Counting of votes

The University uses a program that is separate from the electronic voting system for the purpose of counting votes.

The program meets legislative standards for electronic vote counting that have been established in Australia. It is set up to count the votes in accordance with the requirements of the Election Regulations and the Guild Election Regulations.

Usually the counting will be on the same day as voting closes, or the next working day.

Voting methods

The method of election used in University elections is optional preferential, i.e. preferences are distributed until one candidate has a majority of votes. Optional preferential means that voters are not required to indicate preferences against all candidates, but can simply list their first preference or as many preferences as they wish.

Where an election is for more than one position, the method of election used by the University is a form of proportional representation, similar to that used for the Australian Senate. This is an adaptation of the preferential system to an election for more than one position.

For details of how these voting methods work, see Distributing preferences below.


Setting the quota

When more than one position is to be elected, a quota must be reached for candidates to be elected. The quota is determined by the following formula:

(No. of valid first preference votes ÷ (No. of positions +1)) + 1

For example, if there are three positions and fifty first preference votes, the quota needed for election will be [50 ÷ (3 + 1)] + 1 = 13.5.

Distributing preferences

One position

If there are only two candidates for one position, the candidate with the larger number of valid votes wins. If they have an equal number of votes, the Returning Officer will determine by lot who is elected.

If there are more than two candidates for one position, and one of the candidates receives more than half of the valid votes, that person is elected. If none of them receives that number of votes, then the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and that person's second preferences are distributed. If two or more candidates each have the same lowest number of votes, then the Returning Officer determines by lot which of them shall be eliminated first. This process is repeated until a candidate has sufficient votes.

Some of those votes may be allocated to the candidate of their third or lower preference, if their higher preferences have been eliminated. However, as only one person is to be elected, the votes which are distributed have the same weight as first preferences.

Where a candidate has been eliminated and a voting paper to be distributed has no further preferences, or preferences only for candidates who have already been eliminated, then the voting paper is disregarded. The number of votes needed to be elected becomes half plus one of the remaining votes.

Two or more positions

If there are two or more positions to be elected, and more than that number of candidates, then the voting system is more complicated. The two major differences are that there is a formula for calculating the number of votes (quota) required for election, and, where a person has been elected with more votes than required by the quota, only the excess number of votes is distributed to the remaining candidates. The quota is determined by the formula shown above in setting the quota.

Any candidates whose first preference votes reach the quota are elected automatically. If any of them had more first preference votes than the quota, then the excess votes are redistributed. The method of doing this is to allocate all votes of that candidate a discounted value (being the excess number of votes ÷ the total number of votes), and then to distribute them with this discounted value. If some ballot papers do not have further preferences to redistribute, they are disregarded, but this does not change the value of those votes which are redistributed.

The reason for discounting preferences is that if the second preferences were redistributed at full value, this would result in a "winner-takes-all" system without representation of minority groups. An alternative sometimes used elsewhere is to select some of the votes as the excess and redistribute only these (albeit at full value). However, this is not permitted in University elections, as our voting numbers are quite small and hence sampling error could influence the final result.

Any candidates who reach the quota as a result of this redistribution, are declared elected. If (as is usually the case) this does not fill all the positions, then the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. If any candidate had no first preferences, then that person is eliminated now, rather than earlier in the process: a candidate without any first preference votes is not automatically eliminated at the start, but stays in the ballot until after redistribution of preferences of any candidates elected on the first ballot, as this might mean that he or she gains some redistributed preferences and is not the first eliminated, and indeed could be elected. If two or more candidates each have the same lowest number of votes, then the Returning Officer determines by lot which of them is eliminated first. Where votes are redistributed from unsuccessful candidates, they retain their full value, as they have not already been used to elect someone.

This process is continued until sufficient candidates have each obtained a quota and been elected.

Sequence of counting in Guild elections

The order in which the Guild elections are to be counted is stipulated in 5.1 of the Guild Election Regulations:

  1. Guild President
  2. Education Vice President
  3. General Secretary
  4. Three association presidents in order of:
    • Murdoch International Association (MISA)
    • Mandurah Association (MSA)
    • Murdoch University Postgraduate Student Association (MUPSA)
  5. Six Guild Council representatives in order of
    • Disability representative
    • Indigenous representative
    • Queer representative
    • Women's representative
    • External representative
    • Sustainability representative
  6. Six ordinary Guild councillors.

Then any other positions, in the order determined by the Returning Officer.

Any candidate who is elected to a position is eliminated from the counting of votes for all subsequent Guild positions in that election.