And that is why democracy is impossible

When I teaching voting and how it can lead to surprising results, I often have to cook examples. But no longer. The recent Victorian state election has given rise to a nice anomaly — one that was theoretically possible. The end result has been that the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) — a party that those under 50 probably have never heard of — has won two Senate seats. This is ironic because one of the supposed disadvantages of a preferential voting system is that it disadvantages minor parties (click here). Not this time!

The Age has a nice description as to how this happened. The first preference votes looked like this for one of the seats:

Labor 34,000
Greens 33,700
Nationals 21,800
FamFirst 15,500
DLP 10,500
Liberals 7500
Others 8000

Notice that the DLP is in 5th place! In our preferential voting system (here is a description and here is another), because Labor did not have over 50 percent of the votes, the second preferences of the Others and then the Liberals were allocated. This resulted in:

Greens 34,500
Labor 34,200
Nationals 29,500
DLP 16,800
FamFirst 16,000

This actually moved the DLP up. The DLP seems left wing but actually, for historical reasons, attracts a range of voters from all over the place. Now, it was Family First — a right wing party — whose preferences would be allocated:

Greens 34,500
Labor 34,200
DLP 32,300
Nationals 30,000

These went to the DLP in large number; perhaps another surprise. So now the Nationals (another right wing — sort of — party) were eliminated.

DLP 62,000
Greens 34,600
Labor 34,400

The Nationals had allocated their official preferences to the DLP over the Greens and Labor. So the DLP moved to the top and Labor to the bottom (by just a bit).

DLP 95,000
Greens 36,000

But Labor had allocated preferences to the DLP (it is like a sister party — or maybe a divorced spouse). That put the DLP over the line. This used to be just textbook stuff.

5 thoughts on “And that is why democracy is impossible”

  1. Exactly the same thing happened with Family First in the Federal upper house. I learned my lesson then and voted below the line this time. A pity so few others did the same.

    But, actually, the way the numbers have worked out means that Bracks government’s position is actually better than if the Greens won this seat. Bracks can now pass legislation with the support of either the Greens or the DLP or the Nationals, rather than just the Greens or the Nationals.

    Alas, like Family First, the cost will come from the need to keep the DLP happy just in case. The Greens can’t be counted on on anything, including the passage of pro-environment legislation. Remember the differential tax on leaded petrol?


  2. Please don’t confuse Democracy with Representative Democracy.

    The Liberals are also an option for the support of legislation. Having a minority in the upper house doesn’t mean there is a necessity for Labour to negotiate with the minor parties to pass legislation.

    The DLP, apart from it’s social conservatism, has a similar policy framework to that of the ALP. I think the only thing that will be blocked is the ALP’s proposed decriminalization of abortion.

    Perhaps in the future, preferences will start getting allocated on the basis of whom the party would prefer to get in, rather than a bunch of sleazy (and unreliable) predictions. I suggest this is a complicated case of the prisoner’s dilemma.

    To anyone who complains about this outcome, I ask: did you vote above the line, or below? I wonder if Joshua (or his proxy) voted below the line.


  3. “The Greens can’t be counted on on anything, including the passage of pro-environment legislation. Remember the differential tax on leaded petrol?”

    Yeah, and society was never the same again. I still haven’t recovered from it. It will probably take 1000 years for that burdun to be overcome.


  4. Of course it turned out that the DLP only got one seat in the Victorian Legislative Council.

    I think voters should have the option of filling in all the boxes above the line, or all those below. Most people would still follow the HTV cards, but at least they would be actively making a mark next to the their parties of second-and-so-forth preference.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: