A fair voting system

Preferential voting

If a candidate in an election does not achieve a majority of first preference votes, the winner is determined by the allocation of subsequent second, third and so on preferences.

How Preferential voting works: 

There are two systems of preferential voting: Full preferential and optional preferential voting.  With full preferential voting, voters are required to indicate their first preference by placing a “1” against a candidate’s name, then make a second preference and so on for the number of candidates on the ballot paper.  Optional preferential voting only requires the voter to make a first preference.

If a candidate does not get an absolute majority of first preference votes, then the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and those votes are allocated to the other candidates according to the number of second preference votes.  If no majority has been achieved, the next candidate with the least number of primary votes is eliminated and those votes are allocated to other candidates according to the second preference or third preference and so on if the second preferences have been exhausted.

Supporters of preferential voting say:

  1. The winning candidate is the most preferred or least disliked candidate by the entire electorate.
  2. Voters who support minor parties know that their votes will count towards deciding the winner.
  3. Parties sharing overlapping philosophies and policies can assist each other to win.

 Opponents of preferential voting say:

  1. Vote counting is complex under current manual procedures.
  2. The process is costly and time consuming, potentially delaying a result.
  3. Some people don’t like having to choose more than one candidate.
  4. Preferential voting makes voting more difficult.  Some people do not like having to rank their preference of candidates.  They either neglect to do so or make mistakes, leading to higher levels of informal voting.
  5. Some people do not like being forced to make a preference for candidates they do not support.
  6. A candidate not supported by most of the electorate could still win.

What do you think?  Have your say.  Join the conversation below.


Drawing of Electoral Boundaries

Sometimes people find themselves in a new electorate when voting comes around.  That’s because electoral boundaries - approximately 100,000 people within an area - are sometimes changed to reflect changes in the movement of people and the demographic makeup of the area.  Electoral authorities regularly hold hearings to review boundaries. Political parties are not allowed to participate in the hearings so as to avoid the perception of manipulation of the system in their favour.  Some people do not think electoral boundaries are being decided fairly.

What do you think?  Have your say.  Join the conversation below.


How we vote 

Postal voting

Postal voting is designed for people who cannot attend a polling place in their electorate.  

How voting works:

Once a person has voted, the ballot paper is placed in a sealed envelope which does not contain any voter identification, and then is placed in another sealed envelope that contains the name and address of the voter.  When it is received by the electoral authority the outside envelope is used to confirm the person has voted. The ballot paper is removed from the inside envelope and place in a pile for counting. The system is designed so the identity of the voter cannot be linked to the ballot paper, thus ensuring tick the person’s vote is anonymous.

Opponents of postal voting claim that the system is open to abuse because votes can be tampered with and there is nothing stopping the voter’s personal details being copied. 

What do you think?  Have your say.  Join the conversation below.

Early voting

Early voting is officially known as 'Pre-Poll' voting -- voting before the actual day of the election or poll.  When voting early, voters are required by law to give a valid reason for their request to vote before election day.

How early voting works:

For the 2019 federal election, early-voting or pre-poll voting centres opened in each electorate three weeks before election day in metropolitan areas and two weeks before election day in rural areas. 

According to AEC figures, 2980498 people voted early for the 2016 federal election.  In 2019, 4766853 people voted early -- a 60% increase in early voting compared with the 2016 election. 

Vote Australia recognises that early voting is convenient for those who need it.  Should all voters be allowed to vote before all issues have been fully debated?

What do you think?  Have your say.  Join the conversation below.


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  • Peter Newland
    commented 2023-04-30 16:55:07 +1000
    A summary/update of my earlier comments.
    Only, repeat ONLY, Borda-style counts guarantee fair counting of preferential voting elections for single or multimember electorates. Historically, Borda counts have been rejected (18 to 20th century, e.g. “Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem”) because they will contradict an “Absolute Majority” – but that’s only when the voters make it clear that the “absolute” majority is weak AND that preferences prove that there is a MORE-preferred candidate.

    E.g., If Candidate A gets 51% of first preferences and 49% of last preferences, but Candidate D (of 4 candidates) gets 0% 1st preferences but 100% of 2nd preferences (extremely unlikely but this is s reductio-ad-absurdum proof) hence Candidate D is clearly the preferred candidate with an average preference of 2.000 which is much closer to average 1st preferences than A’s average of 2.470. Another way of expressing that is is that A is only 51.000% of the way to winning unanimously, whereas D is (1-(2.000-1)/(4-1)) = 66.667% of the way towards unanimous 1st preferences – (two steps out of 3 steps from last of 4th to 2nd out of 4). That’s my DCAP count where DCAP=100x(1-(PrefAv-1)/(Candidates-1). The Borda count applicable is Borda=DCAPx(Candidates-1)xVoters = 153 for A for 100 voters, and 200 for D in the above example.

    DCAP easily accepts Partial Preferential Votes and SPLIT Partial Preferential Votes (e.g., if there are 9 candidates and a voter votes 1st 2nd & 3rd preferences and 8th & 9th preferences then DCAP “normalises” that vote by filling the 4 empty preference boxes with the average (5.5) of the 4 missing numbers (4, 5, 6 & 7). Further DCAP can often correct voters errors such as omitting a number of duplicating a number, provided that the voter’s intention is logically clear. “Normalising” ensures that every vote carries exactly the same weight as every other vote.

    DCAP is the “Candidate” version count for single-member electorates, whereas DPAP is the “Party” version which allows for fair proportional representation on a Party basis in multi-member electorates.
  • Erik Jochimsen
    commented 2022-06-23 20:29:52 +1000
    John thanks for taking the time to read PLERS.

    With regards to computer entry, AEC always enters every vote on their computer system and that is what determines the result. Doing an election night manual count would give enough information from 1st and 2nd preferences to predict a PLERS result.

