Electoral Commission of South Australia

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The Electoral Commission of South Australia (ECSA) in South Australia, a state of Australia, is an independent office which conducts parliamentary state elections every 4 years and is also responsible for the compulsory re-drawing of South Australian House of Assembly electoral districts before each election. The office is led by electoral commissioner Kay Mousley. In May 2015 Mousley announced her intention after a decade of service to step down from the role. Parliament's Statutory Officers Committee would begin looking for her replacement "soon", no timeframe has been given.[1]

In 1907 the then State Electoral Department was established to administer all South Australian parliamentary elections. Since that time more than 120 parliamentary elections, by-elections and referendums have been conducted by this Office. The State Electoral Commissioner was first empowered to conduct miscellaneous elections in 1980 and later in 1990 the Attorney-General gave approval for the Commissioner to be appointed Returning Officer for Local Government elections when requested. In 1999 the Electoral Commissioner was appointed Returning Officer for all Local Government elections.

The electoral commission was the first electoral administration in the world to utilise computer technology to produce an electoral roll, the first prototype roll scanner, and the development and use of cardboard ballot boxes and voting compartments.[2]

Redistributions[edit]

To produce 'fair' boundaries, which has a history going back to the mid-1900s Playmander, the Electoral Commission of South Australia has been required following the 1989 election to redraw boundaries after each election through a "fairness" provision with the objective that the party which receives over 50 percent of the statewide two-party vote at the forthcoming election should win the two-party vote in a majority of seats.[3] Labor's success in South Australia since the end of the Playmander has been based in part on the strength of its dominance in Adelaide, located in a highly centralised state, with the Liberal vote locked up in rural seats. In 2014 for instance, Labor only won 47 percent of the statewide two-party vote to the Liberals' 53 percent. However, the Liberals only won 12 of the 36 urban seats, while only 4 of their 14 safe two-party seats were urban, with all eight non-safe (<10 percent) seats being urban. Overall, the election resulted in a hung parliament with 23 seats for Labor and 22 for the Liberals. The balance of power rested with the two crossbench independents, Bob Such and Geoff Brock. Their seats, Fisher and Frome, both returned clear Liberal two-party votes but elected independents. 24 seats had returned a Liberal two-party vote, 23 seats returned a Labor two-party vote, therefore the "fairness" provision was met. One element of the Playmander still exists to this day which contributes to the issue − the change from multi-member to single-member seats. Each Labor period of government since the end of the Playmander had at least one comprehensive win, allowing often-Liberal seats to be won by Labor candidates who then built up incumbency and personal popularity. Examples in 2014 were Mawson, Newland and Light, and additionally in 2010, Bright and Hartley – all gained at the 2006 election landslide. Mawson in fact swung toward Labor in 2010 and 2014 despite the statewide trend.

In 2014, referring to the 1989 fairness legislation, Premier Jay Weatherill said "Complaining about the rules when you designed the rules I think sits ill on the mouth of the Liberal Party", while Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley said it was an "impossible" task for the Boundaries Commission to achieve the legislated requirement, stating "It is a constitutional requirement, and until the constitution gets changed, I must say I find it a very inexact science".[4] Additionally, she had previously stated in 2010 "Had the Liberal Party achieved a uniform swing it would have formed Government. The Commission has no control over, and can accept no responsibility for, the quality of the candidates, policies and campaigns."[5]

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