Friday, 12 November 2010

Antony Green's confusing flaw explanation explained in more detail by example

Antony Green in explanation of the Senate and Victorian upper-house counting rules tried to outline the flaw in the calculation of the Surplus Transfer value used to transfer a candidate's excess value of votes.

In presenting his arguments Green uses quotas, which to some may be confusing and difficult to understand.

The Senate and Victorian formula used to calculate the Surplus Transfer Value is based on the number of ballot papers not the value of the vote and as a result this distorts the proportionality of the election count. In short the system used is not accurate. It was put in place to facilitate a manual counting of the Senate vote, last century, when they did not have computers to assist in the counting of the vote.

To try and limit the impact of this flaw they introduce segmentation - the breaking down of the vote count into parcels or bundles of votes that held a common value.   In Tasmania and the ACT they only use the last bundle of votes received to distribute a candidate's surplus. (This has another effect that is equally flawed in principle and its execution - details not covered in this discussion)

The use of a segmented count is akin to dealing from the bottom of the deck in a game of cards. It in itself distorts the outcome of the election as was the case in 2007 Queensland Senate count where Green candidate Larissa Waters was denied representation as a result of this flaw in the counting process.

Western Australia State Government legislated to correct the flaw in the Senate Surplus Transfer Value but they maintained the method of segmented distribution of excluded candidate votes.

With the use of computer aided counting systems there is no need or justification to retain the flawed surplus transfer value calculation and with a value based formula there is no need to retain segmentation either.  All votes should be transferred in a single transaction - one transaction per candidate.  Pure simple and proportional

Senate and Victorian Legislative Council formula

Surplus transfer value (Stv) equals Candidates surplus value (Csv) divided by the Candidate's total value of votes (Ctv) divided by the total number of ballot papers (Tbp).
The problem with the formula is that they use the number of ballot papers as the divisor not the value of the vote at the time it is being distributed . This problem is highlighted when a candidate is elected in  a deferred count where the value attributed to each ballot paper is significantly different. The impact of this flaw in the system is it inflated the value of the major party ticket vote and devalue the independent below-the-line Minor Party vote.

The impact of the distorion in the count can be explained by looking more closely at the 2010 NSW Senate count and the distribution of the Liberal National Parties third candidate surplus votes using real numbers not percentage of quotas as in the Green explanation. In NSW the distortion delivered the LNP ticket a bonus value of  14,317 equivalent votes which is enough in a close election to change the result

In 2007 Victorian Senate count  the distortion in the calculation of the Surplus transfer value came close to defeating ALP's Senator David Feeney as the LNP ticket gained a "bonus" of over 7,000 votes which was then transferred to the Greens candidate. The 7000 votes effectively "stolen" from Family First, the DLP and one Nation all of which opposed the Greens candidature.

If we counted money and dividends as we count votes our financial system would collapse over night


The LNP#3 Candidate was declared elected having 

     1,804,850 ballot papers (1584,909 valued at 0.268313827 (total value 425,253) plus 
     219,941 ballot papers at full value) with a surplus value of 65,366 votes

Candidates Total 645,194 
     LNP Ticket vote: 1,584,909 ballot papers at 0.268313827 = 425,253 (65.91% of 645,194)
     Full Values votes: 219,941 ballot papers at 1.0000000 = 219,941 (34.09% of 645,194)

Surplus = 645,194 - Quota (579,828) = 65,366


Under the AEC Senate rules the Surplus Transfer value is calculated by dividing the Surplus by the total number of ballot papers (not the value of the vote)

     65,366 divided by (
1,584,909   + 219,941 ) ballot papers   = a Surplus Transfer of  0.036217

The LNP ticket vote holds a value of 57,400 votes (87.81% of 65,366)
The Primary Full value votes are now worth 79,66 votes (12.19% 65,366) 

The LNP ticket vote has increased its percentage of the Total value from 65.91% to 87.81%) and the Primary Full value votes have been devalued from 34.09% to 12.19%
This represents a "Bonus" value of:

The LNP Ticket vote
      65366 at 65.91% = 43,083
      65366 at 87.81% = 57,400

[An increase in value of 14,317]


The Primary minor party "full value" vote is reduced in value by the corresponding amount

     65366 at 34.09% = 43,083
     65366 at 12.19% = 7,965

[Devalued by 14,317 votes]

14, 317 votes can be the difference in a close election.


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