Posted 8/10/20    Updated 8/11/20


Macedon Ranges Shire Council Elections, 2020



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How your vote is counted


Here, we give you an explanation of vote counting systems, how your vote is counted, and a simple summary of how votes were counted in all Macedon Ranges wards in 2016. 


Vote Counting Systems - Preferrential, and Proportional

How Votes Are Counted - the Proportional vote counting system

Example of Actual 2016 Vote Count - East, South and West Wards



Vote Counting Systems


Broadly speaking, there are two main vote counting systems: 

Macedon Ranges Shire has three multi-councillor wards: East, South and West wards.  As three councillors are to be elected in each ward, these are multi-councillor wards, and Council must use the Proportional vote counting system for Council elections.  The Preferential system is only available for single-councillor wards - where only one councillor is elected in each ward.



How Votes Are Counted


No matter how simply put, the Proportional vote counting system is very complicated.  Take a deep breath.  Ready?  OK, let's go.


The Proportional system distributes preferences two ways: from excluded candidates, and from elected candidates.  

  1. To win, a candidate needs to gain a quota - that is, they need to obtain a specific number of votes. 
  2. In Macedon Ranges Shire, a quota is calculated by dividing the total FORMAL votes by 4 (i.e. 25%), plus one vote.  For example, if there are 10,000 formal votes, a candidate needs a quota of 2,501 votes to be elected. 
  3. Quotas are set once the number of total formal votes is known. Informal votes are not counted.
  4. Ballot papers are first sorted and counted according to which candidate is marked No.1 on the ballot paper.  This is called the "primary" vote.  
  5. If no candidate achieves a quota on primary vote, the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes is excluded, and their second preferences (candidates marked No.2 by voters on the excluded candidate's ballot papers) are distributed among remaining candidates.
  6. If after this preference distribution no-one is elected, the candidate with the next lowest total number of primary votes - and any preferences received from the first excluded candidate - is excluded.  The first step is that this candidate's primary votes are distributed to the candidate marked number 2 by voters (second preference) on the ballot papers this excluded candidate received.  The second step is that any preferences this candidate received from the first excluded candidate are passed to the  third preferences shown on that first excluded candidate's ballot papers.
  7. If after this preference distribution there is still no-one elected, the next remaining candidate with the lowest total number of primary votes and preferences is excluded.  Their primary votes are go to the candidate marked number 2 (second preferences) on their ballot papers, while preferences received from the first excluded candidate move to that candidate's fourth preference, and the second excluded candidate's to the third preference on their ballot papers.

Candidates with the least votes continue to be excluded, and their votes passed to the next preference on the ballot papers they are holding, until a candidate achieves a quota, and is elected. 


So far, all of the distributed votes have come from excluded candidates, and you begin to see how your vote moves from candidate to candidate.  It can in fact be passed on to every candidate, except the candidate placed last on your ballot paper (see MRRA 2020 Candidate Preferences).


Where an excluded candidate is the next preference on a ballot paper, they are skipped over and the preference goes to a remaining candidate who is the next highest preference on a ballot paper. 


Now it really gets complicated:  A CANDIDATE IS ELECTED!   

NOTE: this example assumes an elected candidate receives 2,801 votes, requires a quota of 2,501 votes, and has a surplus of 300 votes.

  1.  If an excluded candidate's votes elect another candidate (i.e. gives them enough votes to achieve a quota), distribution of the excluded candidate's votes to the elected candidate, stops. 
  2. Elected candidates usually end up with more votes than they need for a quota (for example, if a quota is 2,501 votes, an elected candidate with 2,801 votes has 300 votes more than they need to be elected).  These 300 extra votes are called a surplus.  Because the newly elected candidate doesn't need them, surplus votes are distributed between remaining candidates, in accordance with the voters' preferences on each ballot paper.
  3. To ensure surplus votes are fairly distributed to the remaining candidates in accordance with voters' preferences, the candidate preferenced next (after the elected candidate) on ALL of the elected candidate's 2,801 ballot papers are checked.  This includes the candidate marked number 2 on the primary votes the elected candidate received, as well as the next  preferred candidate (after the elected candidate) on any preferences the elected candidate received from already-excluded candidates. 
  4. Because the elected candidate received more votes (2,801) than the surplus votes (300) that are available to be passed on to remaining candidates, to distribute those 300 surplus votes fairly, preferences on all 2,801 ballot papers that elected the succesful candidate are checked and those preferences are then distributed to remaining candidates at a fractional transfer rate. 
  5. The transfer rate is a fraction, calculated by dividing the surplus (300) votes by the ballot papers a candidate received  (2,801).  In this example, preferences on 2,801 ballot papers are transferred to remaining candidates at a transfer rate of 0.10710. 
  6. For example, say Candidate A receives 700 preferences on the elected candidate's 2,801 ballot papers.  These are passed to Candidate A at the transfer rate of 0.10710 per ballot paper, which results in Candidate A receiving 74 of the surplus 300 votes.
  7. A transfer rate does not devalue a vote.  It is simply a formula that ensures voters' preferences on ballot papers held by elected candidates are accurately reflected in the surplus votes being distributed.  Remember, the elected candidate's surplus was 300 votes, not 2,801.
  8. If an elected candidate's surplus elects another candidate, the newly elected candidate's surplus is immediately distributed, as above.  If no-one is elected, candidates with the least total votes continue to be excluded until another candidate is elected. 
  9. Once all three councillors are elected (all vacancies are filled), counting stops. The election is over.


2016 Election Vote Count - All Wards (East, South, West Wards)


See how councillors were elected in 2016 (pdf)