In a recent Note in this Journal by Gallagher and Unwin, it was stated that the element of randomness due to sampling surplus votes in single transferable vote (STV) elections ‘has long been recognized, but no previous attempt has been made to assess its impact’. This is incorrect. Work done in Australia (and reported in the leading Australian journals in their respective fields) has comprehensively dealt with this problem both in theory and practice. Since STV is practised in national elections in only three countries (Australia, Ireland and Malta, the most populous being Australia) it is surprising that contributors to, and referees of, this Journal should be unaware of such material. It was largely because of the evidence contained in these articles that the Joint Committee on Electoral Reform recommended to the Australian Parliament an amendment to the Electoral Act, to avoid the problems caused by sampling votes, by using the Gregory method of counting them. The Act was amended in this way in 1983.
* Department of Economics, University of Adelaide.