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Proportional Representation Society of Australia

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Proportional Representation Society of Australia Inc. (PRSA Inc.) is an electoral reform organisation in Australia. Its membership includes people that have successfully promoted electoral reform.[1]

The Society regularly reviews and makes submissions on electoral reform within Australia with a focus on implementing proportional representation through the single transferable vote. It has made submissions to international organizations including the United Nations and the New Zealand Parliament.


A wall plaque at the Townhouse Hotel in Melrose, Scotland, dedicated to Catherine Helen Spence

Forerunners of the Society began before Australian Federation with Catherine Helen Spence as one of their founding members. See details of the growth and success of quota-preferential proportional representation (PR-STV)in Australia, particularly at the national level.

Catherine Helen Spence's 1861 booklet,[2] A Plea for Pure Democracy, and her other writings and activism encouraged the 1895 formation of a proportional representation group called the 'Effective Voting League of South Australia'.[1] (Spence was the first female candidate at a public election in the then British Empire when she stood unsuccessfully (under the quite unfair multiple vote[3]) for election to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention.)

A statue in Light Square in Adelaide, unveiled on 10 March 1986 by Queen Elizabeth II, commemorates Miss Spence. The PRSA reprinted her 1861 booklet. Her memory is also preserved in her published autobiography and the novels she wrote. In some places even outside Australia, PR-STV (and its single-winner version, instant-runoff voting) was referred to as Hare-Spence in honour of her work.[4]

She was depicted on the Australian $5 banknote issued for the Centenary of Federation, in 2001.

PRSA Inc's SA members (in the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia) influenced the replacement of the only party-list system used, briefly, for Australian parliamentary elections, introduced by the Dunstan Labor Government in 1973, by direct election using the present quota-preferential form of proportional representation (PR-STV) that the SA Electoral Act 1985 prescribes for elections for SA's Legislative Council. (The SA Constitution Act 1934 requires a referendum before either House can be abolished, but does not specify or entrench the electoral system.)



The Society advocates the use of Hare-Clark proportional voting, a form of the Single Transferable Vote method (PR-STV) currently in use for elections in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

It publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled Quota Notes.

The Society has also published educational documents and aids such as

  • Rules for Counting Single Transferable Votes[5]
  • The Gerrymander Wheel, a simple calculator to demonstrate the perceived futility of drawing geographical boundaries in a single-member electorate system.[6]



The Society has raised issues in relation to the conduct of public elections in Australia, which include:

  • Robson Rotation, the need to randomly order candidates' listings in the printing of ballot papers so as to minimize the effect of donkey voting[7]
  • The rules for the calculation of the surplus transfer value in the distribution of preferences in proportional representation counts.
  • Opposition to the voting device[8] still imposed on certain Australian proportional representation elections
  • Filling casual vacancies by countback,[9] which is a form of direct election,[10] rather than by the party appointment system used to fill Senate and Legislative Council casual vacancies, except for Western Australia's Legislative Council.[11]
  • Electronic voting, and the introduction and use of computer technology in the conduct of elections

Submissions to Government


Proportional Representation Society of Australia Inc. has made submissions to governments that have influenced the development and formation of Australia's electoral systems, as can be seen at its News pages.

Public discussion and forums


The Society holds and participates in public meetings and forums on electoral reform in various parts of Australia. There is a 2009 presentation by Malcolm Mackerras AO, an electoral analyst and political journalist.

Vote-counting Service


PRSA Inc. also provides services in counting votes or fully conducting elections[12] for corporate and community organizations in Australia including economical computations of results by email. See its list of clients.



The Society maintains a connection with:

References and footnotes

  1. ^ Why We Chose Proportional Representation, (The Australian Senate, John Uhr) Archived 1 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Form for Ordering Publications from the PRSAV-T". prsa.org.au. 24 December 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  3. ^ "first-past-the-post multiple vote". Prsa.org.au. 3 November 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  4. ^ "New government in Lethbridge". Edmonton Bulletin (Canada) (December 9, 1913): 1.
  5. ^ Copyright Proportional Representation Society of Australia 2001 (28 November 2016). "Proportional Representation Society of Australia PR Vote-counting Rules". Prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Computerized demonstration of the Society's gerrymander wheel
  7. ^ Prsav-T. "Robson Rotation: Provisions of Tasmania's Electoral Act 1985". Prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  8. ^ "The Growth and Success of Single Transferable Vote Proportional Representation (PR-STV): Group Voting Tickets". Prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  9. ^ Prsav-T. "Countback". Prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  10. ^ Prsav-T (6 May 2016). "Direct Election of Candidates for Election". Prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  11. ^ "The growth and success of Single Transferable Vote proportional representation (PR-STV)". prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  12. ^ PRSA (1 November 2017). "Election and Vote-counting Services". Prsa.org.au. Retrieved 2 March 2018.