    The chapter I am currently writing uses PLERS Simplified for political elections, which simplifies the count process. For Reps elections 1st pref gets a 1.0, 2nd 0.9, 3rd 0.8, etc till the 11th and all subsequent getting zero (0.0). It’s a simple process, you just add up the vote value and rank the candidates.

    Senate is a little more complex but follows similar lines.

    Regards Erik
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-06-23 15:53:21 +1000
    John, I have clearly documented how Preferential Voting (PV) can overcome the shortcomings of First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting – in BOTH single member electorates and in Proportional Representation systems such as you advocate. You correctly say that PR would make life easier for the voters, the AEC, and government, but then you say “as far as fairness is concerned – [PR] is unbeatable”. The fact is PR does not guarantee a fair count and I have proved this with examples, and proved that Preferential Voting beats PR in fairness.

    I have clearly demonstrated clear numerical examples how the PR system you advocate can get it WRONG, but that those problems can be reduced by adding Preferential Voting and, better still, even totally eliminated by counting the votes via DPAP. DCAP/DPAP totally eliminates the problems of electing Parties or Candidates contrary to voters’ collective preferences. Without PV PR totally ignore everything except first preferences and that risks unfair results.

    DPAP is the ONLY guaranteed fair vote counting method that allow you, John, to vote only for the party you want, while allowing others to use full or partial or split preferential voting as they see fit, and yet every vote still carries exactly the same value. The Borda Count comes close, but can’t handle partial preferential voting. PLERS comes closer, but it does NOT handle partial preferential voting fairly because it does not count partial preferential votes linearly – unless Erik has changed his system to overcome that fault since I pointed it out some months ago in this forum.

    DCAP facilitates high security against electoral fraud. It suits transparent block-chain security with a complete audit trail from paper ballot paper and/or electronic screen voting all the way from polling booth to final declaration. Being totally linear, the results from different polling places, as extremely small digital files, are easily and instantly aggregated as highly secure digital files that are very difficult to alter because they can be checked against the individual votes retained in the polling place machines. The fact that voting machine fraud is widespread in some countries simply highlights the need for legislation for machines and procedures to be rigidly controlled. As outlined in links given previously, individual voters can choose to receive anonymous receipts showing their actual vote as scanned and/or as approved on screen, that they can the check that their vote was actually correctly recorded and counted. Further, the online semi-real-time output summaries from individual polling stations can be made transparent to the media, public, candidates and parties. All this make voting fraud difficult and auditing easy.

    The fact is DCAP/DPAP can fix PR’s serious fault that it can give parties more seats than they deserve – as I have documented. So, your claim that: “(The Israeli system) is a fair system” is clearly not necessarily true. Also, while “Voters would be very reluctant to vote for a party that could form a coalition with a party they despise. (and) Pre-election promises about forming coalitions are usually widely known and adhered to,” there are plenty of Israeli and Kiwi voters, who despair over parties and candidates betraying their trust – plus Aussie voters betrayed where promised policies are ignored etc.
    While traditional Preferential Vote counting is a slow error-prone process because candidates are eliminated and preferences distributed (often more than 100 times in a mathematically chaotic process with numerous unpredictable tipping points) DPAP requires no time-wasting sifting through preferences. DPAP never distributes preferences – but all preferences are taken into account fairly. DPAP never “eliminates” any Candidate or Party in the count, all are accurately rated into a hierarchy. Everything is decided in a quick efficient linear manner.

    In summary, if you want to guarantee a fair and just level playing field, then Preferential Voting using DPAP’s fair counting system is required in a Proportional Representation system, even when voting for a large number of representatives. While voters wanting to ensure a fair and just result need to fill in more preferences, voters have the option to vote as little or much as they choose and all votes are counted equally.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-06-23 12:24:58 +1000
    Preferential voting for multiple seats in a single electorate using proportional representation (PR), would not achieve much at all. There would hardly be any difference in outcome compared to voting for a single candidate.
    I agree that PR is difficult to achieve. It would require a constitutional change in Australia. I do not agree that it is difficult to implement. It would make life easier for the voters, the AEC, and government. And as far as fairness is concerned – it is unbeatable.

    I do think your PLERS is a fairer system, compared to existing preferential voting and other alternatives. However, it requires a spreadsheet to process results. The existing system has a method that can be counted manually by stacking and eliminating votes in a process that is easily checked and monitored – by people. It is slow, but traceable.
    Your method (PLERS) requires data-entry into a spreadsheet – which I guarantee you is a much slower and error-prone process. Preferably this would be done on 3 spreadsheets simultaneously, so that the results can be compared. If they don’t match – start again. If you were to combine PLERS with voting for multiple seats in a single electorate using proportional representation, i.e. all of Australia in a federal election, you would also have to combine spreadsheets from regional counting centres in a country-wide spreadsheet. Another error-prone level of complexity. Mistakes are inevitable and voters would lose confidence. I foresee very long wait times before election results are confirmed.
    PLERS would be OK if we got the input for the spreadsheets directly from a voting machine. However voting machines are not allowed in Australia – and I agree with that. It is too easy to manipulate – as is the merging of spreadsheets.

    Forgive me for my opinion, but I still dislike any form of preferential voting – even PLERS, because it is simply too complex and achieves nothing in a PR system.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-06-23 12:22:42 +1000
    1. This is not my system. This is a system used in many countries, Israel among others, as you have stated. The Israeli system does create a complex of parties with – in our eyes – ‘unstable’ governments. The parties and their policies are a direct reflection of the diverse opinions of the citizens of Israel. It is a fair system. Sometimes this means failures to govern, and a re-election is required. But when it works – it works very well.

