2022 Federal Electoral Pendulum

With the redistributions now complete in Victoria and Western Australia, it is time to publish an updated electoral pendulum for the 2022 election.

The redistributions have abolished the WA Liberal seat of Stirling and created the new notionally Labor held seat of Hawke in Victoria. I have previously published posts summarising the redistributions in both states, for Victoria here and for Western Australia here.

The net change in seats compared to the 2019 election result is that the Liberal Party has been reduced from 77 to 76 seats by the abolition of Stirling, while Labor increases from 68 to 69 seats with the creation of Hawke. In the 151 member House of Representatives, 76 seats are needed for majority government.

As well as the web formatted election inside the post, I have also provide a ‘pdf’ version of the pendulum with seats listed in double-sided A4 format. You can find it at this link.Read More »2022 Federal Electoral Pendulum

2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Western Australia

The draft Federal electoral boundaries for Western Australia released in March were finalised at the end of June.

Today the supporting documentation has been published, including the the new maps and enrolment data. That allows me to calculate estimated margins for the new boundaries. There are only minor changes compared to the draft boundaries released in March.

The overall summary of the redistribution’s impact is that the Liberal held division of Stirling has been abolished. This has caused major changes to the boundaries of Cowan, Pearce and Hasluck, with smaller changes propagating across the rest of the state.

The re-drawn electorate of Cowan includes a roughly equal number of voters from the old Cowan and the abolished Stirling. Pearce has been completely re-arranged, losing its former rural component to Durack and O’Connor, and the rapidly growing suburban areas around Ellenbrook to Hasluck. Pearce is now based entirely in Perth’s northern suburbs. Read More »2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Western Australia

2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Victoria

Draft Federal electoral boundaries were released in March and finalised at the end of June.

Today the supporting documentation, the maps and enrolment data, have been published which allows me to publish estimated margins for the finalised boundaries.

There were two changes of significance from the draft boundaries. Most of the proposed suburb swaps between Macnamara and Higgins have been reversed, and the proposal to re-name Corangamite as Tucker has also been abandoned.

The overall summary of the redistribution is that all 38 continuing seats remain held by the party that won the division in 2019, and the newly created 39th division is called Hawke and is a safe Labor seat.Read More »2021 Federal Redistribution – Boundaries Finalised for Victoria

How the Liberals stopped No Mandatory Vaccination Winning a Seat in the WA Legislative Council

The victory of the Daylight Saving Party’s Wilson Tucker from only 98 votes at March’s WA Legislative Council election has attracted much attention and derision. It has also become the justification for the McGowan government’s plans to reform the Legislative Council’s electoral system.

But Tucker’s victory was not the only example in March of group voting tickets being used to engineer results. In South Metropolitan Region, a well co-ordinated preference “harvesting” operation almost delivered the final seat in the region to Cam Tinley of the No Mandatory Vaccination Party.

These examples highlight how the manipulation of group voting tickets (GVTs) by the tactic of preference harvesting can distort the intent of voters. Voters for 19 of the 26 party and independent groups on the ballot paper had their votes delivered by GVTs to Cam Tinley.

That’s more than 40,000 voters with no idea their above-the-line vote for a chosen party or independent would be sent off to try an elect a representative from the No Mandatory Vaccination Party.

The only thing that prevented Cam Tinley beating the Green’s Brad Pettitt was a decision announced early in the campaign by the Liberal Party that it would put No Mandatory Vaccination behind Labor and the Greens on how-to-votes and upper house GVTs.

At the very end of the South Metropolitan Region count, that decision sent around 12,200 Liberal GVT preferences Pettitt’s way, delivering the Greens a seat that could otherwise would have gone to No Mandatory Vaccination. None of the 20 parties that contributed to Tinley’s final tally polled more than 1.9% of the vote, and 11 polled less than half a percent.

Despite these parties attracting few votes, GVTs delivered their preference negotiators total control over how ballot papers would have their preferences transferred. It allowed party votes to be stacked in a way that would have been impossible if voters controlled how preference were distributed.Read More »How the Liberals stopped No Mandatory Vaccination Winning a Seat in the WA Legislative Council

When can the Next Federal Election be Held?

On Twitter recently, the most frequent question I am asked is when “can” the next federal election be held. Second place goes to when “will” the election be held.

This post attempts to answer both questions.

The three-part answer on “when can” the election be held is –

  • The first date for a normal house and half-Senate election is 7 August 2021, if announced this weekend and writs are issued by Monday 5 July.
  • The last date for a normal house and half-Senate election is 21 May 2022. This date gives six weeks to complete the complex Senate count and allows Senators to be declared elected and start their terms on 1 July. A mid-May election would be announced in early April 2022.
  • There is a highly improbable option for a half-Senate election by 21 May 2022 and a separate House election as late as 3 September 2022.

The short answer on “when will” the election be held is –

  • when the Prime Minister thinks his government has the best chance of winning, or
  • if prospects look grim, the last possible date.

Read More »When can the Next Federal Election be Held?

