Colgate University used OpaVote for a faculty election in March 2013.
Largest Remainder Newsletter for April 2012
Largest Remainder is the occasional newsletter of the NSW Branch of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia.
In this issue:
- Notice of meeting
- STV Electorates Returning an Even Number of Members – Is it all bad?
- Should Local Government Avoid Returning an Odd Number of Councillors?
You can download the entire newsletter here and an excerpt of two articles appears below.
STV Electorates Returning an Even Number of Members – Is it all bad?
This article will examine the “truth” that Single Transferable Vote (STV) electorates must return an odd number of members. The rationale for this “truth” can be seen in this extract from the PRSA website.
An Odd Number of Places is Needed - Not an Even Number: The advantage of setting an odd number of places to be filled at a proportional representation election is that an absolute majority of votes for a given grouping of candidates - however slight - produces an absolute majority of seats for that grouping, whereas with an even number of places, an absolute majority of votes for a grouping does not, unless it is high enough, produce an absolute majority of seats for that grouping.[their emphases]
But is this just another intellectual tyranny? Has anyone ever bothered to consider the implications?
Do electorates returning an even number of members invariably give a result in which the parties are in electoral stasis?
* * *
The purpose of elections for the Australian Parliament is to choose democratically the 150 Members of the House of Representatives and 76 Senators. STV is the ideal method of choosing these representatives because it allows them to be chosen in a manner that most accurately reflects the relative strengths of the groups and political parties contesting the election. The more members chosen from each individual electorate the closer the final result is to the ideal.
It is unnecessary to attempt to manufacture a result by manipulating the electorates so that they return an odd number of members. The fairest division is to treat every voter as equally as possible and divide States so that electorates do not vary in size from each other by more than one member. It is irrelevant if some electorates return equal numbers from each side of politics as long as there is the potential for an unequal division. To avoid electorates being in electoral stasis each electorate must return sufficient members to allow the quotas to be small enough to be sensitive to political swings.
The individual States should also as far as possible have electorates as similar as possible to those found in the other States. With the unavoidable exception of Tasmania the above division also has all the State electorates returning nine or ten members with South Australia at eleven and Western Australia with two electorates (7 &8) or one electorate (15).
Should Local Government Avoid Returning an Odd Number of Councillors?
The answer to that question is yes!
In considering local government in NSW bear in mind that a key feature is that the Mayor has a casting vote; in NSW there are no tied votes in council.
In NSW there is a trend to have councils elect an odd number of members. There is implied in the rationale for odd numbered electorates a belief that we live in a society where only two parties have the ability to elect members.
If the number to be elected is an odd number and one group obtains a majority of votes, no matter how small, that group will dominate the decision making of the council.
* * *
On the whole it appears that for Local Government returning an even number of Councillors is fairer for the communities that they represent. The division of the Council into wards designed to manufacture a working majority may in fact be counterproductive.
Future articles will examine other recalcitrant truths that appear to be sacrosanct in the STV liturgy.
1. That nine (9) is the absolute maximum number of members that can be returned
from an STV multi-member electorate.
2. That city and country voters must be kept separate.
3. That a formal vote must number at least as many candidates as there are places to be filled.