    2. I retract my ‘THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE’. It is possible, though extremely unlikely. Your example states a party with 30% of the vote may be considered by 51 to 70% of the voters to be the worst possible choice. Well then, the parties these ‘51 to 70%’ voted for can form a coalition. But realistically, the opinions of voters are reflected in the parties they vote for – otherwise why vote for them. No party would form a coalition with a party that has alienated itself from more than 50% of the voters. Voters would be very reluctant to vote for a party that could form a coalition with a party they despise. Pre-election promises about forming coalitions are usually widely known and adhered to. Theoretically it can happen – but in practice it hardly ever does, and when it happens the government does not last long – and a re-election is required – like in Israel.

    Preferential voting is simply not required in a proportional representation system when voting for a large group of representatives. We do not have to sift through preferences per regional seat to determine a winner per seat. We just vote for one candidate by ticking his name on a list. If party X has 30% of the vote – they get 30% of the seats – fair and transparent. And simple to count.
  • Erik Jochimsen
    commented 2022-06-22 20:06:18 +1000
    John I understand your frustrations with the current system. I have designed a voting system called the “Preferential Linear Electoral Ranking System” (PLERS) which is a means of achieving the benefits of preferential voting, without its complexity and shortcomings. This includes a method of achieving Proportional Representation (PR). I had originally thought PR was easy to achieve but discovered using past election data that PR is very difficult to achieve and requires thinking outside the box. PLERS is on my website. The address is www.netspeed.com.au/erikjoch. I am about to write another chapter specifically focusing on political elections. Have a read and see what you think.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-06-22 17:53:45 +1000
    John, under your system a party with 30% of the vote gets 30% of the seats and could be part of a coalition forming government even if 51 to 70% of voters (a clear ABSOLUTE majority of voters) regarded that party as the worst possible party to be part of government. I challenge you to refute that with numerical examples.

    You have not addressed that criticism at all.

    As I stated below “Clearly it is ‘flying blind’ to ignore preferences because it risks electing the worst party to power.” It seems to me that ignoring the real possibility that sometimes your system can elects a wrong government is vincible ignorance.
    Why do you ignore that possibility without addressing the detail of the argument?

    You present very good arguments re one large proportionally elected government, and I present good arguments to improve it, yet you have not supported your claim that “’THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE”. I detailed how it is possible. You have made that bold false assertion without backup. Where are your figures to show that you are right?

    Note that the Israelis use the same system that you propose. They have just had another coalition government collapse and are headed for yet another election.
    Why? We simply don’t know for sure.
    But it could be that one or more of the parties in coalition differ widely on policies and many of the supporters of each of the coalition parties regard other coalition parties as having unacceptable policies. However, if preferential voting were used together with the proportional system, such problems should be far less likely giving more stable democracy.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-06-22 17:16:04 +1000
    Peter, I always vote because I care. But people are allowed to not care – and should be allowed to not vote. Or, even better, if you do not care, or do not have a clear idea who to vote for – you should not vote at all – because this is the same as casting a donkey vote.
    You say: ‘proportional representation is capable of electing a government that the majority of voters do NOT want’. THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE. This is the popular vote! All votes are counted equally, and no votes are discarded. It is transparent and fair – and completely clear who has won the election. Only a party or coalition of parties that have more than 50% of the votes will win the election. The people’s mandate is perfectly clear.
    You say my vote will not be discarded. In a federal election, if I vote in my REGIONAL electorate for party B and party A wins, my vote is discarded in my regional electorate – it does not count for the rest of Australia, because of this evil division into regional electorates. There should be just one electorate – ALL OF AUSTRALIA. Why should I be limited to the local fools running for government? I want to vote for someone I know in Melbourne, thousands of kilometers from my regional electorate – because I know this person will do a better job. It is a federal election – for all of Australia. I live in Australia. My preferred candidate lives in Australia – and he just happens to be the very best chance to get my regional issues solved – even though he lives way off in Melbourne.
    You are confused if you think first-past-the-post voting is the same as proportional representation.
    And preference voting is just silly, far too complex. Give the voters a break. Keep it simple. Just vote for the one person you think will do the best job. One tick and you’re done.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-06-20 15:53:08 +1000
    John, not voting tends to send the message that you don’t care, rather than that you want to change the voting system.

    I agree that the system needs changing because the current system is far from ideal. But while your proposal has the merit of a larger electorate, which allows better proportionality, it suffers from an inherent flaw that, like the current system, is quite capable of electing a government that the majority of voters do NOT want.

    But before I prove that claim, let me correct a misunderstanding re actual practice:

    Your vote is NOT discarded when you only vote for a single candidate and give no other preferences. That is officially discouraged because it actually gives your vote less value because it fails to take advantage of the ability to specify second and subsequent preferences if your 1st preference candidate or party does not win election. However, such votes ARE actually counted and are followed as far as it is possible to interpret the voter’s intention – as also pointed out by Erik Jochimsen
    a week or so ago.

    You write: “I want my vote to be of equal value to any other vote”. However, your approach advocates scrapping preferential voting which then becomes functionally first-past-the-post voting used to determine proportional representation- and that can significantly reduce the value of your vote as shown below. The fact is that the system you propose, like Australia’s current system, is capable of electing a government that a majority of voters actually oppose. That is not equal value for each vote.

    How? Why?

    Current systems, like your proposal, are effectively obsessed with winners, obsessed with 1st (or only) preferences and totally ignore voters’ last preferences – preferences which may be just as significant as first preferences. Now sometimes the system you propose, and Australia’s current system, gets it right and comes up with a reasonable compromise – but both systems are inherently UNABLE to guarantee a fair result (as “Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem” claims). Now while Arrow is correct in those cases, Arrow was and is wrong because he failed to recognise that Borda and DCAP, an improved version of Borda, actually guarantee a fair result.

