Group voting ticket

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A group voting ticket (GVT) is a simplified preferential voting system. For multi-member electoral divisions with single transferable voting, a group or party registers a GVT before an election with the electoral commission. When a voter selects a group or party "above the line" on a ballot paper, their vote is distributed according to the registered GVT for that group.

GVTs are used for elections to the Victorian Legislative Council, the upper house of the legislature in the Australian state of Victoria. In South Australia House of Assembly elections, parties can submit preference tickets which are used to save a vote that would otherwise be informal. GVTs have been abolished by New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.[1] They were used in the Australian Senate from the 1984 federal election[2][3] until the 2013 federal election. A form of GVT is used for some elections in Fiji.

The introduction of GVTs in Australia led to the proliferation of microparties and the creation of preference deals between them, enabling one or more candidates within the group to receive sufficient preferences to achieve the quota for election, especially in multi-member electoral divisions. Such preference deals were first arranged for the 1999 NSW election, where three members of the Minor Party Alliance were elected.

"Above the line" voting[edit]

Australian Senate ballot paper used in Victoria for 2016

Every Australian jurisdiction that has introduced GVTs has ballot papers with two sections separated by a line. Voters may choose to vote either “above the line” or "below the line". By voting “below the line” voters can rank candidates individually by numbering boxes. Voters can choose to vote for a group ticket by placing the number '1' in one of the ticket boxes above the line. The single number '1' selects a GVT from one group or party, and all preferences are then distributed according to the GVT. This leads to pre-election trading between parties on how each group will allocate later preferences to other groups and candidates.

About 95% of voters vote above the line.[4]

In elections where GVTs have been abolished (for the Australian Senate, the New South Wales Legislative Council, the South Australian Legislative Council and the Western Australian Legislative Council), voters can express an order of preferences for parties by voting '1', '2' and so on in different boxes "above the line". The scope of a number above the line is merely the list of candidates for that party, so Group Voting Tickets are no longer used in those elections. The party supplies a list of its candidates to the Australian Electoral Commission, New South Wales Electoral Commission, Electoral Commission of South Australia or Western Australian Electoral Commission before the election. All four jurisdictions have limited optional preferential voting, which enables voters to number as many boxes as they choose, but the number only applies to the registered party list.

History[edit]

Voting is compulsory in all Australian jurisdictions for all houses of Parliament.

Complete preferences voting was the only option available for the Australian Senate and the upper houses of other jurisdictions. With proportional representation and preferential voting, it was daunting for many voters to have to fill in scores of boxes on the ballot paper. Some voters would choose their early preferences and then vote for other candidates in the order they appeared on the ballot paper—known as a donkey vote; or fill in the form incorrectly, leading to an informal vote. To ease this task, the GVT option was introduced to permit voters to choose one party or group, and all the remaining squares were deemed to be filled in according to a registered party ticket.

Group voting tickets were introduced for elections for the Australian Senate by the Hawke Government to reduce the number of invalid votes by simplifying the voting system for the Senate. Under the new system a voter cast a valid vote if they placed a single mark above the line instead of the scores on a typical Senate ballot paper. It was first used at the 1984 federal election.[2] For the Australian Senate, the rate of informal voting was reduced from around 9% before 1984, to around 3%.

Group voting tickets were introduced in South Australia in 1985[5] in New South Wales[6] and Western Australia[7] in 1987 and in Victoria in 1988.[8]

Following the use of tactical preference tickets and the record number of minor parties contesting the 1999 NSW election for the New South Wales Legislative Council, a modified form of "above the line" voting was introduced for the 2003 NSW election, effectively abolishing GVTs. Other changes to party registration processes also resulted in many fewer parties contesting NSW Legislative Council elections.

New South Wales changed "above the line" voting for Legislative Council before the 2003 NSW election to optional preferential voting. Parties are now required to submit a higher minimum number of qualified members. A candidate group for Legislative Council elections now requires at least 15 candidates to be eligible for an "above the line" box. Parties do not register group preference tickets and a single 1 in a group's box only preferences the candidates in the group. Voters wishing to preference multiple parties with an "above the line" vote can use lower preferences ("2", "3", and so on) in those parties' "above the line" boxes. The changes reduced the number of parties contesting elections and increased the difficulty for new small parties to be elected.

Group voting tickets for the Senate were abolished in March 2016 in favour of optional preferential voting[9] in time for the 2016 federal election.

