(Fwd) RE: Ballot Access laws for ranked ballot

Steve Eppley seppley at alumni.caltech.edu
Mon Feb 3 18:28:37 PST 1997

I received the message appended below from Tom Round last week, and
neglected to realize that Tom likely intended to send it to the EM
list and not just to me.

One thing I can't tell from Tom's message, and which I consider very
important, is whether a party in Australia can nominate more than
one candidate onto the ballot in single-winner elections.  This would
give more choices to the voters, and parties would have an interest
in nominating more than one if a good voting method (i.e., no spoiler
dilemma) were in use, since it would help the party win.  

Since Australia uses Instant Runoff, this method's strong spoiler
dilemma would probably eliminate any interest by the parties in
nominating more than one, however.  If Australia changes to a better 
method, they will want to reconsider their ballot access principles.

Should the number of candidates that a party may nominate for an
office depend on the number of votes the party received in recent


------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
From:          TomR at orgo.cad.gu.edu.au (Tom Round)
To:            seppley at alumni.caltech.edu (Steve Eppley)
Date:          Fri, 24 Jan 1997 17:29:05 +1000
Subject:       RE: Ballot Access laws for ranked ballot

Steve Eppley wrote:
>    I'd be interested in hearing about the ballot access laws in
>countries experienced with ranked ballot systems, like Australia.

Okay. This information is from my memory - I'll confirm it from my
"ELECTORAL POCKETBOOK" (just received in the mail from the
Australian Electoral Commission) at the next opportunity, and
correct any errata, but this is a general outline.

[Incidentally, I'll also include the address of the AEC in case
anyone wants to contact them to go on their mailing list. Their
material is free - presumably, even for non-Australian subscribers.
Alternatively, check their home page and see if the information is
there ...]

Pre-1983, candidates ran solely as individuals, ie with no official
recognition of party endorsement. Candidates nominated by submitting
a form signed by 10 (?) other voters, plus a deposit - I think it
was $250 for a Reps candidate and $500 for a Senate candidate. The
deposit was refunded if the candidate (or, for a Senate candidate,
her team) polled over a certain threshold which was something along
the lines of 20% of the average first-preference votes received by
the winning candidate(s). Example: this would mean that if the three
candidates elected (in a Senate count) had polled 25%, 13% and 7% of
the first preferences, the average for them is 15% and so the
threshold would be 3%.

Senate candidates could have themselves grouped as teams on the
ballot - and could specify their order of listing - by "mutual
consent" (in practice, by decision of their party organisation).

In 1983, the Electoral Act was amended. Parties were now officially
recognised. A party can be registered if it (1) is, in the AEC's
judgment (subject to judicial review) genuinely formed for the
purpose of contesting elections and winning seats, (2) lodges a copy
of its constitution and rules, (3) has either one federal Member or
Senator, or 500 enrolled voters, as members. I _think_ that
registered parties can now nominate candidates directly, but still
have to pay a deposit. Candidates can also still be nominated as,
and by, individuals. The deposits are now $500 House/ $1000 Senate,
and are refunded if the candidate or her group polls over 4% of the
valid first preference votes in the electorate (district or State
respectively) concerned. Parties and independent candidates polling
over 4% also qualify for public funding - about $1.50 now per vote
received. Senate grouping remains, its iron hand reinforced by the
infamous group-ticket voting option.

>    Presumably, there's a public interest in keeping Mickey Mouse
>and his ilk off the ballot, so some threshold test seems reasonable
>if it isn't unduly restrictive.

I agree. We don't want to elect someone who isn't serious about
serving in the position if elected. (That's quite distinct, however,
from someone whom rival parties don't think is serious, or who
doesn't expect herself to get elected. Let's not forget that in the
era of Washington and Madison, or Gladstone and Disraeli, a party
advocating votes for women would have been dismissed as "not
serious"!) Maybe someone is standing with the intent of getting
publicity for her cause, but would welcome election to office as a
windfall chance to get even greater publicity. That's morally
superior to someone running just to generate publicity for her

>    On the other hand, some will argue that there's an overarching
>need to minimize the possibility of "rampant factionalism,"
>something which worried the Founding Fathers and is still used as a
>bugaboo today to undermine many kinds of reform.

Yes, I find it extremely depressing that a fear of having "too many"
parties competing at any one time is used to justify entrenching the
same two parties in power for perpetuity.


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