Counting the votes (relevant for elections prior to and including the NSW 2008 Local Government Elections)
Optional preferential system - electing 1 or 2 councillors or the mayor
To be elected a candidate requires a majority (50% + 1) of the formal votes in the count.
If no candidate receives more than half of the first preference votes, a process of preference distribution takes place. One by one, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their ballot papers are distributed to the remaining candidates according to the next preference shown. This process of elimination continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes, at which time that person is elected.
Exhausted ballot papers
The majority figure does not remain static throughout the count and will reduce according to the number of “exhausted” ballot papers at each count. An exhausted ballot paper is one that does not show a preference for any continuing candidates.
The method of counting votes according to the optional preferential system is set out in the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.
Proportional representation system - electing 3 or more councillors
A candidate is elected on receiving a number of votes equal to or exceeding a quota. Votes in excess of the quota are transferred on to continuing candidates according to their next preference marked (optional preferential).
The candidate must obtain a quota to be elected. The quota remains unchanged for the whole count. If there are a large number of exhausted ballot papers (those with no preferences for any continuing candidates in the count), it is possible for candidates to be elected without having reached the quota.
The quota is
|total formal votes||
|number to be elected + 1|
e.g. If there are 10 000 formal votes and 3 councillors to be elected, the quota is:
+ 1 = 2 501
First preference votes for every candidate are counted, if a candidate obtains the quota they are declared elected.
Surplus votes are the number of votes a candidate has in excess of the quota.
A transfer value is assigned for the pro-rata transfer, of the surplus votes according to their next consecutive preference, to continuing candidates. Only the parcel of votes that caused a candidate to reach quota is used. The transfer value is calculated by dividing the surplus by the number of votes which can be transferred to continuing candidates (i.e. votes that don’t exhaust) from the parcel that caused the candidate to exceed quota.
|number of elected candidate’s surplus votes||
= the fraction or first four digits, or if greater than 1 to 1
|total number of candidate’s continuing ballot papers
(excluding exhausted ballot papers)
The elected candidate’s last parcel of votes are redistributed to the next consecutive preference on the ballot paper and counted.
The number of ballot papers allotted to each continuing candidate is multiplied by the transfer value and gives the number of votes to be added to that candidate’s number of existing votes, for example:
First preference count
Where a quota is obtained on first preferences the parcel is all the first preference votes.
The quota is 2 000 and the elected Candidate A obtains 5 000 first preference votes = 3 000 surplus votes.
Assuming there are no exhausted votes, the transfer value
If 1000 ballot papers in the parcel of votes had a second preference for Candidate B, after the transfer calculation this would result in 600 votes - which would be added to Candidate B’s first preference votes.
Where a quota is obtained later in the count, the parcel is only those transferred votes which caused that candidate’s total to reach (and most likely exceed) the quota.
The quota is 2 000 and the elected Candidate C has 1 400 first preference votes and 800 transferred votes = 200 surplus votes.
Assuming there are no exhausted votes, the transfer value is
If 400 ballot papers in the parcel of 800 votes had a next preference for Candidate D, after the transfer calculation this would result in 100 votes being added to Candidate D’s previous total of votes.
Ballot papers equal to the number to be transferred to the continuing candidates are randomly selected from the ballot papers distributed to these candidates. All ballot papers of the elected candidate are removed from the count as they constitute the quota by which the candidate was elected.
Once the transfer of a candidate’s surplus votes is complete, any other candidate who has reached quota is elected and cannot receive any further votes.
Prior to each subsequent count it needs to be determined whether a distribution of a surplus or the exclusion of a candidate will occur. If the total of all surpluses is greater than the difference between the two candidates with the lowest number of votes, then the distribution of a surplus occurs. If not, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is excluded.
If surplus votes are to be transferred it is done in the sequence of election of the candidates if more than one has reached quota.
Exclusion of lowest candidates
If at any stage of the count there are no more surplus votes to transfer but vacancies remain, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded. All their ballot papers are distributed with a value of 1, to the remaining candidates according to their next preference with no transfer value applied.
Election without reaching quota
The process continues until all vacancies are filled or the number of candidates remaining in the count is equal to the number of vacancies still to be filled. In this case the remaining candidates are declared elected.
The method of counting votes according to the proportional representation system with optional preferences, is set out in the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.