    This is easily proved by a simple example: Parties A, B & C contesting 100 seats allocated proportionally, A gets 40%, B=35% and C=25% of the votes. So, A gets 40 seats, B 35, and C 25. Simple. Easy. But is it always fair?

    Not necessarily. It can be anywhere between perfectly fair and grossly unfair.

    Consider the exact same primary votes a above but with preferential voting. Now consider three extreme possibilities that clearly show why preferential voting is essential for a fair result – and why Borda/DCAP is the only vote-counting system to guarantee a fair count.
    Three extreme possibilities, amongst many others, include:
    1. All Party B and C voters vote Party A last, while A & B voters give all 2nd preferences to C.
    2. All Party C and A voters vote Party B last, while B & C voters give all 2nd preferences to A.
    3. All Party A and B voters vote Party C last, while C & A voters give all 2nd preferences to B.

    Those three possibilities can ONLY mean that voters have rated the parties with Average Preference Counts (APCs in DCAP’s terminology) of exactly:
    1. A=2.20; B= 2.05; C= 1.75 average preference received from voters. C is the closest to 1st.
    2. A=1.60; B= 2.30; C= 1.65 average preference received from voters. A is the closest to 1st.
    3. A=1.85; B= 1.65; C= 2.50 average preference received from voters. B is the closest to 1st.
    Clearly it is ‘flying blind’ to ignore preferences because it risks electing the worst party to power.

    Now those average preference translate mathematically into DPAP score (DPAP = (voter) Party Acceptance Percentage = (1-(APC-1)/(Parties-1))% to produce a DPAP score that shows that exactly:
    1. 40.00%; 47.50% and 62.50% of voters Accept Parties A, B and C, respectively, on average;
    2. 70.00%; 35.00% and 45.00% of voters Accept Parties A, B and C, respectively, on average;
    3. 57.50%; 67.50% and 25.00% of voters Accept Parties A, B and C, respectively, on average;
    Note that in each case here the sum is 150.00%. That is not an error: it is correct because the other side of the story is that, e.g., in case 1, 60%; 52.50% and 37.5% DISapprove of the respective candidates – so, there are 3 sets of 100%. In the general case, the sum of all DPAPs must be ½ the number of parties as a %.
    The Borda count gives exactly the same relative rating in each case, as the DPAP scores above, but Borda expresses results in a manner inscrutable to the public.

    When translated into seats, and leaving aside the usual problems of allocating partial seats, the comparisons between those three cases and Case 0 (the defacto 1st-past-the-post method) the results are:
    0. A 40.00 seats, B 35.00 seats; C 25.00 seats when ignoring preferences;
    1. A 26.67 seats, B 31.67 seats; C 42.67 seats in consideration of actual preferences;
    2. A 46.67 seats, B 23.33 seats. C 30.00 seats in consideration of actual preferences;
    3. A 38.33 seats, B 45.00 seats; C 16.67 seats in consideration of actual preferences.

    Those examples clearly show that traditional vote-counting methods can result in electing an unpopular government while rejecting a government that the voters collectively would prefer.

    D’Hondt is a method of resolving partial seat allocations that is biased towards big parties but the bias has less effect with more seats in the electorate. In contrast DPAP has no bias – DPAP proportional representation allocation of partial quota is described elsewhere.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-06-19 09:30:12 +1000

    1. If you can’t trust the candidate or party – to act appropriately with a simple thing like surplus votes – you just don’t vote. Trust is all important. This is how democracy works.

    2. The candidate lists are printed in order of preference per party. The party assigns the order of their candidates. The leader of the party (and preferred PM) at the top. There is a column per party. The columns are ordered according to the results of the last election. You cast a vote for only one candidate. Their position in the lists is irrelevant. If you just want to vote for a party, you vote for the top person in the party column.

    3. Assigning the last seats for candidates not meeting the quota is done using the d’Hondt system. There is no need to reinvent a new method.

    I want the choice to vote – or not. I do not want my vote to be discarded when I do vote. I want my vote to be of equal value to any other vote. And yes, to achieve these simple goals – we will need constitutional changes.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-06-18 16:24:06 +1000
    John de Wit, you make a good case for proportional representation, and, apart from it needing a massive constitutional change (unlikely to succeed) it still has grave limitations.
    While you do not advocating a first-past-the-post system per se, just as I didn’t accuse you of that, the system you propose is a defacto preferential system where the preferences are stolen from voters and arbitrarily surrendered to the candidates or parties.

    Nevertheless, your proposal has merit – provided preferential voting and DCAP counting are used. But first, what are the problems with the system you propose:

    1. I completely disagree that a candidate with more than a quota has a mandate and duty to award those votes to any candidate they see fit. That’s theft of part of my vote, MY VOTE, not THEIR vote, by claiming an alleged mandate which does NOT exist – how dare that candidate distribute “THEIR” surplus votes to a candidate whose policies I abhor – whether in the same or a different party! It completely ignores that I, like many voters, Voted-1 for that candidate as the best of a bad lot – the best compromise chosen reluctantly despite disagreeing with some policies they support, and/or despite objecting to some candidates in that party.

    2. What If if I don’t agree with the ‘next in line’ in that party? Do candidates or parties publish their preference distribution before or after the election and what affect do whims, bribes and favours have? The system is open to ‘preference whispering’ and corruption regardless of whether surplus distribution is decided before or after the election. Again, it is THEFT of the voter’s prerogative rather than asking each voter their actual preferences via a fairly counted preferential voting system.

    3. What if a candidate receives surplus distribution but still fails to reach a quota? Do they pass it on to another candidate and who decides that distribution? The only fair way is for the voters to decide preferences not the 2nd or 3rd-hand candidate or party.

