With less than 1% of first preference vote, two candidates still won seats in Australian senate!

Nicholas Whyte blogged on From the Heart of Europe about a couple of remarkable victories where candidates with a minuscule proportion of first preference votes – less than 1% – went on to win seats in the Senate.

The most stunning results of these is in Victoria, where the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party got a mere 11,232 first preferences, 0.52% of the total vote, 0.036 of a quota, less than twelve other parties contesting the election. But they appear to have risen from 13th place to 6th, picking up crucial votes from the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party, the Shooters and Fishers Party, the Rise Up Australia Party, and on the final count the Sex Party. One of the other candidates for the Senate from Victoria was Julian Assange, who started with more than twice as many votes as the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party but proved rather less attractive for other parties’ transfers (there was a little local difficulty as well).

But even better than that, a commenter pointed out an even less likely result:

In Western Australia, the Australian Sports Party, with 0.22% of first preferences and 21st in terms of party ranking, have actually won not the sixth seat but the fifth.

According to Wikipedia, the voting system in Australia “has evolved over 150 years of democratic government” according to Wikipedia. Evolved … or just got a lot more complex? When voting for senators:

In each state, political parties which are registered with the Electoral Commission present lists of candidates, which appear as a group on the Senate ballot paper. Independents and members of unregistered parties can also nominate, but they cannot appear on ballot paper as a group.

Voters can vote for the Senate in one of two ways.

They can number all the candidates, as they would with a House of Representatives ballot: but since there may be 50 or 60 candidates on the ballot paper, few voters do this. This is called below-the-line voting.

Or they can simply write “1” in a box indicating the party for which they wish to vote. This is called above-the-line voting. A large majority of voters generally cast their votes above the line for convenience, because lengthy attention and concentration may be necessary to differentiate unduplicated preferences for a very large number of candidates.

Update – locally [with a different voting system] three MLAs (all unionist) won seats despite coming in 8th place in terms of first preference votes. And Leslie Cree was elected in North Down with 5.6% first preference votes and originally in 9th place.

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  • aquifer

    Here we have an aberration of a system where elections are fought on the basis of the future of the region as a whole, but where candidates who have something to say about abortion or gay rights will not be elected because they do not happen to get enough votes in any one of Westminster constituencies. A case of divide and misrule.

    The Australians have a more proportional system than PRSTV, AV or somesuch.

    PRSTV is mathematically unsuitable for societies with two large blocks. It tends to ensure the extremists always get in, with fewer opportunities for candidates acceptable to both sides.

  • cynic2

    We also sometimes elect loonies and nut jobs – its just that more of us vote for them

  • Reader

    Nicholas Whyte: But they appear to have risen from 13th place to 6th, picking up crucial votes from the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party
    I wonder if the petrolheads would have been as likely to transfer to the stoners if the eliminations had gone in a different order?
    It looks like PR by party instead of by candidate, and below third place no one got anywhere near a quota – it was all down to transfers. And the transfers looked strange as well – bulk transfers from one party to another instead of the scattergun effect we have here.

  • David McCann

    It’s important to note how Australian senate elections work.

    When you get your ballot paper (These things are huge-the AEC in some states had to issue magnifying glasses to help people see the names and some had issues even fitting them in the ballot box) there are two choices.

    1) You can vote above the line-This means voting for the party and whoever they have done a preference deal with. Australian parties have ‘how to vote’ cards and these list the people/parties they will preference.

    2) You can vote below the line and you must preference all the others on the ballot. This is confusing as in state elctions in NSW-they have optional preferential voting were you don’t have to preference others. However for the Federal election you must state your preferences otherwise the vote will not count.

    It is incredibly confusing and these independents from next July will have the balance of power in the Senate.

    The governing party has only had control of the senate twice since the war and that was Malcolm Fraser in 1975 and John Howard from 2004-07.

  • Tone

    Our weakest house is the Senate…

    There has been a big shift to the Right in Oz…but whether it is a paradigm shift remains to be seen.

    All in all…this next century? It’s ours…