South Australia changed from group voting tickets to optional preferential voting before the 2018 South Australian election. Instructions for above the line votes are to mark '1' and then further preferences are optional. The effect of an above the line vote is now to vote for all candidates in a single group in order, and not to follow a GVT. Voters who vote below the line are instructed to provide at least 12 preferences as opposed to having to number all candidates, and with a savings provision to admit ballot papers which indicate at least 6 below the line preferences.[10]

In November 2021, the Western Australian parliament passed legislation to abolish GVTs and move to optional preferential voting,[11] after several minor parties were elected and came close to being elected despite earning 2% or less of the vote;[12] in particular, the election of the Daylight Saving Party with only 98 votes in an area known for voting strongly against daylight savings was cited as to why this legislation was quickly passed.[13][14]

South Australia House of Assembly[edit]

GVTs and "above the line" voting have been used for upper house elections in the jurisdictions described above. In the lower house of most Australian states and the Australian House of Representatives, full preferential instant-runoff (preferential) voting is used to elect a single representative for an electorate. Voters are instructed to put a number in every square, and if they neglect to do so, their vote is informal. A substantial proportion of informal votes have a number 1, tick or cross in a single box.

In South Australian House of Assembly elections, the instructions on the ballot paper advise voters to complete every square. But there is a savings provision where one or some squares have been completed, but not all of them. Parties can submit preference tickets for each electorate to the Electoral Commission of South Australia. Where only one square has been completed indicating a vote for a particular party, that party's ticket is used instead of the vote becoming informal. Similarly, but much more rarely, if a voter completes several but not all squares, and their votes match those of a party's ticket, the ticket will be used to complete the remainder of the squares.[15][16][17]

It is illegal for parties to promote "Just Vote 1" or the like - the measure is only intended to avoid an informal vote where the voter's intention is clear.

Jurisdiction Body elected "Above the line" introduced Group voting tickets used "Below the line" preferences
Federal Parliament Senate 1984 1984 - 2016 Optional
New South Wales Legislative Council 1987 1988 - 2003 Optional
South Australia Legislative Council 1985 1985 - 2018 Optional
Victoria Victorian Legislative Council 1988 1988 - present Optional
Western Australia Legislative Council 1989 1989 - 2021 Optional


Criticism[edit]

Group voting tickets voting has been criticised because electors do not know, and it is difficult to find out, where their preferences are being directed. All details are published in advance, both electronically and in a free booklet published by the Australian Electoral Commission or the appropriate State electoral commission. The booklets may be viewed at polling booths on request to the poll officials. However, such is the complexity of the information that it is unlikely that the average voter could easily determine the fate of their vote's preferences, particularly as some parties submit multiple allocations (e.g., 33% to one party, 66% to another, and so on), and the effects are integrally wound up in preference deals between other parties.

Using GVTs, the potential for tactical voting by parties is greatly increased. Because voters are not usually aware of how a party's preferences are directed, GVTs have allowed minor parties with low support in the community to be elected almost exclusively on the preferences of other parties, for example, where small parties with very different views have agreed to exchange preferences, or where larger parties have sought to minimise votes for opponents with similar views.

A notable case was the 1999 New South Wales state election when the Outdoor Recreation Party's Malcolm Jones was elected to the Legislative Council with a primary vote of 0.19%,[18] or 0.042 of a quota.

GVTs came under scrutiny at the 2013 Australian election for multiple candidates getting provisionally elected with the vast majority of the 14.3% quota being filled from preferences, with "preference whisperer" Glenn Druery's Minor Party Alliance organising tight cross-preferencing between minor parties.[19][20][21] Ricky Muir from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party won a senate seat on a record-low primary vote of 0.5% in Victoria[22][23] (previous record held by Family First's Steve Fielding in 2004 on 1.9% in Victoria).[24] The Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich was on track for a period of time to win a Senate seat from 0.2% in Western Australia, coming 21st out of 28 groups.[25][26][27] Family First's Bob Day won a seat on a primary vote of 3.8% in South Australia,[23][28] and the DLP's John Madigan won his seat in 2010 on a primary vote of 2.3% in Victoria.[29] Senator Nick Xenophon and larger parties including the government proposed changes to the GVT system.[30][31][32] Following the 2018 Victorian state election, the Victorian Greens demanded that Victoria discontinue using group voting, describing it as "corrupt" and "undemocratic", following the election of Sustainable Australia candidate Clifford Hayes to the legislative council on 1.2% of the primary vote.[33]