    So, to guarantee the fairest possible result, the least subject to corruption, demands preferential voting COUNTED BY BORDA OR DCAP. And that applies equally to proportional representation and to single-member elections. Note that DCAP is lightning-fast to count because preferences are never distributed, they are fairly allowed for in a count guaranteed to be fair as described elsewhere.

    The example I gave in my last post applies equally to proportional representation assuming that there is one seat yet to be decided. With 1st-past-the-post A with 45% is closest to winning, and that could be EITHER: the fairest, OR, the most unfair result. Preferential voting with traditional elimination and distribution, often gives a result which is more fair than 1st-past-the-post, but only Borda/DCAP guarantee a fair result – a result which depends on the voters collective preferences, not on backroom wheeling a dealing buying and selling surpluses or preferences.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-06-18 13:21:49 +1000
    We already have grave injustice. Preferential voting just obfuscates the fact. The only fair and transparent voting system is proportional representation. The mandate of the people is perfectly clear. I am not proposing a first-past-the-post-election at all. That is not how proportional representation works.
    If you want to have an example of how it works:
    In the case of a federal election – there is only one electorate – the whole country. Voters vote for a single person from a list of candidates per party.
    Let’s say we have 15 million [non-compulsory] votes counted. Let’s say there are 150 seats in parliament. If any candidate receives 100,000 votes, they automatically have a seat in parliament. If a candidate receives more than 100,000 votes, they automatically have a seat in parliament and the mandate (and duty) to award the votes above 100,000 to any other candidate in the list of candidates, usually the next in line in their own party. So potentially a candidate with 200,000 votes will have his own seat and can give away a seat to someone who has received no vote at all. The voters have given him this mandate by supplying him with 100,000 extra votes. In this system the popular vote always wins the election, and every vote is exactly equal to any other.
    Other advantages: No more shifting of electorate boundaries. No more gerrymandering. No more pork barreling. A single list of candidates for the whole country (instead of multiple randomized lists per regional electorate). A fast and easy election count. Better regional representation because regional issues can be picked up by any of the 150 Members of Parliament – not just some local yokel who only got 50% of the local vote (the other 50% will not feel represented – and like me – will feel their vote has been thrown away – which is exactly what happens in our current system).
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-06-17 22:07:21 +1000
    You can have it both ways with optional preferential voting. I.e. vote only 1 or however many preferences you want.
    But if you don’t have preferential voting, you risk grave injustice. E.g. if 45% vote for A, 40% for B and 15% for C. Then a 1st past the post election, will elect A. But if C voters ALL dislike candidate A, preferential voting elects B with 55% after preferences.
    In that case, that’s a better result! But it’s not necessarily the best result.

    What if all A and B voters prefer C as second best? That means that all A and B voters (85% of all voters) gave second preferences to C. So 100% of voters think electing C is the best compromise. That’s clearly a better result, assuming those preferences. Now while it’s unlikely to be as clears-cut as that, the point is that when elections are close effects such as described can and do give unfair results.

    However, sadly, we don’t count preferential votes fairly: we eliminate C even if their 1st plus 2nd preferences indicate a healthy majority.

    Instead we should count preferential votes by the Borda count, or better, by my DCAP method which like Borda, guarantees a fair count always. But DCAP is more flexible in making sure that partial preferential votes have equal value with all other votes.

    DCAP does this by fairly interpreting Vote-1 for A, with no preference expressed for B or C, as being C=1; B=1.5, C=1.5 which adds up to a total of 4.0 just like a full preference vote using 1, 2 and 3. This makes it truly fair regardless of how you vote. DCAP also has the advantage that it allow split partial preferential voting: E.g 7 candidates A-G where you Vote C=1, B=2, and F =7 and DCAP fills in A, D, E, G as equal 4.5. As described elsewhere, this is lightning fast and even Senate election results will be available in hours instead of weeks or months.
  • Erik Jochimsen
    commented 2022-06-09 22:57:09 +1000
    I scrutineered in several elections and discovered, despite what is written on the voting paper, your vote is valid and countered if you have placed a single 1 in one box. In earlier times all boxes had to be numbered but that was challenged by the Labor Party on the grounds that it disadvantaged the less educated.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-06-09 17:15:50 +1000
    I also hate preferential voting. I think it is ridiculous – too complex for a simple thing like voting. I wanted party A to win the federal election. But in my electorate party B won – so my vote was useless – my vote is not counted beyond my electorate – although this was a federal (i.e. all of Australia) election.
    This is not a fair voting system.
    It was a country wide election. I know exactly which candidate I would like to have had in Parliament, based on merit, but this person does not live in my electorate. This idea of regional representation, with a seat per electorate, is just wrong. I certainly do not feel represented by the candidate who won the election in my electorate. We need a fairer system where every vote is counted and exactly equal to any other, i.e. proportional representation. The popular vote wins – the mandate of the people is clear. None of this silly obfuscation with preferential voting. And so what if we end up with ‘hung parliaments’ – that works quite well in many countries. With compromise and negotiation, long term projects can be realised – instead of build-up, tear-down switches of government.
  • Bob Jane Thirlwell
    commented 2022-06-09 13:05:13 +1000
    I personally hate this preferential voting system. In this last federal election I wanted candidate A to win. I had no other preferences. Why should I even consider another candidate at all when I did not like any of them.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-05-22 16:44:42 +1000
    Grant, Preferential Voting is arguably far better than choosing the candidate with the most votes – otherwise known as First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting.

    The problem is that FPTP elections can elect the most popular candidate with less than 50% of the vote, even if that candidate is unpopular with more than 50% of voters. That’s a dangerous risk. Preferential voting avoids those risks.

