Australia: one candidate per party with IRO

Steve Eppley seppley at
Wed Feb 12 16:28:47 PST 1997

I downloaded the following article from:
(Thanks, Tom, for the URL.)

Looks like the Aussies are using the wrong sw method, if they want 
more than one candidate per party.

It also looks like basically only two parties contested the three
elections in the example, in keeping with the principle that the
Instant Runoff spoiler dilemma will maintain a two-party system. 
(Of course, there could be other explanations for the short supply 
of candidates and parties.)


Parties Nominating More Candidates than the Number of Seats they Expect

One of the invaluable features of the Hare-Clark electoral
system, from the point of view of the wide choice given to
voters, is its inbuilt incentive for parties to nominate a
number of candidates that is often about twice the number
of the seats they expect to fill. Hare-Clark achieves that by
filling casual vacancies by a re-examination of the quota of
votes that elected the vacating candidate. By contrast the
more restricted Senate system, where neither general nor
periodic elections are used to determine which candidate
will fill a casual vacancy, has often had major parties
nominating as few as one more than the bare majority of
the available seats they have learnt is the best outcome they
can expect.

Single-member electoral systems, of course, are able to
offer the least scope to voters, as each party usually
nominates only one candidate. Nevertheless, when
Australia's present system of preferential voting in single-
member districts began, in the 1920s, some of its advocates
claimed that it would encourage parties to give voters a
choice of candidates from the same party, and hence widen
voters' choices, even though, unlike proportional
representation, it cannot increase beyond 51% the
percentage of voters that have an effective vote that
actually elects a candidate. That claim has rarely been
repeated since, as parties have resolutely minimized voters'
choices, by standing only one candidate per party.

Nevertheless, recent polls for the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly have reminded people that the
possibility does exist. In each of three such polls the
Territory's home-grown Country Liberal Party has fielded a
pair of candidates, as the table below shows. No CLP
candidate was elected in these polls, although the 1995 poll
was close. The advantage of the approach was that CLP
voters had a choice, within the party, denied to other voters,
between aboriginal and non-aboriginal candidates in the
1990 polls, and a choice between aboriginals from two
different tribal backgrounds in the 1995 poll.

Election       Candidate   Party   Whether        First
                                   Aboriginal     Preference

MacDonnell     Bell           ALP  Non-aboriginal  1131
General        Heenan         CLP  Non-aboriginal   542
Election       Hunt           CLP  Aboriginal       453
Stuart         Ede            ALP  Non-aboriginal  1186
General        Nelson         CLP  Non-aboriginal   450
Election       Pananka        CLP  Aboriginal       537
Arnhem         Ah Kit         ALP  Aboriginal      1195
By-election    Nunggarrgalu   CLP  Aboriginal       500
07OC1995       Yumbulul       CLP  Aboriginal       310
               Lawrence       Ind. Non-aboriginal   304

Preferential voting lets voters choose which of several
candidates of their party they most prefer on the basis of the
different personal backgrounds of the candidates. Many
voters consider this a useful choice, as all the candidates in
a party normally follow the same party platform, and many
voters see personal background as their major field of
choice within a party. The preselectors have usually
monopolized that choice by standing one candidate only per

Recently the Australian Labor Party has begun to prescribe, without
giving voters a direct choice, that preselections for "winnable seats"
must achieve a certain minimum percentage of ALP MPs of each sex. A
new registered party has as its main aim there being a mandatorily
equal number of male and female MPs in each Australian Parliament.
Hare- Clark elections with similar numbers of male and female
candidates would be the fairest way of allowing voters to decide, at
each election, how far they wished to accept those ideas. By contrast,
with single- member electorates each with a single candidate from each
party, these ideas of the ALP and the new party can only be
implemented by imposing a candidate on voters. Yet any party can, even
without PR, as the CLP has shown, let its voters choose between its

The ALP or other interested parties could easily stand a
man and a woman in each electoral district so that all voters
at each election could choose as they saw fit. That should
increase the overall vote of the party. That may well have
been the motive of the CLP in these cases, but an important
added benefit for voters is the greater choice offered.

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