No mention of  the Donkey Vote in Local Government Electoral Recommendations 

Tasmania removed the problem by adopting the Robson Rotation System which reduces the impact of linear voting by creating a number of versions of the ballot paper, each with a different order of names giving each candidate an equal share of all positions on the ballot paper.

    Robson Rotation System                                                                         Key Recommendations

Ex Mayor Bob Beynon

Ex Mayor Bob Beynon

Bob Beynon, who would surely be qualified to comment after more than 13 years as a Manningham Councillor, including a period as Mayor, has welcomed the review but is disappointed that the important issues, including the “Donkey Vote”, were not addressed. He agreed that the Robson Rotation of Ballot papers system was an obvious and simple solution and was surprised it had been overlooked.

In his analysis of the current voting system he refers to its bias and makes a number of suggestions to improve it,  He writes;

The State Government’s decision to review the Local Government Act is commendable. However on reading the initial report there appears to be some glaring omissions in the recommendations that surely should have been included.

After the last elections where I was an unsuccessful candidate in the  Mullum Mullum Ward in the City of Manningham I appealed the inclusion of an ineligible candidate to the Magistrates Court.

The Court hearing over three sitting days served to highlight several inadequacies in the act itself not the least of which was the ability to remove and ineligible candidate prior to the preparation of ballot papers. The Court was advised that only the ineligible nominating candidate could remove him or herself from a ballot prior to the election on application to a Magistrate. The responsible authority in this case the VEC had powers only

……….to advise the candidate to withdraw. In the case at hand this candidate chose not to act on this advice provided by the VEC prior to the poll. To then proceed to the poll with this candidate included on the ballot paper is perplexing to say the least. Had this candidate been elected he would have been removed immediately by a Magistrate.

This of course tainted the poll result as around 550 voters were in effect disenfranchised from their democratic right through no fault of their own. These same votes allocated to other candidates could also have changed the result had the ineligible candidate been removed from the ballot paper.

However this had nothing to do with who won or lost as moreover my challenge was initiated to highlight the inadequacies of the current act.

Surely a recommendation of this review should read. “All candidates must be subjected to a Police Check prior to the preparation of ballot papers. Ineligible candidates are then advised to withdraw their nomination. In the event this person does not withdraw they are then removed by the agency in charge of the conduct of the election.”  This is standard practice in almost any sphere of public life and certainly in the case of any Government appointments to Government Boards.

I was also surprised that little mention of the “Donkey Vote” was made. Given that postal voting has seen an increase in the number of candidates in each ward the potential for this type of voting has also increased.

Similarly the previous absolute majority of 51% has now been changed to a 20% quota. If the donkey vote is around 10% this gives the number 1 candidate on the ballot paper a massive advantage. In fact the last 2 Local Government elections in Manningham has seen 90% of the number 1 candidates elected. Is this coincidence or bias?

Surely a recommendation to remove any potential for bias should be. “ The Robson Rotation for all ballot papers be implemented for all Victorian Local Government elections.” This is the practice in Tasmania and the ACT and would remove any chance of bias as all candidates rotate thru an equal number of all ballot positions on the voting paper. This is so obvious and simple I cannot believe it has been overlooked.

“Much mention of dummy candidates was made in the report but apart from recommending that each candidate must nominate and pay in person, not much else seems to be recommended”. “I believe all interested parties agree that “dummy candidates” are hard to eliminate.

A recommendation such as “ All first time candidates must attend at least two Local Government familiarisation sessions run by the Council for which they are nominating” This could  have the twofold effect of deterring the not so serious candidate and educating those serious candidates about the roles and responsibilities of Councillors.Unlike State and Federal MP’s a Councillor has no dedicated support mechanisms such as electoral staff and offices and many nominate for Council Elections with little or no knowledge of what to expect. There are numerous examples of this that may well have be avoided if all new candidates were given a greater understanding of what a challenging role that of a councillor is. At the moment these sessions already occur but they are poorly attended in most cases as they are not compulsory.