    That’s not just opinion: lets put some numbers on it.
    Consider an election where 100 voters choose one of Candidates A, B and C. If Candidate A gets 40 votes, B 35 and C 25, then A is clearly the ‘front-runner’. However, we simply don’t know whether A is really the voters’ choice unless we consider second preferences.

    So let’s eliminate C with only 25 votes and have a run-off between A and B just to make sure. Now it’s possible that all C voters choose B as their second choice. So, Candidate B wins with 60 votes which is a clear majority and, is apparently the rightful winner.

    Now Preferential Voting effectively does ‘instant run-offs’ in one single election without wasting time and money doing two or more FPTP elections. So while FPTP elections sometimes give fair results, fairness is not guaranteed. Preferential voting is more likely to give a fair result, But sadly, not even that can be guaranteed.
    Why not? How so?

    While Preferential Voting is the best VOTING system, it is not COUNTED in a way that guarantees fairness. The ‘counting’ system can get it badly wrong. In the example above B is NOT necessarily the rightful winner. Why not? How so?

    In the example above, all C voters gave their second preferences to B, and so B apparently won ‘after preferences’ with 60 votes. But suppose, all A and all B voters gave their second preferences to C. That can be summarised as:
    A; 40 Likes, 00 neutrals, 60 dislikes; of 100 votes cast, 60 unhappy with A
    B; 35 Likes, 25 neutrals, 40 dislikes; of 100 votes cast, 40 unhappy with B
    C: 25 Likes, 75 neutrals, 00 dislikes; of 100 votes cast, 00 unhappy with C
    100 1sts; 100 neutrals, 100 dislikes totals
    So if C is declared the winner, no voters are unhappy with the result compared with 60% unhappy if A was elected and 40% unhappy if B was elected.

    Why are the results different? Because FPTP and the counting method used for Preferential voting with totally ignore last preferences and are effectively obsesses with 1st preferences. Yet first and last preferences should be given equal rating to get a better result. Now there are counting methods that are totally fair, but sadly they are not being used and we need Voting Reform to get fair voting results.

    So, in the example above the way Preferential Voting votes were ‘counted’ got it wrong and elected B instead of C, while FPTP gave even worse results. The Borda count, invented in the 1700s, always gives a fair count. How? It never eliminates candidates and it always takes into account every preference for every candidate. My DCAP counting method, a variant of Borda, also guarantees a fair counting method that always gets it right. DCAP and DPAP are more flexible than Borda (used mostly in sporting codes) and can easily fairly handle Optional preferential and Split optional preferential voting – see https://tinyurl.com/ElectoralReformOz for more detail.
  • Grant Rule
    commented 2022-05-21 22:07:29 +1000
    Preferential voting. I don’t agree it’s fair. The candidate with the most votes should win. I don’t know of any other decision making process where preferences determine the outcome.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-04-18 18:47:12 +1000
    Thanks John. I beg to differ with your claim that “Population density is not an issue.” Vast, VAST, areas of Australia have population densities below 0.1/sqkm where mobile phone and internet access is simply not available to most people. In contrast only about 20% of The Netherlands has a population density below 200/sqkm. That’s over 1,000 times lower density in the vast majority of Australia’s land area.

    So whatever the theoretical merits of large proportional representation electorates, I think you are tilting at (Dutch) windmills expecting to get a majority of States to agree to a change in the constitution to suit.

    If you are really serious about that then the best way forward, in my opinion, is to clean up the current Coalition/Labor/Greens stranglehold on government. How? There’s lots happening where the basic idea is to encourage all smaller parties to recommend preferencing each other so that the strongest gets elected. This could stop the Greens turning the Coalition & Labor into Tweedledum & Tweedledee who try to do do whatever the Greens dictate to stay in power. E.g. see

    In essence what they are all trying to do is to get past the electoral system which is strongly biased towards a 2-party-preferred system via atrocities like the Vote-1-to-6 Above-The-Line rules which almost guarantees that small new parties have no hope and so their voters’ votes are likely to either end up with a major party or be totally useless. But if all the small parties encourage their voters to number every square and put the majors and worse parties last then the strongest of the new small parties could gain control of the senate and force reforms.

    That would then allow a campaign to reform the voting system. And that’s where my DCAP vote counting system would open the door for easier entry of smaller parties under the proportional represenatation system. OK too few representatives per electorate for your liking but at least it’s start. Then if we embark on multiple major Snowy-River type schemes to divert the humus volumes of water that flow to waste around Australia and divert them inland to replenish the Great Artesian basin and even make Lake Eye a permanent inland sea that would green Australia and greatly improve population density as well as greatly protect our sovereignty. Interestingly we can literally print money to do this because it actually creates common-wealth but putting the nation to work productively. So give it 100 years and we may well have enough population to have your preferred one electorate. But I doubt its necessity.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-04-18 16:12:38 +1000
    Peter Newland. I am proposing proportional representation, and something like the system in the Netherlands – because it is a fair system that puts equality in voting first!

    And please do not confuse Holland with the Netherlands (e.g. England is not the UK). Population density is not an issue. We have mass media and almost instantaneous communication across the globe. It makes no difference if you are 3000 km away or in the house next door. Distance does not make regional differences larger. I can assure you the regional differences in the Netherlands are far greater that any in Australia. Equality in voting and proportional representation brings The Netherlands together, whether you are Frisian, Zeeuw, Limburger, Groninger, Tucker, Brabander, Hollander, or some other regional identity speaking their own incomprehensible dialect or completely different language.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-04-18 13:32:42 +1000
    Christian Vaisto,
    a phone APP is simply not secure and does not identify the user. In there same way that I regularly log on to my wife’s bank account using her ID and her password and make substantial transactions, with her approval, a phone APP is not hack-proof. It is far safer to insist on personal voting with 100-points of photo ID such as licence or passport. I think voter fraud multiple voting penalties should include jail options especially when it’s orchestrated on a large scale. See also John de Wit’s comment on the “Identifying Voters” tab in the “Issues” tab above.

