Victoria’s Count Back System of Shame

The City of Melbourne has concluded the count back of the 2008 Municipal Election ballot to determine who will fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Councillor Peter Clarke.

The successful candidate was Jackie Watts (Peter Clarke’s number 2 on his ticket).

Over 6,000 votes that should have been counted were excluded from the count.

Raising further concern about the system of Proportional representation used in Victoria’ municipal elections.

Whilst the result of the count back are not brought into question the method used in the count back is very much questioned..

Under the system adopted there are seven councillors elected to the Council with a quota of just under 1/8 of the total vote. The total vote divided by (the number of vacant positions plus one) minus one. Of which Peter Clarke represents one eighth.

Peter Clarke was not elected on the primary vote and relied on the distribution of preferences from other candidates. Clarke’s surplus votes were also distributed on assisting the election of other councillors who were elected later in the count.

Peter Clarke had a primary vote of 5511 votes at full value (1.000)

He received an additional 3205 votes at full value and 18 fractional value votes following the distribution of preferences from excluded candidates and other candidates surpluses. Total value 8734

The quota for election was 7415. Clarke’s surplus of 1319 which was distributed to other candidates, remaining in the count, according to the voters nominated order of preference.

Under the VEC rules the recount only took into consideration the votes that formed Clarke’s original quota, they failed to take into consideration other unused residual votes that remained on the table, effectively a full quota of votes was ignored in the recount. Votes which could have determined the outcome of the recount and the candidate who filled the casual vacancy.

By only considering Clarke’s original set of ballot papers that were used to elect him the system has double counted some votes and excluded other votes which legitimately should have been counted.

The formula that should have been used should have proportioned Clarkes original set of ballot papers so that they together equal quota (Quota divided candidates total value of votes) times the value of the each vote.

This value should have then been added to any remaining residual value that had not been used at the conclusion of the original count brining the count to its final conclusion. In a full preferential ballot this should equal two quotas minus one. (Taking into consideration and exhausted votes that failed to express a valid preference for any continuing candidate.

All unelected Candidates should have been reactivated and include in the recount and value of the votes outstanding redistributed according to the voters nominated preference until a candidate has reach the original quota value.

This is not the process that the VEC or the legislation applied. They only considered the ballot papers that made up Clarkes original quota votes that when combined with the other residual votes could have produced a different result. But excluding the residual votes from the count these voters have been denied equal representation.

By Way of a theoretical analogy

The ALP number 3 Senate Candidate Jacinta Collins may have been elected on the back of preferences from the DLP who preferenced Jacinta Collins then preferenced Family First or some other candidate ahead of the ALP’s other candidates. The DLP vote when they were excluded from the Count continued on to elect Collins in the original election.

If Collins position subsequently became vacant and count back was used to fill the casual vacancy, under the VEC rules the ALP’s number 4 candidate would be elected but not on merit or on in accordance with the voters chosen candidate. The DLP vote would have been transferred to the Family First Candidate not the ALP and this vote could have resulted in Family First reaching quota before the ALP number 4 candidate. In a fair accurate system Family first’s Steve Fielding should be elected on the count back.

The City of Melbourne count back has highlighted some serious flawed in the system of proportional representation that has been adopted.

Flaws that were introduced by poor legislation drafting and designed to facilitate an outdated manual counting process. With the use of computer based technology it is possible and highly desirable that the system is reviewed and the rules amended to reflect more accurately the voters choice. Our system of Proportional representation and the count back rules, as they currently exist, is not really proportional but semi proportional at best.

If we cannot fix the system so that it accurately reflects the voters choice then we might as well do away with preferential voting which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to count and adopt a similar cheaper party list system as is used in Europe.

If we are going to retain the preferential voting and the associated expense of counting it then it should be accurate.

Victoria’s Count Back System of Shame

The City of Melbourne has concluded the count back of the 2008 Municipal Election ballot to determine who will fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Councillor Peter Clarke.

The successful candidate was Jackie Watts (Peter Clarke’s number 2 on his ticket).

Over 6,000 votes that should have been counted were excluded from the count.

