HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

The Tasmanian House of Assembly is elected under a form of proportional representation (PR) in five multi-member electorates using the single-transferable vote (STV). This is known as the Hare-Clark system partly because it stems from the ideas of the Englishman Thomas Hare (1806-91). The other half of the hyphenated name refers to the Tasmanian Attorney-General, Andrew Inglis Clark (1848-1907) who changed and added to Hare's method. Clark's and other changes make the Hare-Clark system unique, not, as is often thought, an exact match with the Irish or the Maltese PR systems.

Tasmania adopted Hare-Clark on a trial basis in 1896 for Hobart and Launceston, but it was abolished in 1901. It was revived in 1907 for use statewide and has been a feature of every House of Assembly election since April 1909.

HISTORY

The first Hare-Clark election in Tasmania was Friday 30 April 1909 (note the Friday; Saturday elections were not common until the 1920s). Between 1909 and 1956 the Assembly consisted of thirty Members (six from each of the five seats). In 1959, in an attempt to avoid hung or evenly divided Parliaments, the House of Assembly was enlarged to seven Members in each of the five electorates. In 1998 the number was reduced to five in each of the five electorates. These electorates are the same as those used for the five Tasmanian seats in the House of Representatives.

ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Tasmania has had compulsory voting since the 1930s, and since 1978 this has applied to everyone over 18 years of age. Each voter is required to indicate a minimum of five candidate preferences in order to cast a formal or valid vote. To stop before five or make an error (e.g. two No. 4 votes) renders the vote informal. Should voters express choices beyond five this is also valid but if they stop at No. 15 or make an error with, say, two No. 21s, their vote becomes 'exhausted' at either No. 15 or No. 20. Once exhausted a ballot paper is of no use even if a higher number exists, i.e. Nos 22, 23, or 24 cannot be correct if No. 21 is repeated.

From 1907 to 1941 candidates' names were listed ungrouped in alphabetical order on the ballot paper. After 1941 candidates were grouped by Party or other group but the Party was not named; instead they were labelled A, B, C etc. Since 1974 the registered Party names have replaced these headings, with ungrouped candidates on the far right of the ballot paper.

BALLOT ROTATION

Of special interest is a feature of the Tasmanian electoral system whereby through a process of rotation each candidate gets a share of the position at the top of a particular column. This system has been in use since 1979. This is an attempt to even out the donkey vote (simply voting up or down the ballot) which is said to favour surnames early in the alphabet, or candidates early in the list. This system of rotation was championed by Hon. Neil Robson MHA, and is often known as 'Robson rotation'

Under the current electoral process a draw is made for the position of Party or independent groups across the ballot paper. Other candidates are classed as 'ungrouped' on the far right of the ballot paper. Next the rotation process is applied. Since 1996 this has been achieved by batch printing which first places candidates in a random sequence in each vertical column, then 'rotates' the names evenly in the positions available.

On polling day only first preference counting occurs; after postal votes arrive the cut-up of preferences commences. Candidates who achieve or exceed a quota of first preferences are declared elected.

DROOP QUOTA

A quota (the minimum number of votes for election) represents 16.66% of the valid vote cast in each of the five electorates. Each electorate having approximately the same enrolment.

Since the first use of the Hare-Clark electoral system in Tasmania in 1907 the formula used to calculate the quota needed for election to the House of Assembly has been the Droop quota, devised in 1868 by English lawyer and mathematician, Henry Richmond Droop. This simple formula is expressed as the total valid vote plus one divided by the number of seats plus one.

EXCLUSION

All candidates receiving more votes than a quota are declared elected and their surplus votes are then distributed. These surplus votes are then transferred to the next preference at the transfer value calculated for the vote. The distribution of surpluses occurs as each candidate achieves a quota.

If fewer than five candidates get a quota in the initial count the lowest scoring candidates are progressively excluded until five Members gain a quota or are the last remaining candidate. At each exclusion of the lowest candidate the next preference is passed on to the voter's next choice. If the excluded candidate is passing on No. 2 preferences these are at full value because they have not been used to elect the excluded candidate. But if the candidate being excluded had previously gained the ballot papers as part of someone else's surplus, that is, at a fraction, they go to the next available preference at that value.

VACANCY BY RECOUNT

For the first eight years that the Hare-Clark electoral system was in use separate by-elections were held to fill vacancies, but this system often caused slim government majorities to be at risk. Thus in 1917 a system of recounting the (securely stored) ballot papers of the vacating candidate was introduced. Any unsuccessful candidate at the last election may consent (within 10 days) to their name being included in the recount of the ballot papers; their papers may also be counted if exclusions are involved.

The first such recount took place in 1919. By this method it was thought that the likelihood of a replacement coming from the same Party would be enhanced. Moreover, it was felt that the expense of by-elections could be avoided, not to mention the unfairness of having the whole electorate vote again to replace a candidate who had needed only a quota to be elected.

In 1985 the Tasmanian Electoral Act was amended to allow true by-elections if no candidates of the same Party as the outgoing Member remain. In this circumstance the Party Leader may request that a by-election be held; this has not yet happened.

COST OF ELECTIONS

Regardless of the so-called complexity of the Hare-Clark electoral system the cost of holding elections is only of the order of $2 million.  While this  does not include maintaining the rolls, it does include printing the ballot papers, paying the staff and hiring the halls used as polling places, etc.

Costs from the Tas. Electoral Commission's 5th Annual Report :

     Information:
 2005-06
 2009-10
     Cost of Election
  $1.897
 $2.271
     Enrolled
  341.481
 357.315
     Cost Per Enrolled
  $5.56
  $6.36


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Last Update:  July 2011