Proportional Representation Society of Australia
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The Proportional Representation Society of Australia is one of the main electoral reform organizations in Australia. It has branches in South Australia, Victoria-Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Its membership includes a number of people that have successfully promoted electoral reform (both past and present).
The Society regularly reviews and makes submissions on electoral reform within Australia with a focus on multi-member single transferable vote - proportional representation voting systems. It has also made numerous submissions to various international organizations including the United Nations and the New Zealand Parliament.
The Society's origin dates back to before the commencement of Australia as a Federation with Catherine Helen Spence as one of its founding members. See details of the growth and success of quota-preferential proportional representation in Australia, particularly at the national level.
Catherine Helen Spence's 1861 booklet, 'A Plea for Pure Democracy', helped the early formation of a proportional representation group called the 'Effective Voting League of South Australia'. Miss Catherine Spence was the first female candidate at a public election in the then British Empire when she stood unsuccessfully at the 1897 election (under the unfair first-past-the-post multiple vote) for the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention.
A statue in Light Square in Adelaide, unveiled on 10 March 1986 by Her Majesty the Queen, commemorates Miss Spence. The PRSA later launched its reprint of her booklet there. She is remembered by her Autobiography, and was depicted on the Australian $5 banknote issued for the Centenary of Federation, in 2001. The PRSA's SA Branch (the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia) influenced the replacement of the first party list system used, briefly, for Australian parliamentary elections, introduced by the Dunstan Labor Government in 1973, by direct election using the present quota-preferential form of proportional representation that the SA Electoral Act 1985 prescribes for elections for SA's Legislative Council. The SA Constitution Act 1934 requires a referendum before either House can be abolished, but it does not specify or entrench the electoral system, and that oversight should be remedied.
The Society advocates the use of Hare-Clark proportional voting, which is a form of the Single Transferable Vote method (STV) that is currently in use for elections in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
It has published a quarterly newsletter entitled Quota Notes
The Society has also published a number of educational documents and aids such as
- Rules for Counting Single Transferable Votes
- The Gerrymander Wheel, a simple calculator to demonstrate the futility of drawing geographical boundaries in a single-member electorate system.
The Society has raised a number of issues in relation to the conduct of public elections in Australia, which include:
- Robson Rotation, the need to randomly order candidates' listings in the printing of ballot papers so as to minimize the effect of donkey voting
- The rules for the calculation of the surplus transfer value in the distribution of preferences in proportional representation counts.
- Opposition to the above-the-line voting device unfortunately imposed on certain Australian proportional representation elections
- Filling casual vacancies by countback, which is a form of direct election, rather than by the party appointment system used to fill Senate and Legislative Council casual vacancies.
- Electronic voting, and the introduction and use of computer technology in the conduct of elections
Submissions to Government
The Proportional Representation Society through its numerous submissions to governments has played a significant role in the development and formation of Australia's electoral systems, as can be seen at its News pages.
Public discussion and forums
The Society holds and participates in public meetings and forums on electoral reform in various parts of Australia. Hear a 2009 presentation by Malcolm Mackerras, one of Australia's leading electoral analysts and political journalists.
The Proportional Representation Society's Victoria-Tasmania Branch also provides services in counting votes or fully conducting elections for corporate and community organizations in Australia including economical computations of results by email. See its list of clients.
The Society maintains a connection with:
- The Electoral Reform Society UK
- STV Action UK
- The Center for Voting and Democracy USA
- Fair Vote Canada
- Fair Voting British Columbia