In the 2021 Western Australian state election, GVTs once again came under scrutiny after the Daylight Saving Party was elected to the Legislative Council with just 98 votes, or 0.2% of the electorate; the electorate had notably voted strongly against adopting a daylight savings system in prior referendums.[13] Additionally, the Legalise Cannabis WA party won a seat on the council with only 2% of the vote;[12] the No Mandatory Vaccination Party almost won a seat through votes given by other smaller parties through GVTs (despite none of these parties individually earning more than 1.9% of the vote),[Note 1] however, were defeated due to the Liberals preferencing the Greens above any of the smaller parties therefore allowing the latter to win.[34] This led to the state government to quickly pass legislation which abolished GVTs in November of that same year.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ No Mandatory Vaccination itself had received only 3,463 votes, or 0.94% of the vote;

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Progress of Bills: Constitutional and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Equality) Bill 2021". parliament.wa.gov.au.
  2. ^ a b Antony Green (23 September 2015). "The Origin of Senate Group Ticket Voting, and it didn't come from the Major Parties". ABC. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Western Australia enters era of electoral equality". Media Statements. Government of Western Australia. 2021-11-17. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  4. ^ "Glossary of Election Terms - Federal Election 2007". ABC. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  5. ^ "Legislative Council – SA 2014". The Tally Room. 26 January 2014. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  6. ^ "The history of the Council". Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 2019-04-28.
  7. ^ Harry C.J. Phillips. Electoral Law in the State of Western Australia: An Overview (PDF) (Third ed.). Western Australian Electoral Commission. p. 68. Retrieved 2019-04-28.
  8. ^ "Constitution (Proportional Representation) Bill" (PDF). Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  9. ^ "Electoral laws passed after marathon Parliament sitting: ABC 18 March 2016". Abc.net.au. 2016-03-18. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  10. ^ Green, Antony (2013-06-19). "New Electoral System Adopted for the South Australian Legislative Council: Antony Green ABC 9 August 2017". Blogs.abc.net.au. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  11. ^ a b "Media Statements - Electoral Equality Bill introduced into State Parliament".
  12. ^ a b "Legalise Cannabis and Daylight Saving parties elected to WA's Upper House on fraction of primary vote". ABC News. 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  13. ^ a b "'The system has significant flaws': WA electoral reform on the table despite campaign denial". ABC News. 2021-04-30. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  14. ^ Green, Antony. "WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences". Antony Green's Election Blog. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  15. ^ "Preferential Voting in Single Member Electorates - South Australia". Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand. Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  16. ^ "Electoral Act 1985" (PDF). South Australia Legislation. Section 60A: Parliament of South Australia. p. 6. Retrieved 2022-05-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  17. ^ "Unique Features of South Australian Elections". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  18. ^ Antony Green (2009-06-16). Antony Green's Election Blog: NSW Legislative Council and its new electoral system. Retrieved on 2009-09-12.
  19. ^ Bormann, Trevor (2013-09-05). "Bitter dispute erupts over Senate preferences in Queensland: ABC 5 September 2013". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  20. ^ Glen Druery - the 'preference whisperer': ABC 21 August 2013 Archived 2 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Bridie Jabour (13 September 2013). "'Preference whisperer' defends role in minor parties' Senate success: The Guardian 13 September 2013". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  22. ^ "Victorian 2013 Senate results and preference flows". ABC. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  23. ^ a b "Motoring Enthusiasts Party member Ricky Muir wins Senate seat: ABC 1 October 2013". Abc.net.au. 2013-10-01. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  24. ^ "A ballot crammed with choice: SMH Tim Colebatch 5 August 2013". Smh.com.au. 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  25. ^ "Western Australia 2013 Senate results and preference flows". ABC. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  26. ^ Green, Antony (2013-09-13). "The Preference Deals behind the Strange Election of Ricky Muir and Wayne Dropulich". Blogs.abc.net.au. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  27. ^ "Australian Sports Party 'pleasantly surprised' by potential Senate seat". Abc.net.au. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  28. ^ "South Australia 2013 Senate results and preference flows". ABC. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  29. ^ "Single-issue groups set to take balance of power". Canberra Times. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  30. ^ "Coalition shy of Senate majority". The Australian. Business Spectator. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  31. ^ "Tony Abbott fires a warning shot at micro parties in the Senate". WA Today. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  32. ^ "Xenophon wants voting reform: NineMSN 9 September 2013". Archived from the original on 17 January 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  33. ^ Willingham, Richard (May 4, 2021). "Greens call for reform to Victoria's 'corrupt' Upper House voting system". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  34. ^ "How the Liberals stopped No Mandatory Vaccination Winning a Seat in the WA Legislative Council – Antony Green's Election Blog". Retrieved 2022-05-09.

External links[edit]