(Fwd) RE: Ballot Access laws for ran

Tom Round TomR at orgo.cad.gu.edu.au
Sun Feb 9 23:52:08 PST 1997

Steve Eppley wrote (Tuesday, February 04, 1997 11:29AM):

>    Tom likely intended to send it to the EM list and not just to me.

Indeed a valid and accurate interpretation of my intention!

>    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.

In Australia candidates are officially _nominated_ by voters, remember, not 
by parties (contrary to my earlier assertion and to practice in countries 
like Western Europe). There may be a legal limit on how many candidates' 
nominations an individual voter may sign or second (perhaps 1, or not more 
than seats to be filled), but since only 10 or so voters are needed to sign 
and second a nomination this hardly restricts a registered party, which will 
probably have 500 members at least.

There is no legal limit on the number of candidates a party may _endorse_. 
In the typical Senate election (ie, for 6 of 12 seats per State), most major 
parties run a team of between three to six candidates. In Tasmania, with 7 
State Lower House seats per electorate, parties usually run 6 to 8 
candidates. The difference is explicable by two factors:

(a)  In Tasmanian state elections, with free voting among party team 
candidates, parties are encouraged to offer more candidates in the hope that 
at least one of them will attract particular voters to the team as a whole. 
For the Senate, however, with heavily "stage-managed" voting (ie, the 
candidates given highest ballot positions by the party are invariably 
elected), the personalities of the candidates attract little attention, 
especially those of the lower-ranked candidates who are never going to be 

(b)  Tasmanian Lower House casual vacancies are filled by count-back. Thus 
each party wants to have some "spare" candidates available to fill vacant 
seats, so that these do not go to a rival party by default. (The vacating 
MP's party leader may demand a by-election, but even that risks losing the 
seat, as much for a large as for a small party.) For the Senate, however, 
vacancies are filled by the vacating Senator's home State's Parliament 
electing a replacement. Since 1977 the Constitution requires the replacement 
to be a member of the same party as the originally-elected Senator. In 
practice this usually means the party machine's nominee. At any given time, 
one-tenth to one-fifth of the whole Senate may be composed of Senators who 
were never elected by the voters - or, in some cases, whose names never even 
appeared on the ballot-paper! (Cf the USA's disappointment at entering 1976, 
its bicentennial year, with a President and Vice-President whom the people 
had never elected.)

>    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.

Our politicians aren't that subtle. Rat-cunning, yes, but not subtle. They 
tend to be very good at finding and operating the loopholes in whatever 
voting system exists, but utterly ignorant of, and uninterested in, any 
existing or hypothetical alternative system (first-past-the-post excepted). 
The main reason our parties don't run more candidates than the number of 
seats they expect to win is that they don't want to sacrifice their control 
over who gets elected by giving voters a choice of candidates. It's as 
simple as that.

In fact, in some cases running more candidates is seen as _increasing_ 
chances of winning - but this usually applies across parrties in a 
coalition, rather than within a party. Eg, a Liberal and National candidate 
will support each other by "exchanging preferences" to keep Labor out. The 
assumption is that there exist a significant bloc of voters who are happy 
to, say, vote [1] Liberal and [2] National, but who wouldn't give National 
their _first_ preference - they'd abstain, spoil their ballot-paper, or vote 
Labor instead. Sounds odd, but it seems there are un unknown number of 
voters who are happy to vote for particular parties but only "by proxy" - 
not as a first preference.

Some parties do practice multiple-endorsement, even for single seat 
electorates. The National Party used to do it a lot more frequently, and the 
Labor Party in Tasmania also (probably due to their familiarity with 
Hare-Clark proportional representation). The last time I saw a 
multiple-endorsement was during the 1987 Federal Election, when the 
Nationals took out a full-page newspaper advert showing "How to Vote 
National" for every Reps electorate in Queensland. In one district they had 
two candidates - one was ranked first by them, the other second - I don't 
know what was the story behind that. Since the Reps ballot has no allowance 
for Senate-style grouping - placement is purely by lot - having two or more 
candidates might risk splitting your votes by accident. That is, voters put 
a 1 for one candidate and then number the others randomly or down-the-page, 
not realising that they're ranking your other  candidate below the main 

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

I would say no. Let them nominate as many as they like, to let the voters 
choose. Besides, parties' vote/ seat shares can fluctuate widely between 
elections - look at the British Liberals in the 1920s and 1930s, or the 
Canadian Progressive Conservatives in 1995 (?).

Tom Round
tomr at orgo.cad.gu.edu.au

Overflow-Cc: TomR at orgo.cad.gu.edu.au (Tom Round),
   100245.2440 at compuserve.com ('Geoff Powell'),
   afreeman at acslink.net.au ('Andrew Freeman'),
   bmusidla at email.dot.gov.au ('Bogey M'),
   c-p-r at netcom.com ('Citizens for Proportional Representation'),
   crabb.deane at pi.sa.gov.au ('Deane Crabb'),
   dfb at bbs.cruzio.com (Mike Ossipoff),
   dunnmj at ozemail.com.au ('Martin Dunn'),
   election-methods-list at eskimo.com ('Election methods'),
   GGoode at VTRLMEL1.TRL.OZ.AU (Goode, Geoff),
   hgnsw at zip.com.au ('John Webber'),
   j.pyke at qut.edu.au (John Pyke, QUT Law School),
   jhtaplin at cygnus.uwa.edu.au ('John Taplin'),
   lee at cs.mu.OZ.AU ('Lee Naish'),
   martinw at cse.unsw.edu.au ('Martin Willis'),
   mdt at ozemail.com.au ('Matthew Townsend'),
   voting-systems at netcom.com ('Voting-systems')

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