South Australia has a long history of issues surrounding the House of Assembly electoral system. Between the 1930s and the 1960s the State had a maldistribution of electoral districts allowing for the over-representation of the country and under-representation of the city. This allowed Sir Thomas Playford, leader of the Liberal and Country League (LCL), to remain in government for a record 28 years.
The system was reformed in 1969 under the Hall LCL Government. However, ‘one vote, one value’ was only achieved by the Dunstan Labor Government in 1975. At the time the newly renamed Liberal Party presented a proposal for a fairness clause be added to the State Constitution. This would require any redistribution of electorates to allow for a government to be formed by the party winning at least 50% of the two party preferred vote. The proposal failed to pass but was eventually adopted in the 1990s.
In recent years, South Australia has seen parties forming government with less than 50% of the two party preferred vote. South Australia has a higher proportion of independents elected than other States using preferential voting. In some cases, this causes minority governments to be formed by the party with less than 50% of the preferred vote. Furthermore, the State has a two party geographical divide larger than other States. Country electorates are predominantly won by the Liberal Party. Metropolitan seats, on the other hand, are won by Labor. In those seats, the Liberals have won by a very safe margin, gaining well in excess of the number of votes required to win that seat. These factors have created a two party preferred vote which is not always representative of seats won, and in turn, which party governs. This working paper proposes the alternative vote plus system as a possible way to correct this issue.