Various systems have been tried or proposed for filling casual vacancies in legislative Houses elected by proportional representation. Because such Houses involve multi-member constituencies and representatives of a variety of views, the traditional by-election to elect a single member would not be sensible as the majority would win even seats previously held by minorities. Thus, various other methods of filling casual vacancies have been adopted. Some involve a new selection in the form of indirect election by continuing Members of Parliament (‘MPs’), while others involve a process which does not require renewed political judgement such as re-examining the ballot papers from the general election. Several other methods of replacing departed members have also been used or proposed in Australia. This article outlines the features of all the systems, past, existing or proposed, and assesses them against a list of criteria which represent the desirable features of such a system.
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