    John de Wit, on this “A Fair Voting System” Tab you say:

    “Our laws and the separation of powers are the safeguards for freedom and against injustice – not the electoral system. "

    However, our electoral system does have significant flaws that can and do elect candidates against the combined preferences of the voters. That is not “safeguard(ing) for freedom and against injustice”. For example ACT uses 5 electorates each with 5 proportionally elected representatives where voters vote for candidates not parties but parties are, allegedly, represented proportionally. However, in their 2020 election, the preferences prove that in each of 3 of the 5 electorates the last elected MLA would have lost a run-off election against a candidate for that electorate who was eliminated by the flawed counting method. That’s simply unjust and it is highly likely that this applies to the Australian Federal Senate also. We NEED reform. My DCAP vote-counting guarantees a fair counting method.

    John, you propose voting for only a single candidate/party: i.e. no preferential voting, only 1st-part-the-post voting. That means voters must choose a 1-dimensional top issue or best fit for the moment with no hope of expressing other nuances. OK that may work with large single electorates and you can always contact other representatives re different issues, but there is no concept of my electorate, my local area. Presumably it works in Holland with a population density of over 400 people per square kilometre, but Australia’s population density is OVER ONE HUNDRED TIMES lower.
  • Christian Vaisto
    commented 2022-04-18 09:36:04 +1000
    I think those who vote early either work on the day, always select for the same party all the time, or OTHERS who don’t care and just want to get over it. The OTHER voters don’t know it is best to leave it till the day to vote, cause there will be slip ups from the politicians every day till the final day(which could ruin their chance of victory). But this 2022 election pre polling numbers will be much higher due to covid-19. I think it will be much safer also to prevent multiple votes by the AEC to set up an APP for people to vote in with one vote only. For example to log in to the APP there will be a choice of personal questions to use to fully know it is you(not only your name and email address). And to make up how much debt we’re in due to covid-19, penalty fines also in the thousands for the multiple voters, not only non voters who currently get fined.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-02-21 15:35:04 +1100
    Dear Peter,
    I will answer the easy questions first:

    No – I do not want a single house. An upper house and a lower house, i.e. the Senate and House of Representatives must remain as it is now. There is nothing wrong with that – as well as the separation of powers into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. These are all proven foundations of a good democracy. So, I really don’t want any radical changes there.
    Our laws and the separation of powers are the safeguards for freedom and against injustice – not the electoral system.

    Yes – I want a single electorate but just for the House of Representatives – not for the Senate. Senators are popularly elected under the single transferable vote system of proportional representation. So, no need to change that – just maybe more senators.

    There is nothing radically new about one electorate using proportional representation. Many countries do this:
    and my favourite:
    (You did ask for links. But please research this yourself.)

    I am quite familiar with the Dutch voting system. There are Pros and Cons to this system but in general the sanctity of proportionality is considered foundational and a great win for democracy. Under the Dutch electoral system, voters can only express a choice for one individual candidate, and these votes are treated as a choice for a particular party. (Easy for voters – just one checkbox to choose!). The parties do not encourage preference voting, and the preference votes have only a small impact on the original list ordering of the parties. The Netherlands has a large, open-party system with very low barriers to entry.

    I would propose using a similar system as the Dutch system for the Australian House of Representatives and State Parliaments.
    This would end the two-party dominance that you also seem to despise. Smaller parties will arise to defend regional issues – and get their say in parliament – so dominance of city versus regional voters can be averted. And anyone in Australia, wherever they live, who is concerned about issues in Woop Woop can vote for the Woop Woop party. They don’t have to live in Woop Woop. (If you are wondering – I do not live in a big city – I also live in regional Australia – no disrespect intended with Woop Woop – just a nice generic name that kind of fits well with where I live.)
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-02-20 16:38:18 +1100
    Thanks John.
    I too have lived in electorates where my MP was always from a party I disliked.

    But you haven’t explained what to do considering that your proposed system allows a Party leader to personally win multiple seats. Referring to Google/Wikipedia with no links is no explanation. You also say it’s fair when the city dominates the country because that’s democracy. Freedom is only freedom if my freedom does not curtail your freedom – so allowing the City to dominate the country unhindered is not the sort of democracy I want.

    Fairness for small States was effectively the whole point of the Federation agreement and the Senate was that large States would not have unhindered domination of small states – the majority should not suppress the minority. That’s why we need electorates smaller than Australia, and smaller than States. So, yes we have the possibility of a government that does not win the popular vote; and that’s not good. But I disagree with your conclusion that “The idea that our current system represents the regions better doesn’t make sense.” If we equate regions with electorates, it’s clearly much easier to change an MP who ignores issues relevant to their electorate.

    How big an electorate do you propose. It sounds like you want a single house with a single electorate for the whole of Australia! Is that so?

    If we have, as your 10Million votes suggest, a single huge electorate for Australia, it becomes harder to hold MPs accountable for problems and injustices in our own area or region. Now proportional representation for our current smallish electorates/regions would be good but the number of MPs would increase. However, we could amalgamate regions/electorates, but that makes it harder to hold our MPs accountable because they are more remote.

    I think that the 2-dominant-party system is the problem: electoral reform as I’ve suggested makes it easier for smaller parties and so the more small-party MPs there are, the better our governments should be because they will be forced into coalitions that take into account proportionality of party interests.