Raising further concern about the system of Proportional representation used in Victoria’ municipal elections.

Whilst the result of the count back are not brought into question the method used in the count back is very much questioned..

Under the system adopted there are seven councillors elected to the Council with a quota of just under 1/8 of the total vote. The total vote divided by (the number of vacant positions plus one) minus one. Of which Peter Clarke represents one eighth.

Peter Clarke was not elected on the primary vote and relied on the distribution of preferences from other candidates. Clarke’s surplus votes were also distributed on assisting the election of other councillors who were elected later in the count.

Peter Clarke had a primary vote of 5511 votes at full value (1.000)

He received an additional 3205 votes at full value and 18 fractional value votes following the distribution of preferences from excluded candidates and other candidates surpluses. Total value 8734

The quota for election was 7415. Clarke’s surplus of 1319 which was distributed to other candidates, remaining in the count, according to the voters nominated order of preference.

Under the VEC rules the recount only took into consideration the votes that formed Clarke’s original quota, they failed to take into consideration other unused residual votes that remained on the table, effectively a full quota of votes was ignored in the recount. Votes which could have determined the outcome of the recount and the candidate who filled the casual vacancy.

By only considering Clarke’s original set of ballot papers that were used to elect him the system has double counted some votes and excluded other votes which legitimately should have been counted.

The formula that should have been used should have proportioned Clarkes original set of ballot papers so that they together equal quota (Quota divided candidates total value of votes) times the value of the each vote.

This value should have then been added to any remaining residual value that had not been used at the conclusion of the original count brining the count to its final conclusion. In a full preferential ballot this should equal two quotas minus one. (Taking into consideration and exhausted votes that failed to express a valid preference for any continuing candidate.

All unelected Candidates should have been reactivated and include in the recount and value of the votes outstanding redistributed according to the voters nominated preference until a candidate has reach the original quota value.

This is not the process that the VEC or the legislation applied. They only considered the ballot papers that made up Clarkes original quota votes that when combined with the other residual votes could have produced a different result. But excluding the residual votes from the count these voters have been denied equal representation.

By Way of a theoretical analogy

The ALP number 3 Senate Candidate Jacinta Collins may have been elected on the back of preferences from the DLP who preferenced Jacinta Collins then preferenced Family First or some other candidate ahead of the ALP’s other candidates. The DLP vote when they were excluded from the Count continued on to elect Collins in the original election.

If Collins position subsequently became vacant and count back was used to fill the casual vacancy, under the VEC rules the ALP’s number 4 candidate would be elected but not on merit or on in accordance with the voters chosen candidate. The DLP vote would have been transferred to the Family First Candidate not the ALP and this vote could have resulted in Family First reaching quota before the ALP number 4 candidate. In a fair accurate system Family first’s Steve Fielding should be elected on the count back.

The City of Melbourne count back has highlighted some serious flawed in the system of proportional representation that has been adopted.

Flaws that were introduced by poor legislation drafting and designed to facilitate an outdated manual counting process. With the use of computer based technology it is possible and highly desirable that the system is reviewed and the rules amended to reflect more accurately the voters choice. Our system of Proportional representation and the count back rules, as they currently exist, is not really proportional but semi proportional at best.

If we cannot fix the system so that it accurately reflects the voters choice then we might as well do away with preferential voting which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to count and adopt a similar cheaper party list system as is used in Europe.

If we are going to retain the preferential voting and the associated expense of counting it then it should be accurate.

Victoria’s Count Back System of Shame

The City of Melbourne has concluded the count back of the 2008 Municipal Election ballot to determine who will fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Councillor Peter Clarke.

The successful candidate was Jackie Watts (Peter Clarke’s number 2 on his ticket).

Over 6,000 votes that should have been counted were excluded from the count.

Raising further concern about the system of Proportional representation used in Victoria’ municipal elections.

Whilst the result of the count back are not brought into question the method used in the count back is very much questioned..

Under the system adopted there are seven councillors elected to the Council with a quota of just under 1/8 of the total vote. The total vote divided by (the number of vacant positions plus one) minus one. Of which Peter Clarke represents one eighth.

