Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Western Metro and the Victoria's Optional Preferential vote

One of the unknown factors in the Western Metro ballot is the effect of the optional preferential ballot.  Under new rules introduced in this election is that for a below the line vote to be valid the voter must number one to five candidates of their choice.

There is no logic that justifies a five minimum Optional Preference but it makes the politicians that introduced it feel good. In fact it may end up working against them.

All parties, except Sex Party and Family First, have nominated a full team of five candidates. (None would ever elect all five - they just fill up the ballot paper and minor parties make a contribution towards consolidated revenue in lost deposits) the Optional Preferential rules means that voters can just preference their group and then exhaust.  This has the likely impact of working against the ALP as Family First voters are more likely to exhaust after preferencing the DLP or Liberal Party.

DLP and Liberal Party can exhaust within their own group and the DLP vote will not travel beyond.

In the Liberal Party's case below-the-line votes picked up in the count that do exhausts with the Liberals number two candidate will be picked up in part and carried on by the Liberal Ticket vote which increases in value at the expense of any non-Ticket vote it receives along the way. This is due to the formula used to calculate the Surplus Transfer value which increases the value of the party Ticket vote disproportionately as it moves forward. (Similar inflation of the ALP and Liberal Party tickets also occur in the election of the Parties previous candidates. In most cases it will go unnoticed as most votes travel in the same direction but the increase is there and can provide a winning margin in a close election as we are potentially seeing unfold in Western Metro)

Sex Party, as with Family First, must preference beyond their own Party in order for their vote to be considered valid. They could preference three of the already excluded or elected candidates in the race at the time Sex Party's vote is distributed, in which case the vote will exhaust carrying its value with it.  An exhausted Sex Party vote reduces the Greens chances of reaching quota in the same way that a DLP or FF exhausted vote reduces the ALPs overall vote. If a Sex Party vote lands on Labors third Candidate or the Liberal party second candidate it will move Labors chances forward or if it land on the Greens add to the Greens total,.

The Greens need 90% or more Sex Party's below the line preferences to remain in the contest

The unknown question is how many below-the-line votes will exhaust and will it play a decisive role in who is elected?if this is the case then the system will take over and not the voter and as explained earlier teh advantgae is with the major Ticket votes. If the Greens are elected in fourth place then it is all academic.

The better alternative

in order to limit the system providing an advantage to one group or anopther the best option is to adopt a weighted Surplus trabfer value foirmula and do way with segmentation and have one transaction per candidate.

In a reiterative count, such as applies in the Wright System, the ballot is reset and restarted on every exclusion. the quota is recalculated following the distribution of the first available preference. It avoids the need for segmentation of the vote.  An optional preferential vote could land on one of the previously declared elected candidates and form part of their surplus if it has no place to go it would just fall off the table and be considered in the same was as an informal ballot. Overall a reiterative count best reflects the voters intentions in the preference nominated.  It treats each ballot paper equally and when a candidate is excluded form the ballot the vote is distributed as if the excluded candidate had not stood.

In 2007 the distortion in the segmentation of the vote denied the Greens candidate, Larissa Waters, a Senate seat. (If you recount the 2007 Queensland Senate count excluding all candidates except the last seven standing (Three ALP, 3 LNP and 1 GRN) Larissa Waters should have been elected.

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