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Bear in mind that this is a system that did indeed work as intended following the last reform, the expansion from five to six seats filled per state per election, until the micro-parties worked out how to game the system.

And there are more modest reforms that would restore the system to functioning as it did before the gaming began.

(1) Preferential voting above the line.

At present it is the complexity of individual preference voting that drive people to voting above the line, but if people could vote their preferences above the line, the party preference sheets would lose much of their clout.

(2) Put a primary vote threshold in place.

A primary vote threshold of one tenth of a quota would redistribute most micro-party votes to major and third parties in one round. It would eliminate the effect where one micro-party gets pushed up from a small fraction of a quota to a large fraction of a quota just by staying ahead of the cut and receiving the votes of eliminate parties it did preference deals with.

(3) Allow partial preferential voting

If a ballot with 18 votes below the line was accepted as a formal ballot, then people would be free to vote their own preferences without the chore of completing 90% or more of a table-cloth sized ballot with no more than two continuity errors.

The opening to abuse of the proportional preferential system could be closed. Indeed, now that the main losers to the system have been the Coalition and the ALP, it seems like it might be closable. But it will require a bit of a laughing stock campaign to get it fixed, because the minor parties hold the balance of power on issues where the Coalition and ALP is divided, and not fixing the system is one price they can demand for support on other votes.

It may come down to how the balance of power shakes out in practice. Both Senators of the new Palmer United Party had a primary vote over four tenths of a quota in both QLD and Tassie, Nick Xenophan and his independent group in South Australia got more than a full quota, and the Liberal Democrats got more than half a quota in NSW. So if that group ends up holding the balance of power, it could negotiate changes that are open to 3rd parties but reduce the opportunities for micro-parties to game the system.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Sep 8th, 2013 at 02:42:30 PM EST
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