Peter Clarke was not elected on the primary vote and relied on the distribution of preferences from other candidates. Clarke’s surplus votes were also distributed on assisting the election of other councillors who were elected later in the count.

Peter Clarke had a primary vote of 5511 votes at full value (1.000)

He received an additional 3205 votes at full value and 18 fractional value votes following the distribution of preferences from excluded candidates and other candidates surpluses. Total value 8734

The quota for election was 7415. Clarke’s surplus of 1319 which was distributed to other candidates, remaining in the count, according to the voters nominated order of preference.

Under the VEC rules the recount only took into consideration the votes that formed Clarke’s original quota, they failed to take into consideration other unused residual votes that remained on the table, effectively a full quota of votes was ignored in the recount. Votes which could have determined the outcome of the recount and the candidate who filled the casual vacancy.

By only considering Clarke’s original set of ballot papers that were used to elect him the system has double counted some votes and excluded other votes which legitimately should have been counted.

The formula that should have been used should have proportioned Clarkes original set of ballot papers so that they together equal quota (Quota divided candidates total value of votes) times the value of the each vote.

This value should have then been added to any remaining residual value that had not been used at the conclusion of the original count brining the count to its final conclusion. In a full preferential ballot this should equal two quotas minus one. (Taking into consideration and exhausted votes that failed to express a valid preference for any continuing candidate.

All unelected Candidates should have been reactivated and include in the recount and value of the votes outstanding redistributed according to the voters nominated preference until a candidate has reach the original quota value.

This is not the process that the VEC or the legislation applied. They only considered the ballot papers that made up Clarkes original quota votes that when combined with the other residual votes could have produced a different result. But excluding the residual votes from the count these voters have been denied equal representation.

By Way of a theoretical analogy

The ALP number 3 Senate Candidate Jacinta Collins may have been elected on the back of preferences from the DLP who preferenced Jacinta Collins then preferenced Family First or some other candidate ahead of the ALP’s other candidates. The DLP vote when they were excluded from the Count continued on to elect Collins in the original election.

If Collins position subsequently became vacant and count back was used to fill the casual vacancy, under the VEC rules the ALP’s number 4 candidate would be elected but not on merit or on in accordance with the voters chosen candidate. The DLP vote would have been transferred to the Family First Candidate not the ALP and this vote could have resulted in Family First reaching quota before the ALP number 4 candidate. In a fair accurate system Family first’s Steve Fielding should be elected on the count back.

The City of Melbourne count back has highlighted some serious flawed in the system of proportional representation that has been adopted.

Flaws that were introduced by poor legislation drafting and designed to facilitate an outdated manual counting process. With the use of computer based technology it is possible and highly desirable that the system is reviewed and the rules amended to reflect more accurately the voters choice. Our system of Proportional representation and the count back rules, as they currently exist, is not really proportional but semi proportional at best.

If we cannot fix the system so that it accurately reflects the voters choice then we might as well do away with preferential voting which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to count and adopt a similar cheaper party list system as is used in Europe.

If we are going to retain the preferential voting and the associated expense of counting it then it should be accurate.

Clarke calls it quits as he takes on the design of greener pastures.

Melbourne City Councillor, Peter Clarke, has called it a day and has given notice of his intention to quit the Council having served just over one and a half terms. Peter Clarke has accepted a generous offer from his good friend and Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, to head up the Urban Renewal Authority. A position that comes with twice his salary as a Councillor, his own office, secretary and plenty of opportunity for international travel. Why would you hang around a powerless and non influential City Council when you can enjoy the trappings and benefits of a plum position that has little accountability or oversight?

Clarke’s pending resignation, which takes effect in three weeks time, will cause grief for the City Council and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The VEC must contact all candidates within 14 days of the vacancy occurring to ascertain who is willing and able to continue be elected in a count back of the 2008 City of Melbourne Council ballot. They then have a further 14 days in which to determine the winner and results of the election.

