Ballot Papers for the Legislative Assembly
The ballot paper is one of the most important elements of the election process. It is the means used to convert the wishes of the electors into a representative parliament. The ballot papers used for ACT Legislative Assembly elections contain several special features, including "Robson rotation" of candidates' names within columns.
For ACT Legislative Assembly elections, the ACT is divided into 3 electorates, with the electorates of Brindabella and Ginninderra each electing 5 Members, and the electorate of Molonglo electing 7 Members. Each electorate has its own ballot paper.
The Legislative Assembly is elected using the Hare-Clark electoral system. This is a multi-member proportional representation electoral system, with 5 or 7 candidates to be elected from each ballot paper. Because more than one candidate is elected from each ballot paper, and as casual vacancies are filled by recounting the ballot papers from the general election to find the next most preferred candidate, political parties typically put forward several candidates in each electorate.
Groups of candidates nominated by registered political parties are listed in party columns, with the name of the party shown at the top of the column. Independent candidates are included in one or more "ungrouped" columns on the ballot papers.
Where a registered party nominates only one party candidate in an election, that candidate is also included in an ungrouped column.
The length of each column is restricted to the number of vacancies in the electorate. Therefore, in the 5-member electorates, columns can include up to 5 candidates. If a party nominates more than 5 candidates, that party's candidates would be split over 2 or more columns. The ungrouped column would be split into 2 or more columns if there were more than 5 ungrouped candidates. Similarly, in the 7-member electorate, columns can include up to 7 candidates.
The order in which columns are printed on ballot papers is determined by a random draw conducted by the Electoral Commissioner. The "ungrouped" column (or columns) always appears on the right-hand side of the ballot paper.
ACT Legislative Assembly ballot papers do not include a "ticket vote" option like Australian Senate ballot papers. Voters must show preferences for candidates. The rules for casting a formal vote can be seen here.
For those voters who use the electronic voting system, the columns of candidates on the electronic ballot paper are "wrapped" on the screen so that all candidates can be visible on the screen at all times. An example of an electronic voting ballot paper can be seen on our Electronic Voting Process page.
Robson rotation of candidates' names on ballot papers
The names in each column are listed using the "Robson rotation" method.
Using this method, the names in each column of candidates are printed in different orders on consecutive ballot papers so that no candidate in a column has the advantage of appearing in the same position on every ballot paper. This means that political parties are not able to influence the voting outcome by asking for candidates to be listed in a particular order. Robson rotation allows voters to choose which candidates they want to represent them in an order of their own choosing, rather than an order chosen by a political party.
In order to evenly distribute preferences to all candidates, many different versions of each column of candidates are printed. For the 5-member electorates of Brindabella and Ginninderra, 60 different versions of each column are printed. For the 7-member electorate of Molonglo, 420 different versions of each column are printed. The formulas used to determine these different versions are contained in Schedule 2 of the Electoral Act 1992.
With Robson rotation, voters wishing to vote for particular candidates must be aware that the order of candidates' names printed on each ballot paper might be different from any order they may have seen on a sample ballot paper or published list of candidates.
Robson rotation works like this. If there are 5 candidates in a column, for example, that column will be printed in many different ways, with one-fifth of all ballot papers having candidate "A" in the top position, another fifth of all ballot papers having candidate "B" in the top position, and so on for each candidate in the column. As in the example above.