How Geraldton landed in election no-man’s land

Headshot of Gavin Box
Gavin BoxGeraldton Guardian

Confused by a state election voting system that gives us a new government, but leaves some of us hanging for days, wondering who will represent us in Geraldton?

You are not alone.

The Western Australian Electoral Commission explains the process on its website.

Here’s how it works.

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In the lower house, or legislative assembly, candidates are elected through full preferential voting.

Under this system, a candidate must poll more than 50 per cent of total formal votes to be elected.

“If, after all first preference votes have been counted, no candidate has obtained an absolute majority of all formal votes, then the candidate with the fewest number of first preference votes is excluded from the count,” the commission says.

“The excluded candidate’s second preference votes are then distributed to the remaining candidates at this stage.

“If, after that exclusion, no candidate has obtained an absolute majority of formal votes, the next remaining candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and all of his or her votes (second preferences and those received from the previously excluded candidate) are distributed to the remaining candidates.

“The process is continued until one candidate is elected by obtaining an absolute majority of formal votes. The absolute majority is calculated excluding informal and exhausted votes.”

So in the case of Geraldton, where it’s come down to a two-way race between Ian Blayney (Liberal) and Lara Dalton (Labor), the seat is still undecided because neither have a clear majority.

They, along with voters, must play a waiting game while the count of first preferences – and then second – continues until a winner is declared.

In the upper house, or legislative council, confusing matters further, candidates are elected according to a quota.

“To be successful, a candidate is required to receive enough votes to reach a quota (not an absolute majority) which is based on the number of formal votes and number of candidates to be elected,” the commission says.

“A successful candidate must achieve a quota, calculated using the following formula: (number of formal votes) divided by (number of MLCs to be elected +1) + 1.

“Subsequently, if the quota is not reached the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded and their votes redistributed according to the second preference shown. This process continues until a candidate reaches a quota.

“Candidates, who receive a number of votes equal to or greater than the quota are elected immediately. Any votes of these elected candidates, which are surplus to the quota, are transferred to the remaining candidates at a reduced value known as a transfer value.”

So there you go. Who said politics was complicated?

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