Tuesday, 6 October 2005
For immediate release

Electoral Boundaries Commission releases State upper house boundaries

Victoria's Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) today released new electoral boundaries for the State Legislative Council (Upper House). The boundaries will come into operation at the November 2006 State election. The EBC's report, which is being tabled in Parliament today, includes the boundaries and an explanation of how and why the EBC determined them.

The EBC has been conducting a redivision to create eight new electoral regions covering the State. Each region is made up of eleven electoral districts (Lower House electorates), and has more than 400,000 electors. The regions replace the current 22 electoral provinces for the Legislative Council. The voting system for the Upper House will also change to proportional representation.

The EBC released proposed boundaries on 7 July 2005 and invited public comment. After considering thirteen written suggestions and objections, the EBC decided not to change the proposed boundaries.

The EBC's report can be downloaded from the EBC website, www.ebc.vic.gov.au, and can be inspected during business hours at the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), Level 8, 505 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic 3000. The report is also available for purchase from Information Victoria, 356 Collins Street, Melbourne (tel 1300 366 356).

Maps of the new boundaries and a VEC document explaining the new voting system for the Upper House are attached.

Paul Thornton-Smith

Attachment 1: Map of regions

Attachment 2: A new upper house

The changes to Victoria's Upper House (Legislative Council) which will take effect at the November 2006 State election are the biggest in its 150-year history. Every Victorian will be affected by these changes, in the way they vote and through the election results under the new system.

What are the changes to the Legislative Council?

Number of members
The number of Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) will reduce from 44 to 40.

Terms of members
Under the old system, an MLC's term in Parliament was two terms of the Legislative Assembly (6-8 years). The MLCs had rotating terms, with half of them being elected at each State election.

Under the new system, all the MLCs will be elected at each State election. State Parliament now has fixed terms, and State elections take place on the last Saturday in November every four years.

New electoral regions
Under the old system, Victoria was divided into 22 electoral provinces. Each province had two members.

Under the new system, Victoria is divided into eight electoral regions. Each region will have five members. Each region is made up of eleven electoral districts, and has about 420,000 electors. The Electoral Boundaries Commission has now decided the boundaries of the regions.

New voting system
The voting system for the Legislative Council has been preferential - the same system as for the Lower House (Legislative Assembly).

The new voting system for the Legislative Council will be proportional representation, similar to the Federal Senate.

How will electors vote for the Legislative Council?

Electors have a choice about how to vote. They can either:

  • Vote "1" above the line for their preferred party or group of candidates. In this case their preferences go according to a voting ticket that the party or group has lodged with the Victorian Electoral Commission.
  • OR
  • Vote below the line for individual candidates. Candidates have their party affiliation (if any) and the locality where they are enrolled printed just below their names. Voters have to vote at least "1" to "5", and can continue numbering as many squares as they want. This is known as optional preferential voting.
In Senate elections, people who vote below the line have to number every square. The number of candidates (65 in Victoria in 2004) makes this a substantial chore. More than 90% of voters in Senate elections vote above the line.

It is unknown how many voters will vote below the line in Victorian Legislative Council elections, but voting "1" to "5" is much easier than numbering every square, and it may be that a higher proportion of voters will vote below the line. This could affect the election results.

The principle of proportional representation is that candidates are elected in proportion to the support they receive from the voters.

Under the old voting system for the Legislative Council (which still applies for the Legislative Assembly), a candidate had to receive more than half the votes to be elected. Under the new system for the Legislative Council, a candidate has to receive a "quota" of votes to be elected. With five candidates to be elected for a region, the quota is 1/6 of the votes plus 1. These votes can either be first-preference votes for the candidate, or preferences transferred from other candidates.

Steps in counting the votes

  • The first-preference votes are counted.
  • Candidates who have gained more than a quota are elected.
  • Elected candidates' surplus votes are transferred to other candidates according to the preferences on them. The surplus is the number of votes more than the quota. Because it is not possible to tell which votes elected the candidate and which are surplus, all the candidate's votes are transferred, but at a value of less than 1. The value of the transferred votes is worked out by dividing the surplus by the total number of ballot papers for the candidate. Each ballot paper transferred to another candidate has this value.
  • Any candidate who has reached the quota once the surplus votes are transferred is elected.
  • If there are still vacancies to fill once the surplus votes have been transferred, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is excluded. The excluded candidate's ballot papers are then distributed to the remaining candidates (at the value they were received) according to the preferences on them.
  • This process of transferring surpluses from elected candidates and distributing preferences from excluded candidates continues until all positions have been filled.
Voters wishing to learn more about how proportional representation works can view a specially prepared slide show at www.vec.vic.gov.au/Elections/ProportionalSlideshow.html

Implications of the new system
The results of elections under the new system are up to the voters. However, the characteristics of the new system make certain results more likely.

Under the new system, the threshold to be elected (16.67%) is much lower than under the old system. This increases the possibility that candidates from smaller parties will be elected.

It is probable that the MLCs for a region will come from several parties. A possible result would be for two or three parties to win the first four seats for a region, with the result of the contest for the fifth seat being unpredictable.

It will be more difficult (though not impossible) for one party to win an overall majority in the Legislative Council.

- ENDS -

For further information, please call:
Paul Thornton-Smith
Electoral Boundaries Commission
Phone: 9299 0732
Email: paul.thornton-smith@vec.vic.gov.au

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