    Note that my proposed electoral reform makes most difference to the Senate which already has proportional representation within States. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: well it certainly needs fixing, but not smashing it completely – which is what a single house, single electorate proportional representation system would do. But while electoral reform could happen, changes such as you’ve proposed would, I hope, be unlikely to get past a referendum.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-02-20 11:09:09 +1100
    Dear Peter,
    in our current Australian electoral system, in my electoral division, party A always gets more that 50% of the votes. I always vote for party B. My vote is thereby worthless. It gets thrown out. Preferential voting is just obfuscation – a band aid on an amputation – it doesn’t fix this major problem.
    You see problems with fractional or residual seats when a proportional representation system is used. This is nothing new. All these problems are solved using various methods – for example: the highest averages method or the largest remainder method – and all these methods are much simpler than preferential voting! Proportional representation is used in many countries where they recognized – early on – that this was the only fair way to elect a parliament. Just look at how that works instead of just trying to improve a system that has a fundamental fault. If you want more details, it can be found using Google and Wikipedia. I am not trying to re-invent the wheel.
    You say there will be domination by big states and big cities – but that is already the case – and it is fair. The majority vote rules – this is democracy. But without proportional representation you do have the possibility that the country is governed by a party that does not have the popular vote.
    In the case of a parliament, be it federal or state, each elected member represents the whole country or whole state. Whether the parliament was elected via proportional representation or not, it makes no difference. Any member of parliament that disregards regional issues does that at their own peril. The regions are part of the whole. The idea that our current system represents the regions better doesn’t make sense.
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-02-20 02:32:24 +1100
    Dear John, your example needs more detail.
    To me it seems like a recipe for domination by the big-states and big cities.
    Hence I can’t see it ever getting accepted, especially considering the extremely wide range of population densities in various party of Australia that have different needs form the cities.
    But to the details:
    In you example, how many vacancies are there being contested by the 200 candidates? But let’s suppose there are 100 vacancies for a small parliament. So 40% of the vote = 40 seats. Now if the leader of Party A is very popular personally and gets 10% of the vote, how can he/she hold 10 seats at once? So, it seems to me that you must have some form of preferential voting so that Party Leader A’s ‘Surplus Votes’ can be distributed to the voters’ second preferences.

    Further, consider a close election with 3 front-runners where: A=32.74%, B=31.75%, C=30.76% & D=4.75% how can anyone get a fractional seat? Who gets the 3 seats no one fully earned? Preferences could show that A, B or C could be the actual front-runner. 3 seats could decide who governs. That may be OK for a homogenous population spread evenly with similar interests and concerns, but it certainly isn’t one size fits all.

    I think the result will not be fair: rather it will lead to bigger and bigger governments with more and more power such that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Some areas will be very pleased, and other areas will be very upset.

    One big electorate! How far will it go. One World Government? In my opinion, it’s worse than a gerrymander: the biggest population group, the biggest countries, the richest with most access to media etc will dominate.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-02-19 18:12:02 +1100
    In a proportional representation system there are no electoral boundaries. So, no manipulation or gerrymandering. You choose one candidate from a (long) list. It can be a local person – if you wish – or just the leader of the party you want elected.
  • John Henry
    commented 2022-02-19 18:00:34 +1100
    Dear Peter, in a system of proportional representation preferential voting becomes meaningless. You just choose 1 candidate from an extensive list.
    If there are 10 million voters, 200 candidates, and 4 parties (A, B, C and D) where A gets 40% of the votes, B gets 30%, C gets 20% and D gets 10% then party A, got the most votes – just not enough to win the election since you would need more than 50% to do this. So, party A should form a coalition with one of the other parties. Or B, C and D could. Simple, easy, fair.
    In 1901 proportional representation did not make much sense, especially because of distance and all the voters were accustomed to the British model. Today we have far better means of communication and information gathering and proportional representation does make sense.
    A long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT (Thomas Paine).
    The more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered (Thomas Paine).
  • Peter Newland
    commented 2022-02-16 15:41:01 +1100
    Dear Anglo, please think again.
    If there are 100 voters and 4 candidates (“A”, “B”, “C” and “D”) where “A” gets 40 votes, “B” gets 30, “C” gets 20 and “C” gets 10 votes then you say the “A”, with the most votes (40) is the one that “the most people want elected because if they truly wanted someone else to win, they would have voted that first vote for that person".
    But that’s not completely true for two reasons.
    Firstly: 40 people is a minority of 100 people, NOT “most people”.
    Secondly: what if the other 60 people preferenced “A” as LAST preference. That clearly means that MOST people, by a clear 60% majority, do NOT want “A” to win.
    In such a case that is PROOF that “A” should NOT win.
    So who should win? It all depends on the 2nd and perhaps 3rd preferences, but in this case where “A” gets 60 votes as LAST preference, there is no way that we could justify electing “A”. That’s why preferential voting is far superior to first-past-the-post voting which can easily give the wrong result.
  • Anglo Anglo
    commented 2022-02-16 02:01:05 +1100
    I believe that the one winning the most votes is who the most people want elected because if they truly wanted someone else to win, they would have voted that first vote for that person.

    I understand where your coming from, but this preference system is I find alikened to a playing the lottery where you can put in more than one entry to win your way, whereas if you only have one say, thats it, straightforward and simple.  With pass the post type you have just one vote per person, which is fair, but even though I understand your logic, it just does not seem fair to be allowed to vote multiple times in one election.  I also disagree on the examples on people being dissatisfied with the results because if only 1 vote is allowed, it is black and white who got the most votes, and while there maybe dissatisfaction with who won, the result of how it came to be someone cannot be dissatisfied with because the one with most votes won, as their would be only one vote…it is hard to compare of how a preference vote would have gone compared with a past post because of the difference of having only one vote per person, compared to multiple votes per person, in my opinion


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