This sounds fine and in theory should be a straight forward exercise given that all the preference votes were transcribed and recorded electronically, but it is not as straight forward as some might think. It is unclear if in fact the VEC has designed, developed and tested its software to process the count back as required under Schedule 3A of the Local Government Act .

The method of calculating the results of a count back are messy in deed.

Analysis of the provision of Schedule 3A has highlighted a number of discrepancies in the way the Count back is to be counted. With votes being redistributed at an overall higher value then should be. Some votes will be counted twice in the process of determining who is elected.

The problem lies in the drafting of the rules and the formula used to determine the transfer value of ballot papers deemed to have contributed to the quota that elected Peter Clarke back in 2008. How ever drafted the rules should be sacked and never allowed to get near the legislative drafting computer again. The main problem being the interpretation of clause 12. Another problematic clause is clause 10 (3) and the definition of “necessary”.

It will be interesting to see what changes the VEC will try and implement to facilitate an electronic count and if those changes are in fact necessary or just desirable. Of course if it can be established that the changes implemented were not necessary in order to conduct a computerised count then they cannot be adopted without causing a jurisdictional error – which could lead to possible challenges in the courts.


Preliminary Analysis indicates that there are two main contenders for the vacancy that will be created. First is Dr Jackie Watts, who was second on Peter Clarke ticket, the other possible contender is a second Green’s candidate – Rohan Leppert.

We will wait with baited breath to see just how open and transparent the recount process is and if Candidates will have the same rights to appoint scrutineers to oversee the recount process. A scrutineer can only do their job if they are given access to the detailed information records and transfers of the votes. Thankfully copies of the preference data-files were published back in 2008 so it should be possible to independently verify the results of the count back election before hand.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST

It depends on how much the Victorian Election Commission will charge the City of Melbourne for the recount. This is another issue that is worth watching more closely.

Given that the VEC is the only organisation that can conduct the count they can overcharge the City of Melbourne, as they did when the rate payers were slugged $200,000 to develop the counting software in the first place back in 2002.

Thanks to a poorly negotiated contract by Alison Lyons, the City of Melbourne retained no IP rights or value for its investment. It was just money transferred from the General Rate Revenue to the VEC developers pockets.

Clarke calls it quits as he takes on the design of greener pastures.

Melbourne City Councillor, Peter Clarke, has called it a day and has given notice of his intention to quit the Council having served just over one and a half terms. Peter Clarke has accepted a generous offer from his good friend and Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, to head up the Urban Renewal Authority. A position that comes with twice his salary as a Councillor, his own office, secretary and plenty of opportunity for international travel. Why would you hang around a powerless and non influential City Council when you can enjoy the trappings and benefits of a plum position that has little accountability or oversight?

Clarke’s pending resignation, which takes effect in three weeks time, will cause grief for the City Council and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The VEC must contact all candidates within 14 days of the vacancy occurring to ascertain who is willing and able to continue be elected in a count back of the 2008 City of Melbourne Council ballot. They then have a further 14 days in which to determine the winner and results of the election.

This sounds fine and in theory should be a straight forward exercise given that all the preference votes were transcribed and recorded electronically, but it is not as straight forward as some might think. It is unclear if in fact the VEC has designed, developed and tested its software to process the count back as required under Schedule 3A of the Local Government Act .

The method of calculating the results of a count back are messy in deed.

Analysis of the provision of Schedule 3A has highlighted a number of discrepancies in the way the Count back is to be counted. With votes being redistributed at an overall higher value then should be. Some votes will be counted twice in the process of determining who is elected.

The problem lies in the drafting of the rules and the formula used to determine the transfer value of ballot papers deemed to have contributed to the quota that elected Peter Clarke back in 2008. How ever drafted the rules should be sacked and never allowed to get near the legislative drafting computer again. The main problem being the interpretation of clause 12. Another problematic clause is clause 10 (3) and the definition of “necessary”.

It will be interesting to see what changes the VEC will try and implement to facilitate an electronic count and if those changes are in fact necessary or just desirable. Of course if it can be established that the changes implemented were not necessary in order to conduct a computerised count then they cannot be adopted without causing a jurisdictional error – which could lead to possible challenges in the courts.


