Does preferential voting make sense and does it lead to more representative outcomes?
At a superficial level the vote of Labor suggests not.
Despite attracting just 33% of the national vote Labor will still walk away at this election with 44% (67-68) of the seats thereabouts.
Put another way the Coalition on current counting are 1,038,835 primary votes ahead of Labor yet if just 15,400 (1.5%) of those votes had fallen to Labor the Coalition would have lost the election.
Incidentally, that is less than the number of people voted more than once at the last election.
The disproportionate representation of Labor in the house of representatives is obviously a function of Green preferences.
Despite polling almost a third of the Labor vote (i.e.10% of the national vote) it will get just 1 seat in the house of representatives.
There might also be a degree of gerrymandering going on as well but we can leave that for another day.
As the Labor Party love to champion equity and fairness at every turn I ask whether their disproportionate representation in the parliament reflects “electoral equity”?
I would argue not. The Labor Party is benefitting from preferences as though it were in a formal coalition with the Greens.
They are not. They do not share a common election platform, there are no power sharing arrangements, they do not engage in joint party-room meetings and they do not coordinate administrative or other functions.
Unless you are in a formal coalition I am not sure preferences should be weighted equally.
There should be more recognition for winning the primary vote and less reward for tactical preference swaps.
The former reflects what voters are for and the latter reflects who candidates are against.
For perspective, I did a quick count to see what would have happened at this election if we had a first past the post method of determining seat results.
Looking at the 50 most marginal seats I found the Coalition would have gained 10 seats, and up to 12 if the Liberal Party and Nationals fielded a single candidate in two seats where they competed.
Arguably this might be over compensating the other way as it would result in 57% of the seat count on 41.8% of the primary vote.
That said, the ALP seat count on this measure closely matches their primary vote so the bonus to the Coalition is entirely a function of a split Left vote.
Accordingly it is less of a problem. If the Left won’t unite behind a common platform they should not benefit from disproportionate representation as though they do and to the confusion of voters.
Exactly how you solve this problem I do not know as clearly Labor and the Greens won’t vote for change that would be disadvantageous to their electoral prospects.
Perhaps the Coalition should commission an independent audit of the AEC including the determination of electoral boundaries, pre-polling, preferences, measures to stop voter fraud and limiting foreign interference.
It could then use the findings to educate voters that Labor and the Greens are corrupting the electoral process with their preference swaps.
While first past the post won’t get up in Australia perhaps weighted preferences could be a compromise solution; e.g. one-to-one for offical coalition partners, something less for ordinary preferences?
Its worth a shot if nothing else to educate voters that they are being conned by Labor-Green collusion that subverts the democratic process.
By throwing the spotlight on Labor’s dependence on the Greens you stand to wedge them and incite conflict and there is some hope of benefitting from a split amongst Labor voters predisposed to the centre.