2020 Queensland Election – Results by Vote Type

The great unknown ahead of the 2020 Queensland election concerned what change in voting patterns would we see as a result of holding an election during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tracking the postal and pre-poll figures before the election revealed a huge increase in postal and pre-poll voting as a proportion of enrolment. Now we know the votes cast, that trend shows up in the results.

Politically Labor did much better with pre-poll and postal voting than it did in 2017. But with much greater numbers in both categories of votes, the improvement may just reflect more Labor voters voting early.

Comparing how votes were cast at the two elections paints the following picture.

  • Votes cast as ordinary votes in a voter’s home district on polling day more than halved from 57.2% in 2017 to 27.6% in 2020.
  • Postal votes more than doubled from 10.7% to 23.8%.
  • Pre-poll votes rose from 26.2% to 43.8%. Postal votes cast as ordinary votes, mostly within district, were 34.0% of all votes and pre-polls cast, while absent cast votes outside of the voter’s home district were 9.5% of votes.
  • Polling day absent votes declined slightly from 4.9% to 4.1%.
  • Adding the categories together, roughly one third of votes were cast on polling day as ordinaries or absents, and two-thirds were cast before polling day.
  • Due to Covid restrictions, the category of “Others” does not include any Electoral Visitor or Special Institution votes in 2020.
  • Just over 900,000 postal vote packs were dispatched, and 707,171 postal votes were counted, 78% of postal votes dispatched. This figure does not include postal votes rejected at postal vote scrutiny and not admitted to the count.
  • The rate of informal voting varied by vote type in the usual order, lowest at 1.6% for postal votes, then 3.4% for pre-polls, 4.7% on the day and 5.2% with polling day absent votes. Informal voting for within district pre-polls 3.1%, absent pre-polls 4.4%. The assumption is always that voters who apply for a postal vote are less likely to deliberately vote informal and have more time to read their ballot paper. Voters outside of their district and voting absent are least likely to have access to a how-to-vote.

I published a post on pre-poll and postal voting before the election looking at past trends since 1986.).

Chart 1 below compares the vote by type statistics since 1986.

Chart 2 below shows the two-party preferred vote percentage by vote type at the 2020 Queensland election. The percentage vote in each category is sown in brackets on the left.

Table 1 below it compares the 2017 and 2020 elections.

Table 1 – Results by Type – 2017 and 2020 Compared

% of Vote 2-Party Preferred %
Vote Type 2017 2020 2017 2020 Swing
Ordinary 57.2 27.6 53.7 55.6 +1.9
Pre-Poll 26.2 43.6 47.9 52.6 +4.7
Postal 10.7 23.8 45.5 51.4 +5.9
Absent 4.9 4.1 54.6 54.8 +0.2
Other 1.0 0.9 48.9 57.2 +8.3
Total .. .. 51.3 53.2 +1.9

Source: Calculation by author based on published returns.

The total Labor two-party preferred percentage for 2017 and 2020 columns is effectively a weighted average of the percentage vote by type. The final swing figure is NOT a weighted average, which is why the swing figure for on the day votes is the same as the state-wide figure.

On election night, I had concerns as to whether election day swing figures revealed by the count would reflect the same sort of anti-Labor position of pre-poll and postal votes. In the end there was no difference between on the day swing and the final result. Labor’s vote declined by 2.4 percentage points once postals and absents were added in 2017, and by 2.4% in 2020.

Table 2 below breaks down the rate of polling day, pre-poll, postal, and absent/other votes by electorate. You can sort the list by column.