The Hare-Clark system is named after its inventor, British barrister Thomas Hare, and the Tasmanian Attorney-General Andrew Inglis Clark, who modified it and persuaded Tasmania to adopt the system in 1896. It has been used continuously since 1909.



The system is a version of the Single Transferable Vote and is a form of proportional representation, which means parties are elected according to the proportion of the vote they receive.



Hare-Clark is used in Tasmanian Lower House elections and is similar to Australian Senate elections, with some key distinguishing differences.



One important difference between Hare-Clark and other systems is that voters are only required to fill as many preferences as there are vacancies, currently five in each Tasmanian electorate. Voters can fill in all boxes if they so choose but are not required to.



The most significant difference, however, is that in Hare-Clark there is no ticket voting, in other words, no above the line voting. This means that rather than voting by party, voters must vote for their preferred candidates in order.



With a ticket vote, a vote for a particular party will be distributed according to the preferences of that party. In Hare-Clark, this is not possible, so each voter must direct their own preferences.



This allows all voters to vote not according to the party but according to each individual candidate.







For example, after careful consideration of each candidate, a voter might choose to vote as follows:



  1. Ted Smith – Party A


  2. Mary Smith – Party B


  3. Gary Smith – Party C


  4. Wendy Smith – Party C


  5. Martin Smith – Party B


  6. Estella Smith – Party A


  7. Bruno Smith – Party D


  8. Natalie Smith – Party D




Of course, some voters want a particular party to win, and so can choose to vote first for all Party A candidates one by one, and then Party B candidates, and so on.



In Hare-Clark, as in other preferential voting systems, votes are not “wasted”. Each candidate needs to reach a quota of votes in order to be elected – in this case, about 16.7 per cent. Some candidates will receive many more votes than the quota. Surplus votes are then distributed proportionately according to how voters numbered their preferences until all quotas are filled. Likewise, if all the quotas have not been filled, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is excluded and their votes distributed in a similar manner. Thus, it is not a waste to vote for either a high profile candidate certain to win a seat, or for a low profile independent almost certain not to win a seat.



This may seem complicated, but it ensures that the candidates elected are representative of the voters true preferences. Thankfully, there are sophisticated computer systems in place to crunch the numbers!



As Christians, we should value our vote and make informed decisions at the ballot box. There are good people of faith and values in different parties and running as independents.



So when you vote in the Tasmanian election, make sure you get informed about each candidate, numbering each individually.



For more information about the Hare-Clark system, see these resources: