State or Territory, or equal representation, the boundaries of these divisions must be redrawn or redistributed periodically. A redistribution (or redrawing) of the geographic boundaries of these divisions takes place at least once every seven years.

The Australian Electoral Commission, oversees the process of redistribution, taking into account many factors,[1] including the one vote, one value principle.

When required[edit]

A redistribution is necessary in three circumstances:

  • a change in the number of parliamentary representatives to which a State or Territory is entitled, due to a change in population,
  • the number of electors in more than one third of the divisions in a State or one of the divisions in the ACT or Northern Territory deviates from the average divisional enrolment by over 10% for a period of more than two months,
  • seven years has elapsed since the previous redistribution.

However, a redistribution is postponed if it would begin within one year of the expiration of the House of Representatives to prevent a general election from occurring during a redistribution.


A redistribution is undertaken by a committee consisting of the Electoral Commissioner, the Australian Electoral Officer for the State concerned (in the ACT, the senior Divisional Returning officer), the State Surveyor General and the State Auditor General. After the redistribution process commences, the Electoral Commissioner invites public suggestions on the redistribution which must be lodged within 30 days. A further period of 14 days is allowed for comments on the suggestions lodged. The Redistribution Committee then divides the State or Territory into divisions and publishes its proposed redistribution. A period of 28 days is allowed after publication of the proposed redistribution for written objections. A further period of 14 days is provided for comments on the objections lodged. These objections are considered by an augmented Electoral Commission consisting of the four members of the Redistribution Committee and the two part-time members of the Electoral Commission. At the time of the redistribution the number of electors in the divisions may vary up to 10% from the 'quota' or average divisional figure but at a point 3.5 years after the expected completion of the redistribution, the figures should not vary from the average projected quota by more or less than 3.5%. Thus the most rapidly growing divisions are generally started with enrolments below the quota while those that are losing population are started above the quota.

The Parliament has no power to reject or amend the final determination of the augmented Electoral Commission.


Boundaries for the Australian House of Representatives and for the six state and two territorial legislatures are drawn up by independent authorities - at the federal level by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and in the states and territories by their equivalent bodies. Politicians have no influence over the process, although they, along with any other citizen or organization, can make submissions to the independent authorities suggesting changes.

Interference in the redistribution process by politicians, of the kind which is common in the United States, would be a criminal offence in Australia. In 1977, federal Cabinet minister Reg Withers was forced to resign for suggesting to another minister that the name of a federal electorate be changed to suit a political ally. There have, however, been some conspicuous examples of malapportionment under the electoral system, when for example rural areas within a State have been allocated more divisions than their population would merit.

Alternative Names[edit]

  • Other names for redistribution include "Revision". [2]

History of Redistributions[edit]


  1. ^ AEC - Redistribution overview
  2. ^ "Advertising.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 27 March 1886. p. 4. Retrieved 2 July 2013.