South Australian election result shows it’s not possible to draw “fair” electoral boundaries

Yesterday’s South Australian election result (also see the Tally Room and Poll Bludger) shows that it is simply not possible to draw up single-member electorate boundaries to ensure that a party preferred by most voters will win the election.

In yesterday’s election, the ALP appears to have won a majority or very close to a majority on less than 49% of the two-party preferred vote. This of course simply reflects the face that votes outside of an electorate play no part in determining who that electorate returns.

In this particular case, the result comes from small swings in marginal Labor seats and large swings in safe Labor seats. Labor’s campaigning was targeted well.

The provisions to redistribute electorates to result in “fair” overall outcomes do not work conceptually nor apparently in practise. They should be removed.

Interestingly, it seems likely that the Liberal party will have a much easier time of it at the next (2014) election. The boundaries will have to be redrawn to favour the Libs so that they would have achieved a “fair” result on the overall two-party-preferred vote. A guess is that a “fair” result would be a majority or near-majority of seats. This means that the next redistribution will have to result in the Libs notionally holding 5-8 seats extra seats. It of course makes it harder for Labor, which will have to win a notional ~5 extra seats to win the election.

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