Party Vote by Vote Type – 2018 Victorian Election

Back with another graph of the day post.

Every election held in Australia post the arrival of Covid-19 has seen a sharp decline in voting on election day and a surge in postal and especially pre-poll voting.

Last October’s Queensland election saw only 27.6% of votes cast as within-district polling day votes, with 43.6% of votes cast as pre-polls and 23.8% as postal vote. (See this post)

March 2021 saw a similar surge in Western Australia with polling day ordinary votes falling to 38.0% compared to 40.2% for pre-poll votes and 14.8% as postal votes. (See this post)

At the November 2018 Victorian election, polling day ordinary votes represented only 48.3% of all votes, the first Australian state election where less than half of votes were cast on the day in district. The rate of Early/Pre-poll voting was 36.8%, then the highest recorded at an Australian election, having quadrupled in 12 years.

Given the trend to voting before polling day has been stronger in Victoria than anywhere else, and given the state’s experience with Covid-19, one can only guess how low the rate of polling day voting will be at the 2022 state election.

The graph below shows the percentage vote by vote type at Victorian elections since 2006.Read More »Party Vote by Vote Type – 2018 Victorian Election

Analysis of Preference Flows at the Upper Hunter By-election

The NSW Upper Hunter by-election on 22 May was notable for the unusually low first preference vote for the two major parties. The Nationals polled 31.2%, Labor 21.2%, with the combined vote for the other 11 candidates an unusually high 47.6%.

The by-election was conducted under NSW’s optional preferential voting rules and 63.4% of other candidate ballot papers exhausted their preferences before reaching one of the final two candidates. At the end of the count, exhausted ballot papers represented 30.2% of the first preference vote.

With ballot paper data from the by-election now published, it is possible to examine more closely the two-party preferred flows of preferences from excluded candidates, to determine how many preferences voters completed, and to measure the influence of how-to-vote recommendations on preference flows.Read More »Analysis of Preference Flows at the Upper Hunter By-election

Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

Someone reading my article on reforming the WA Legislative Council’s electoral system reminded me of a speech I did a number of years ago on Senate electoral reform and issues to do with savings provisions.

The speech was at the launch of a UNSW Law Journal special Issue number 39(1) with various papers on electoral law.

The Journal had several papers on different areas of electoral law. I addressed each of the papers before spending much of the speech on savings provisions and in particular looking at the issue of savings provisions with the reformed Senate electoral system.

The speech was shortly before the 2016 election, after the Senate electoral reforms had passed, but before they were ruled constitutional by the High Court.

Having watched the speech back, I thought it worth sharing and it can be viewed via the YouTube link in the post.Read More »Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences

The McGowan government in Western Australia has appointed a Ministerial Expert Committee to recommend changes to the electoral system for the state’s Legislative Council. (You can find the Committee’s website here.)

The Committee has a number of issues to examine. Some are controversial, such as whether to change the state’s zonal electoral system. I wrote on the zonal electoral system and its unequal enrolments two weeks ago.

The proposal that has attracted least criticism is the abolition of group voting tickets (GVTs). GVTs were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were introduced as a solution to a chronic high rate of informal voting and designed to make voting easier while retaining full preferential voting.

What has not been fully appreciated is that the tickets sped up voting and also simplified the counting process. GVTs meant that less than 10% of ballot papers needed to be examined for formality and re-examined for preferences during the count. The rest of the ballot papers were ticket votes, and all ticket votes for a party being the same, could be treated as block votes.

These benefits have since been outweighed by the manipulation of results produced by GVTs giving parties almost total control over between-party preferences.

For major parties, GVTs strengthened the strong flow of preferences that parties had previously achieved through influencing voters with how-to-votes. But GVTs gave the same power to small parties that previously struggled to influence preferences due to lack of members distributing how-to-votes. Even the smallest micro-parties that didn’t bother to campaign suddenly had total control over their preferences. Over time, as participants learnt how to use GVTs strategically, the system began to elect candidate from parties with tiny votes who would never been elected had voters controlled preferences.

Three jurisdictions have now abolished GVTs. In this process, great attention was paid to ensuring voters did not have to revert to the pre-1984 situation of completing vast numbers of preferences. But a price of abolishing GVTs has been to make counting more complex. It has required a switch to scanning rather than hand counting and data entering ballot papers. Complexity has also been increased by changes to formulas calculating transfer values for surplus to quota preferences.

As the Ministerial Expert Committee searches for a replacement Legislative Council electoral system, it has the advantage of being able to draw on experience with abolishing GVTs for elections to the NSW and South Australian Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

Two models for electing the WA Legislative Council are being discussed. One retains regions, a four region model with each electing nine members the most discussed. The second is a switch to a single state-wide model.

The state-wide model in particular requires careful design. Careful thought needs to be given to ballot paper design, voter instructions, and the counting method.

Without careful design, using a single electorate to elect the WA Legislative Council could end up producing a ballot paper that is unprintable or uncountable.Read More »WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences