Malapportionment refers to any arrangement of seats that is intended
to favour a particular group. It most often involves the drawing of
electoral boundaries to bias the electoral system in favour of rural
voters over those in urban areas. It can also include the allocation
of seats to minority groups.
Western Australia is the only State to maintain a general system of
malapportionment where urban and rural electorates are of different
sizes. In the 2001 election WA Legislative Assembly seats were divided
into two zones – a metropolitan zone containing 34 seats and a country
zone containing 23 seats. A quotient (average size) of ...view middle of the document...
Then the right to vote
was seen as dependent on person’s economic role and social status in
the community. Even after one person-one vote had been introduced
property qualifications and plural voting gave more voting power to
the middle and upper classes. Rural weighting was regarded as a
natural result of the greater economic importance of the rural economy
at the time.
In some modern democracies this has been replaced by a strict
adherence to one vote-one value. In the United States the Supreme
Court has rules that electorates must be of exactly equal size. In
Australia some variation (usually 10% either side of a quotient) has
been allowed in the numbers of electors to help create seats that have
a ‘community of interest’ or to preserve as much as possible other
political zones, such as local government areas.
The rural weighting that still exists in WA has been defended on many
· important community groups (i.e. rural dwellers) need greater voting
power for their voices to be heard
· rural areas still contain the industries that generate the largest
proportion of WA’s economic output (farm and mineral exports)
· it is difficult for members of parliament to service large and
· if factors such as ‘community of interest’, other boundaries and
physical features are to be taken into account the Commissioners must
be able to create quite unequal seats
However, since Federation there has been a strong move to remove
malapportionment. This reflects several factors:
· the belief that democracy requires all citizens to have an equal
vote – that the right to vote belongs to the people, not to social and
· the claim that the problems of distance and remoteness have been
reduced by modern...