According to the Electoral Act 1907, the State is divided into 59 electoral districts and six electoral regions. Each district returns one member to the Legislative Assembly and each region returns six members to the Legislative Council.
Following amendments to the Electoral Act 1907 in 2005, a review of the electoral boundaries must commence as soon as practicable two years after the previous State general election. Boundaries for both Legislative Assembly districts and Legislative Council regions are reviewed.
The Act prescribes that there must be three country regions and three metropolitan regions. It also specifies that each of the three metropolitan regions ought to have approximately the same number of districts. An electoral district must be wholly situated within the boundaries of an electoral region. This described in s.16G and s.16H of the Electoral Act 1907.
Why do we conduct a review?
A regular review of the electoral boundaries ensures that at election time, the number of electors in each district is within a permissable range of the average district enrolment. It is intended to, as far as practicable, make the number of electors in each district as comparable as possible, but also allows some tolerance. It is the job of the Electoral Distribution Commissioners to ensure that enrolments in an electorate are within the upper and lower permissible limits and, while doing this, they must also take into consideration other factors affecting electorates, including those affecting rural and remote areas of Western Australia.
Who conducts an electoral boundary review?
A review of electoral boundaries is conducted by three Electoral Distribution Commissioners.
These Commissioners are a former Supreme Court judge (chair), the Electoral Commissioner and the Government Statistician with the support of three staff. These people form the temporary ‘Office of the Electoral Distribution Commissioners’ or Electoral Boundaries WA.
For more detailed information on the electoral boundaries review process, see Part IIA of the Electoral Act 1907 .
How are boundaries reviewed?
The number of electors in an electorate is the most important consideration when reviewing electoral boundaries, as it is the job of the Commissioners that enrolments in a district are not outside the upper or lower permissable limits once the review is complete. This ensures that generally, each elected representative represents the same number of electors. However, a tolerance in the number of electors for each district allows for the consideration of other factors affecting electorates, particularly those in regional and remote areas.
Districts are reviewed on the basis of the ‘average district enrolment’, which is calculated on the enrolment figures at the close of electoral rolls two years after the last State general election. A district may be considered to have a permissible total of electors with up to 10% more or 10% less than the average district enrolment.
The permissible variance from average district enrolment is different for districts with an area larger than 100,000 square kilometres. These large districts which include the most remote parts of Western Australia, are entitled to a Large District Allowance (LDA). The LDA is calculated as being equal to 1.5% of the total area of the district and is added to the number of electors in the district. The total electors (including the LDA) must be within the range of 10% more or 20% less than the average district enrolment to be permissible.
- community of interest
- land use patterns
- means of communication, means of travel and distance from capital
- physical features
- existing boundaries of regions and districts
- existing local government boundaries
- the trend of demographic changes.
These prescribed factors are taken into consideration as far as the variation from average district enrolment will allow.
Regions are reviewed taking into consideration a number of prescribed factors and must include approximately the same number of whole districts. An electoral district must be wholly within the boundaries of a State electoral region. The Act also outlines how the regions should be divided into three metropolitan regions and three country regions, and further defines the ‘metropolitan area of Perth’ as well as identifying the names and general locations of all the regions.
The review process takes up to eight months to complete. The timeline for key stages is set out in Part IIA of the Electoral Act 1907.
Once the final boundaries have been published in the Government Gazette, the review is complete.
The final boundaries will come into effect at the next State general election. If a by-election is held before the next general election, the previous boundaries still apply.
What about the federal electoral boundaries?
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) undertakes the review of Australia’s federal electoral boundaries. For information about the federal redistribution, or about the 15 federal electoral divisions, visit the Australian Electoral Commission’s website.