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.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.