The report also recommends that all Local Government elections should be postal as this increases voter participation.  No doubt the same situation would hold true for State and Federal elections as well. No doubt if this option becomes law we can expect an immediate review of the State and Federal election acts to change to the “fairer” postal voting method. The writer remains sceptical of the real reasons for this recommendation as there are many in local government who believe attendance voting enhances informed decision making about candidates and their policies and therefore should remain as an option. Simply increasing voter participation in a compulsory voting system does in no way guarantee a better poll as the panel’s recommendation suggests.

Bob Beynon



  1. Tracy says:

    Why can’t the first position on the ballot paper be shared equally among candidates? Why won’t the Victorian Local Government Electoral commission implement the Robson Rotation system that works so well in Tassie? In my opinion our system only encourages candidates to employ dummies. For example, a candidate in a low position on the ballet paper, in addition to locating favorable preference swaps, (not easy if you are a strong candidate), will have to employ dummies to offset a lower primary vote.

  2. Spearmint says:

    The five key recommendations for the local Government Review are hardly wide sweeping.
    1. A cap on election donations,
    2. All elections to be conducted via postal vote,
    3. Compulsory information session for candidates,
    4. A ban on a candidate who has been disqualified from running a company,
    5. Forced disclosure of political allegiances.
    Apart from some action required on items one and three it is looking more and more like another “Clayton’s Review”
    No mention of dummy candidates or the sharing of positions on ballot papers?

  3. Webster says:

    There has to be a cap placed on political donations. In the last Manningham council election there was one successful candidate who received a campaign donation almost equal to a councillor’s yearly allowance. There were two others in separate wards, who might not have been elected had the Robson Rotation of ballot papers been employed.

    Below is an example of how the the Robson Rotation system works using 5 candidates,

    Candidate A Candidate B Candidate C Candidate D Candidate E
    Candidate B Candidate D Candidate A Candidate E Candidate C
    Candidate C Candidate A Candidate E Candidate B Candidate D
    Candidate D Candidate E Candidate B Candidate C Candidate A
    Candidate E Candidate C Candidate D Candidate A Candidate B

  4. Synstrat says:

    In my opinion the following recommendations should be adopted if they are serious about reform.
    1. The adoption of the Robson Rotation Ballot system to remove the donkey vote,
    2. A cap on election donations,
    3. Investigate methods of limiting dummy candidates,
    4. Retain Postal voting, (polling booths won’t work for LG elections)
    5. A certificate confirming candidate eligibility,
    No need for “forced” disclosure of political allegiances.


  5. Doris says:

    Let’s not jump to conclusions, I think the review will do the right thing. Though it was not mentioned in the agenda, I would be surprised if the rotation of the ballot paper order was not adopted after so many complaints. Liberal party spokesman, Mr Bull (no pun intended), confirmed; “The Victorian Coalition Government commissioned the review in response to an unprecedented number of complaints to the Local Government Inspectorate following the 2012 local government elections”. “Among more than 450 complaints to the Inspectorate were concerns about the election process and behaviour of some candidates, confusion over who could vote, a lack of information about candidates and the large number of dummy candidates,” “In response to these concerns and as a means of improving local democracy the panel has analysed the way councillors are elected and who is able to vote.” Mr Bull said.

  6. Snow Stream says:

    Currently there is no method in place to ensure the preclusion of ineligible candidates that have the potential to render elections null and void.
    At a hearing the Municipal Electoral Tribunal (MET) heard evidence that a candidate was ineligible to contest the Manningham Council Mullum Mullum ward election and ordered a recount of votes, with the candidate’s votes excluded. It wrongfully claimed a recount would not have changed the result and therefore the election could not be voided. This was based on the flawed assumption that an identical sequence of events would still have occurred had the idividual not nominated. The VEC knew of the ineligibility and had the opportunity to have the candidate excluded prior to the announcement of preferences and well before the allocation of ballot paper positions, a haphazard method employing a computer, which was reason enough to void the election. A second “lottery” for the ballot order would have been unfair.
    Had the matter been challenged at a higher level there is no doubt the election would have been declared invalid.

