Fact Sheet D2

Fact Sheet D2: Divisions

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Summary: Members vote in a division to agree or disagree with a question. For example, they vote whether or not to pass a bill, or agree to a motion. Members must be in the Chamber to vote in a division, and all members in the Chamber must vote. Divisions are held in one of two ways - a party vote or a personal vote.

Making decisions in the Chamber Only one member votes 'aye' or 'no'
Ringing the division bells Tied result
Locking the Chamber doors Error in counting the votes
Party votes Members arranding not to attend a division (pairing)
Personal votes Announcing and publishing the result
Who votes in a division? How often are divisions held?


 

Making decisions in the Chamber

In the Legislative Assembly, all questions are decided by members voting in the Chamber. The Chair states the question to be decided and members respond by saying 'aye' or 'no'. The Chair announces whether they feel the majority voted for the 'ayes' or for the 'noes'. This method is called voting 'on the voices'.

If any member disagrees with the Chair about the result of a vote on the voices, they can ask for a division. Divisions are usually requested by non-government members and allow their opposition to a bill or a government decision to be officially recorded.

 

Ringing the division bells

The Clerk switches on bells which ring throughout Parliament House. This lets members know a division will happen and gives them time to get to the Chamber. The bells usually ring for three minutes, but only for one minute if there are two divisions in a row.

 

Locking the Chamber doors

When the bells have stopped ringing, the doors of the Chamber are locked. After that, members cannot enter or leave until the division is finished.

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Party votes

The Legislative Assembly holds most of its divisions using the party vote system. This system was trialled in October 2003 and is now part of the Assembly's procedures.

All members in the Chamber must sit in their designated seats to vote. Members in favour of the vote their party gave on the voices cast their vote by sitting in their seat. If a member wants to vote against their party, they must tell their party whip.

The Chair then asks the Clerk to record the votes.The Clerk asks the whip of each party to report the party's vote. Parties report votes in order of the size of their parliamentary membership. Each whip gives the number of ‘ayes' or ‘noes' for members of their party. For example:

Opposition Whip ‘43 noes'
Liberal Party Whip '34 ayes'
Nationals Whip '10 ayes'.

After the whips have reported the votes, any member who told their whip they want to vote differently from their party, can do so.

Once the Chair has announced the result, the whips must immediately give the Clerk the names of the members of their party who were not present for the vote. This is so the names of the voting members can be published in the Votes and Proceedings (minutes) and in Hansard.

Personal votes

Personal votes are used for conscience issues where members will not be voting along party lines. A personal vote is also held when a whip challenges a party vote.

During a personal vote, members voting 'aye' move to the right side of the Chamber and members voting 'no' move to the left side. Right and left are from the Chair's perspective.

The Chair appoints at least two members from each side as tellers. The tellers record the names of the members voting and count the number of votes. The tellers are helped by parliamentary staff, such as the Serjeant-at-Arms.

Before 2003, all divisions were taken by personal vote. This physical division of members to the right or left gives the division its name.

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Who votes in a division?

Every member who is in the Chamber must vote. In practice, this means that if a member wants to abstain from a vote they do not enter the Chamber. Normally, the Chair is not allowed to vote except, when votes are equal, the Speaker has a casting vote (see 'Tied result' below).

Members must be in the Chamber to vote. During a party vote, whips may only report the votes of members of their party who are present in the Chamber.

 

Only one member votes 'aye' or 'no'

If only one member votes 'aye' or 'no', the Chair stops the division and immediately announces the result to the Chamber. The member who called for the division can ask for their opposition to be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.

 

Tied result

If there are an equal number of votes for the 'ayes' and 'noes', the Speaker has a casting vote. The Speaker can give reasons for the casting vote, and these are included in the Votes and Proceedings.

Find out more: Fact Sheet D3: Speaker's Casting Vote.

 

Error in counting the votes

If there is a mistake discovered in the votes counted in a division, the Speaker announces the error to the Chamber and the Clerk corrects the Votes and Proceedings.

If there is confusion about the result of a division, or there is an error in the numbers that cannot be corrected, the Speaker calls another division, and members vote again.

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Members arranging not to attend a division (pairing)

Sometimes a member knows that they will miss a division. The member can arrange for another member to be absent too. The other member must intend to vote the opposite way, therefore reducing the votes for both the 'ayes' and 'noes' by one. This is called pairing. Pairing is not an officially recognised procedure of the Legislative Assembly, simply an agreement between members.

Pairing arrangements are made by the party whips and recorded in a pairs book in the Chamber. Pairs are not recorded in the Votes and Proceedings or in Hansard.

 

Announcing and publishing the result

Once members have voted, the Chair announces the result to the Chamber.

For example:

'Ayes': 44 'noes': 43

The motion is agreed to.

The result and the names of the members voting 'aye' and 'no' are recorded in the Votes and Proceedings and in Hansard.

 

How often are divisions held?

Many decisions are made without needing a division. Often, the Chair can call the result on the voices and no one disagrees. However, divisions are regularly required. In 2009, 26 divisions were held and 68 divisions took place in 2008.

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