About Redistributions

What is a Redistribution?

A redistribution is a legal process conducted in a transparent public environment, to even up or re-distribute the number of voters in each electoral district. The boundaries of an area might be extended to include more voters or a large electoral district might be reduced in size.

When does a Redistribution happen?

In NSW, legislation requires a redistribution to take place after every two State elections.

A redistribution is also carried out:

  • when the law changes the number of members of the Legislative Assembly (presently 93);
  • when more than a quarter of electoral districts do not have an equal number of voters (within a margin of 5% more or less, for a period of more than two months);
  • at other times as provided by law.

The last redistribution was held in 2013, with the changes taking effect at the 2015 NSW State Election.

Why are Redistributions necessary?

Each electoral district should have approximately the same number of electors and movements of voters can make electoral districts uneven.

Electoral districts should each have the same number of electors

New South Wales is divided into 93 areas called electoral districts. At a NSW State election, the electors in each electoral district elect one person to represent them in the Legislative Assembly or lower house of Parliament. Each of these elected representatives has one vote in the Parliament so it is important that each of them represents approximately the same number of voters. This means that all electoral districts should have approximately the same size population of voters.

The number of voters in each electoral district should equal the number of people enrolled in NSW divided by the number of districts, allowing for no more than a 10% variation.

Movement of voters can make electoral districts uneven

It is important to remember that electoral districts are based on the number of people on the electoral roll, not the overall population. It is quite possible for populations to increase without a corresponding increase in the number of voters.

Overtime, voter movements and the enrolment of new voters can cause the electoral population in some districts to grow while others may decline. This can cause an imbalance in the enrolled population between districts.

That is why the law requires that the number of voters in each electoral district and the boundaries of each electoral district to be periodically assessed and boundaries modified where necessary. This ensures the numbers of voters in each area are approximately equal and only vary, more or less, by 10% from the average.

Who does the Redistribution?

Redistributions are conducted by three Electoral Districts Commissioners who are appointed by the Governor. The Commissioners must be one of each of the following:

  • A Judge of the Supreme Court (past or current),
  • The Electoral Commissioner,
  • The Surveyor-General.

The Electoral Districts Commissioners for the 2013 Redistribution were:

  • The Hon. Keith Mason, AC QC, Chairperson
  • Colin Barry (Electoral Commissioner)
  • Des Mooney (Surveyor General)

How is a Redistribution conducted?

The new electoral boundaries are determined through a process of consultation with the public and consideration by the Electoral Districts Commissioners.

View the timeline for the 2013 Redistribution

Applicable legislation

Constitution Act 1902 No 32 Part 3 Division 3  Sections 25-28A
The Constitution Act sets out the conditions under which a redistribution should take place.

Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 No 41 Part 2
The Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act provides the framework, process and timetable for the redistribution.

How are decisions made about electoral districts and boundaries?

When making decisions about the names and boundaries of electoral districts, the Commissioners must make decisions based primarily on trying to achieve the equivalent number of electors across all districts. Wherever possible the Commissioners need to take into account:

  • Economic, social and regional communities of interest;
  • Means of communication and travel;
  • Physical features and area of the electoral district; and
  • Natural boundaries (like mountains or rivers).

A redistribution is a whole of State process.

While the needs of individual districts and the communities within them are considered and wherever possible taken into account, the Commissioners need to have a whole of State perspective so that all the electorates are cohesive and have approximately the same number of voters.