By ERWIN CHLANDA
A new system of counting votes may result in a more diverse town council after the elections on March 24.
Diversity certainly isn’t a feature of the Mayoral poll: To a man – pardon the pun – the five candidates are male, white, middle-class, middle-age small businessmen.
The only apparent distinction is that the four challengers of incumbent Damien Ryan have links, some tenuous, with the vocal Advance Alice movement, and that they all want to get rid of Mr Ryan.
How this will translate into preferences as the campaign unfolds remains to be seen.
However, the new voting system is very likely to generate more diversity among the eight councillors, to be chosen from a field of 15 candidates representing much of the town’s broad social spectrum.
Unlike in the previous system, candidates for councillor will not need to reach 50% plus one, but a smaller quota, a key factor in the new system.
This makes it less likely for people from powerful groups – interest, commercial, regional, ethnic, for example – who have many electors, to dominate the councils.
It is more likely for smaller groups to get their candidates up.
The new voting system – the Single Transferable Vote Proportional Representation (STVPR) counting – is a bit of a mouthful but it’s quite simple, at least so far as the Mayoral count is concerned.
The count for Mayor (one vacancy only, of course) works like this:-
Alice Springs has 14,239 enrolled voters. Let’s say 70% cast valid votes – which is about the norm – this would result in 10,000 ballot papers to be counted.
Let’s say the candidates are, in order of first preference votes, Fred, Julie, Gus, Anna and Harry.
In the first count none of them gets the “quota” which is 10,000 (the number of formal ballots) divided by the number of vacancies plus one, and add one – that’s 5001 ballots.
If no-one is elected in the first preference count – they all fail to reach the quota – the candidate with the least number of votes, Harry, is eliminated.
On ballot papers where people were voting “1” for Harry and have put “2” (their second preference) against another name, that vote now goes to the candidate indicated by the “2”.
A new count is done.
If the quota is now achieved by a candidate, that candidate is elected and we have a Mayor.
If not, then whoever is now the candidate with the least votes will be eliminated.
This may not be Anna, because the distribution of Harry’s preferences may have advanced her in the count.
Again, the bottom-scorer’s preferences will be distributed.
Further counts will take place until one of the candidates reaches the quota.
The count for Councillor, however, could be a quite a brain snapper.
The election of Councillors follows similar lines to the Mayoral counts, except that preference votes are transferred but not necessarily at their full value … and this is where it gets tricky.
Again, the formula for the Quota will apply: In Alice Springs – in the reasonable assumption that there will be 10,0000 valid ballots – it will be 10,000 divided by 8 vacancies plus one and add one, that’s 1112 or approximately 11% of the vote.
Anyone getting that number of votes or more is automatically in. (If no-one gets quota, the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded).
If a candidate is elected, the next thing is the distribution of the votes the elected member has received in excess of the quota.
For example, front runner Rita got 1217 votes which means a surplus above quota of 105. Her preferences went to Amy (252), Myrtle (428) and Jim (537).
Now a factor is applied to work out what fraction of these votes is passed on to the other candidates.
That factor is Rita’s excess over the quota divided by her total vote, namely 105 divided by 1215 which equals .086419.
So Amy gets 252 times .086419 equals 21votes, Myrtle 36 and Jim 46 (no rounding).
The same is done with the excess votes for any second candidate already elected.
The new vote totals are checked to see if any candidate has now reached quota. If they have, they are elected and any surplus votes are distributed. If not, the process reverts to the elimination of the bottom scorer and the allocation of his preferences until enough candidates reach 1112 to fill the remaining vacancies.
For further exploration go to the Electoral Commission’s website then > all information click here > Alice Springs Town Council > Proportional Representation System where you will find three useful links.
Or view an animated presentation “How Your Vote Counts” on the Electoral Commission of South Australia website.
PHOTO: Mayor Damien Ryan – strong on ceremony but soft on leadership, his critics claim.
How the new counting system may give us a more diverse town council
By ERWIN CHLANDA