    Snow Stream.

  7. Mandy says:

    The influence of dummy candidates could be minimised by raising the current candidate election fee from $250.00 to $1000.00. and adopting the author’s suggestion that first timers attend compulsory familiarisation sessions.
    As suggested in previous comments, the Robson method of rotating ballot paper positions should be a priority.
    We need a fairer and more simple voting system the community can understand, perhaps a single reciprocal preference vote from each candidate.
    The current process is unfair because it allows candidates with low first preference votes to be elected while candidates with a significant number of primary votes, but not a majority, might not be successful due to subsequent counts and allocation of preferences. A less complicated system could also reduce the high number of informal votes.

  8. Jeff and Marg says:

    Mandy you are so right, we must remove the dummies, a high candidate participation fee could be the deterrent. In the 2008 Manningham Koonung ward election 7 of the 18 candidates could have been dummies, (candidates who give a second preference without obtaining a second preference in return)
    We voted for a candidate who achieved the second highest primary vote (2403) yet was beaten by a candidate with the equal sixth highest primary vote (1406) and was not even among the three elected. We must also develop a fairer system that the community understands.

  9. Korassan says:

    A high participation fee should not deter a legitimate candidate because their money is refunded if they lose, providing they poll 800 or more first preference votes. Results of the 2012 Manningham Council elections show that only 6 of the 41 candidates polled less than 800 votes.
    The minimum number of votes required to entitle a losing candidate to a refund could be reduced in proportion to the number of candidates in each particular ward.
    In addition I would like see every candidate interviewed separately by the responsible officer to provide guidance and to confirm eligibility.

  10. A.K. says:

    Good idea Korassan. That would just about remove the dummy candidates. And if, as so many are suggesting, we introduce the rotation of ballot paper positions and put a cap on election donations, we will have a much fairer system. The real loser with the present system are the ratepayers themselves because it ensures they rarely get the best candidates.

  11. Talford says:

    I totally agree with your comments. However I am concerned that the main objective of the review appears more to do with the ratio of voters per councillor than any intent to remove the bias in our voting system.
    It should be explained to the first time candidate, that under the present system, a high primary vote is no guarantee of success and exchanging high preferences is critical.

  12. Starbuck says:

    At the last Manningham council election there was one candidate who had four second preference votes! Three of whom had no realistic chance of being elected. There was one election back in 2008 where over a quarter of the candidates contesting were of the same category. One candidate reported the problem to the local newspaper– It would have been pointless complaining to the authority. Are the bureaucrats just plain lazy or continuing to turn a blind eye to this behavior?

  13. Shafted says:

    My wife has declared, if we don’t get a fairer system by the next council election, she will contact and advise each candidate as soon as they nominate.
    1. Ensure the SWAPPING of high preferences where ever possible.
    2. Higher preferences NOT to go to a candidate who is thought to be stronger (e.g. one who has campaigned far more extensively or a candidate seeking re-election)
    3. If you have doubts get your second preference source to commit in writing. (there have been instances where a candidate has finished with two second preference votes as a result of reneging)
    4. Hope and pray you get a high position on the Ballot Paper. (especially if there are a high number of candidates)


  14. Sheffield says:

    Ballot paper positions will influence where you allocate your preferences. It is best not to make too many arrangements until you see the result of the draw which precedes the period when candidates negotiate preferences. If you are lucky enough to draw number one you won’t have to do too much. If you draw a position down the list you will have to work hard to negotiate favorable preferences. Let’s hope that commonsense prevails and the review comes up with a fairer system.

  15. R.Jay says:

    I am very impressed with the author Bob Beynon. Perhaps if the system is overhauled sufficiently we might attract candidates of a similar quality. That is if the bureaucrats are really sincere about wanting to improve the quality of our councillors.

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