An electorate is a geographically defined division of the Australian population represented in Parliament by an elected official.
In the House of Representatives, the Australian population is divided relatively equally into 150 electorates.
In the Senate however, the State and Territory borders are considered the boundaries of the electorates themselves, with each state having 12 members, and the territories having two.
This is based on the idea of ‘one vote = one value’. It ensures a reasonable level of equality between votes in the House, but not in the Senate.
In the Senate less populous states like Tasmania get as much say as the more populous, such as New South Wales. This is one reason why the political electoral system has to have the ability to be adjusted according to the Australian population, in order to maintain its relevance and accuracy.
Therefore, alongside the actual voting system is a statutory authority called the Australian Electoral Commission, whose job it is specifically to adjust the boundaries of these electorates, and actually conduct the elections.
The situation of malapportionment in the Upper House is arguably a form of balancing the power of the Lower House: by having two houses of different compositions, it limits the ability of either to successfully legislate without the approval of the other, giving the states and territories an equal chance to be represented as the electorates are.
A core downfall of the redistribution of electorates lies in the way boundaries are moved according to the demographics within any one boundary.
It is rare, but not unheard of, for political parties to intentionally gain an advantage in the way electorates are redistributed.
All that is required for this process, known as gerrymandering, is for a boundary to be moved in such a way that the majority of voters within a given electorate are loyal to one particular political party, creating a major imbalance and damaging the notion of the equal value of votes.
This has only ever occurred in Australia a handful of times, with the most known being the ‘Bjelkemander’ in the Queensland state government of the 1970s and 80s – whereby rural electoral boundaries were altered to incorporate smaller concentrations of Labor voters within each electorate.