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- South Australian Legislative Council: possible changes to the electoral system
- Newton-Farrelly, Jenni
- Under the current electoral system for the South Australian Legislative Council, a party which gains more than 50% of the vote across the State should win a majority of the 11 seats in the Legislative Council election, but in order to have the balance of power in the Legislative Council it needs to win 6 Council seats at two consecutive elections. This has meant that no government could expect to have a majority in the Legislative Council during its first term, and few would be likely to achieve a majority in subsequent terms. To win a seat in the Legislative Council a candidate must win at least a quota of votes – 8.3% under the current system. Only 20 to 30% of these votes need to be first preference votes, but if relying on preference votes the candidate must be placed higher on the ticket of candidates or parties who are excluded, than other candidates who remain in the count. In particular, in order to continue in the count long enough to receive extra preference votes, a candidate needs to be placed high on the tickets of those candidates who are excluded early in the count. It is possible to model the Legislative Council voting system because 96% of voters use the ticket vote provisions. The ticket model shows that reducing the size of the Legislative Council but still electing half of the Members at every House of Assembly election, would not necessarily change the balance of power in the Council (see Table 2). After the 1993 State election there would have been a LIB majority in a Legislative Council of either 16 MLCs or 20 MLCs (half elected in 1989 and half in 1993) but these were the only 2 cases where a party had a majority of seats out of the 18 hypothetical Councils ranging in size from 12 to 22 Members. The parties to lose most from reducing the size of the Council but still electing half of the Members each time, would the ALP and LIB. The Democrats (and IND No Pokies in 2 cases after the 1997 election) would still have held the balance of power. If we elected fewer Members to the Legislative Council but elected all of them at each general election, there would have been several Members from smaller parties, and the number of these parties represented would have increased with the size of the Council. However, having won more than half of the first preference vote in 1993, LIB would have held the majority of seats in the Council regardless of the size of the Council and this would have co-incided with a majority of seats in the House of Assembly (see Table 4). Electing all of the Council Members at the same time would mean that a government could have a majority in both Houses. Increasing the number of Members to be elected at one time involves lowering the quota of votes required to win a seat. But because some of these votes can be preferences, there is no simple pattern for which parties will win the extra seats. In 1997 the Greens would have won a seat if we elected 17 or 22 MLCs, but not otherwise (see Table 5). To win a majority of seats in the Legislative Council (of any size) a party needs to win at least 50% of the vote – just over 50% if the election is for an odd number of Members but more if the election is for an even number. Again, not all of these votes would need to be first preference votes (see Table 6). As the number of Members elected is increased, parties need to win more seats to gain a majority and an increasing proportion of their votes needs to come from first preference votes. The extent to which a party can rely on the transfer of preferences from excluded candidates reduces with larger Councils.
- Publication type
- Information Paper, No. 17
- Publication year
- Elections; Electoral system; South Australia; South Australian Legislative Council
- South Australian Parliament Research Library
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2000 Parliamentary Library of South Australia. Published version of this paper reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.
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