Preliminary Analysis indicates that there are two main contenders for the vacancy that will be created. First is Dr Jackie Watts, who was second on Peter Clarke ticket, the other possible contender is a second Green’s candidate – Rohan Leppert.

We will wait with baited breath to see just how open and transparent the recount process is and if Candidates will have the same rights to appoint scrutineers to oversee the recount process. A scrutineer can only do their job if they are given access to the detailed information records and transfers of the votes. Thankfully copies of the preference data-files were published back in 2008 so it should be possible to independently verify the results of the count back election before hand.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST

It depends on how much the Victorian Election Commission will charge the City of Melbourne for the recount. This is another issue that is worth watching more closely.

Given that the VEC is the only organisation that can conduct the count they can overcharge the City of Melbourne, as they did when the rate payers were slugged $200,000 to develop the counting software in the first place back in 2002.

Thanks to a poorly negotiated contract by Alison Lyons, the City of Melbourne retained no IP rights or value for its investment. It was just money transferred from the General Rate Revenue to the VEC developers pockets.

Clarke calls it quits as he takes on the design of greener pastures.

Melbourne City Councillor, Peter Clarke, has called it a day and has given notice of his intention to quit the Council having served just over one and a half terms. Peter Clarke has accepted a generous offer from his good friend and Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, to head up the Urban Renewal Authority. A position that comes with twice his salary as a Councillor, his own office, secretary and plenty of opportunity for international travel. Why would you hang around a powerless and non influential City Council when you can enjoy the trappings and benefits of a plum position that has little accountability or oversight?

Clarke’s pending resignation, which takes effect in three weeks time, will cause grief for the City Council and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The VEC must contact all candidates within 14 days of the vacancy occurring to ascertain who is willing and able to continue be elected in a count back of the 2008 City of Melbourne Council ballot. They then have a further 14 days in which to determine the winner and results of the election.

This sounds fine and in theory should be a straight forward exercise given that all the preference votes were transcribed and recorded electronically, but it is not as straight forward as some might think. It is unclear if in fact the VEC has designed, developed and tested its software to process the count back as required under Schedule 3A of the Local Government Act .

The method of calculating the results of a count back are messy in deed.

Analysis of the provision of Schedule 3A has highlighted a number of discrepancies in the way the Count back is to be counted. With votes being redistributed at an overall higher value then should be. Some votes will be counted twice in the process of determining who is elected.

The problem lies in the drafting of the rules and the formula used to determine the transfer value of ballot papers deemed to have contributed to the quota that elected Peter Clarke back in 2008. How ever drafted the rules should be sacked and never allowed to get near the legislative drafting computer again. The main problem being the interpretation of clause 12. Another problematic clause is clause 10 (3) and the definition of “necessary”.

It will be interesting to see what changes the VEC will try and implement to facilitate an electronic count and if those changes are in fact necessary or just desirable. Of course if it can be established that the changes implemented were not necessary in order to conduct a computerised count then they cannot be adopted without causing a jurisdictional error – which could lead to possible challenges in the courts.


Preliminary Analysis indicates that there are two main contenders for the vacancy that will be created. First is Dr Jackie Watts, who was second on Peter Clarke ticket, the other possible contender is a second Green’s candidate – Rohan Leppert.

We will wait with baited breath to see just how open and transparent the recount process is and if Candidates will have the same rights to appoint scrutineers to oversee the recount process. A scrutineer can only do their job if they are given access to the detailed information records and transfers of the votes. Thankfully copies of the preference data-files were published back in 2008 so it should be possible to independently verify the results of the count back election before hand.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST

It depends on how much the Victorian Election Commission will charge the City of Melbourne for the recount. This is another issue that is worth watching more closely.

Given that the VEC is the only organisation that can conduct the count they can overcharge the City of Melbourne, as they did when the rate payers were slugged $200,000 to develop the counting software in the first place back in 2002.

Thanks to a poorly negotiated contract by Alison Lyons, the City of Melbourne retained no IP rights or value for its investment. It was just money transferred from the General Rate Revenue to the VEC developers pockets.