The link to constituents is less clear, but senators do have constituencies; they are just not always geographically limited. One senator distinguished between a constituency and an electorate (which is the state). The latter can be further divided into sub-divisions called wards.
A senator must be elected by their constituents. They are elected for a six year term, but may be removed from office through impeachment for "treason, bribery or corruption".
Electors vote for both a Senate candidate and a House of Representatives candidate. Voters can rank as many candidates as they like, but votes will be counted for only those candidates that receive at least 1 percent of the total number of ballots cast.
In Australia, senators are indirectly elected by the people through their representatives in the House of Representatives. The Constitution provides for a balance of powers between the two houses of the Parliament, with the Senate playing an important role in defining which laws can be made by Congress and also having some power to block bills it disagrees with.
Since 1901, when women were first allowed to vote, they have been able to vote for members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, until 1965, when Mabo v Queensland (No 2) was decided, Aboriginal people had no voting rights at all.
Senators represent whole states, whereas House members represent particular districts. The number of districts in each state is determined by the population of the state. Each state is represented in Congress by at least one representative. The remaining seats are divided among two or more senators who do not necessarily come from different parts of the state. For example, in Vermont there is only one senator but the state is split into three congressional districts because of the need for equal representation for the three Vermont counties.
In some cases, a state may be divided between two or more congressional districts. This can happen if the state is very large or has many counties or other subunits within it. Such a division is called gerrymandering and it is a political practice used by map makers and others to influence voting behavior. Gerrymandering can be good for politicians since it helps them get elected even though they may not be supported by a majority of voters in some parts of the state.
A senator represents the interests of all the people in his or her state. A congressman represents the interests of his or her district. However, the needs of everyone in a state or district are not always the same - for example, there might be areas with lots of young people where housing costs are high while other parts of the district are mostly made up of older people who might want different things from their congressperson.
Senators are chosen using a proportional representation system, which guarantees that the percentage of seats won by each party in each state or territory nearly mirrors the proportion of votes obtained by that party in that state or territory. The only real difference between this system and full proportionality is that small parties can win elections if they obtain 1% of the vote in any given state or territory.
The current system was established following the release of the Whitlam government from office after just over a month with support from the majority of senators. It was introduced through legislation called the Commonwealth Election Act 1973. Before this act, the Senate was generally viewed as an unnecessary body because decisions needed to be made by politicians who were responsible to voters. This view changed when the newly elected Gorton government in NSW refused to accept the results of the 1975 federal election and prorogued Parliament instead. In response, the Labor Party-Greens coalition passed the Whitlam government's electoral reforms into law.
The basic structure of the Senate is similar to that of the House of Representatives. Both bodies have equal numbers of seats, with 150 members in the House and 76 in the Senate. However, while MPs are elected for fixed terms, Senators can be removed only through death or resignation. As well, states cannot prevent their residents from being elected as MPs or senators.