Update on when the count will finish – While the lower house count is complete, the time-consuming scanning of Legislative Council ballot papers takes time. The button push for the distribution of preferences is expected around the Anzac Day weekend.
Update: With every vote now counted, there are some slight changes to the partial quota values. One Nation is 0.51, Labor 0.42, LDP 0.39, Family First 0.37. I still stick to my view in the post that Labor’s position will improve with scrutiny of BTL votes, with preference flows from the Greens, Animal Justice and Legalise Cannabis, and with the general leakage of preferences to the larger parties. But there is a chance the gap could close if there are any significant preference flows between the LDP and Family First. And there is still a chance that order could alter.
Original Post Follows
With the lower house counts being finalised today, it is time to take a closer look at the upper house election for the Legislative Council (LC).
Almost all Legislative Council first preference votes have been counted. The process of scanning and data entering ballot papers is underway. Once that is completed, the distribution of preferences will be undertaken very quickly by computer.
Nine seats are clear, electing four Labor MLCs, four Liberals and one Green. The final two seats look likely to go a fifth Labor MLC and the state’s first One Nation MLC.
If the election finishes as set out in the previous paragraph, the new Legislative Council will be 9 Labor, 8 Liberal, 2 Greens, 2 SA Best and a One Nation member. Assuming Labor appoints a President, then Labor would need the votes of three of the five cross bench members to pass legislation.
The Legislative Council consists of 22 members elected for staggered terms. Elections are for half the chamber, 11 seats elected at large across the state. The quota for election is 8.33%. A Senate-style ballot paper is used with voters given the option of voting ‘above or below’ (ATL) for parties or ‘below the line’ (BTL) for candidates.
The Legislative Council’s system was reformed in 2017 in line with reforms previously introduced for NSW Legislative Council and Commonwealth Senate elections. Group voting tickets were abolished and a form of optional preferential voting adopted. Voters can vote above-the-line expressing preferences for parties, or below-the-line showing preferences for candidates.
The ballot paper instructions are very similar to the NSW Legislative Council reforms. An ATL vote requires a single first preference with further preferences optional. (South Australia did not adopt the Senate rules for a minimum six ATL preferences). BTL instructions were copied from the Senate changes with 12 BTL preferences are required with a minimum six preferences the savings provision.
As a result of the 1-only ATL requirement, the rate of exhausted preferences is much higher than at Senate elections. I provide some statistics on the types of votes and exhaustion rates later in this post.
The Current Count
As of Sunday morning 27 March, the progressive hand count of first preference votes is just under 88%. You can find the current counts at my Legislative Council Results page on the ABC website.
These totals are a hand tallies of first preference votes whether completed above or below the line. They are NOT just a tally of ATL votes.
Data entry and scanning will begin to knock out some BTL votes that are not formal. This will impact the small parties that have higher rates of BTL voting. The Labor and Liberal Parties have lower rates of BTL voting so will lose proportionally fewer votes to informality.
Who Will Be Elected?
The eleven elected members are likely to be –
- Labor (5) – Kyam Maher (Re-elected), Tung Ngo (Re-elected), Reggie Martin (New member), Ian Hunter (Re-elected), Russell Wortley (Likely re-elected)
- Liberal (4) – Michelle Lensink (Re-elected), Dennis Hood (Re-elected), Nicola Centofanti (Re-elected), Laura Curran (New member)
- Greens (1) – Robert Sims (Re-elected)
- One Nation (1) – Sarah Game (Likely new member)
The departing members are Rob Lucas (Liberal – retiring), John Dawkins (Independent, ex-Liberal – retiring) and John Darley (Advance SA, ex-Nick Xenophon Team – Defeated)
Victory for Sarah Game will be on party name alone as One Nation did not even profile her on its website. Whether known or not, she will be elected to an eight year term in the Legislative Council.
I will discuss how I decided on my final two predicted members after some explanation of the high rate of exhausted preferences that will make it hard for trailing parties to win a seat in the Legislative Council.
Rates of ATL and BTL voting at the 2018 Election
The chart below shows the percentage of votes by vote completion method at the 2018 Legislative Council election. Votes are broken into three categories, single ATL votes with no preferences (60.4% overall), ATL votes with preferences (33.3%), and BTL votes (6.3%).
The percentage vote polled by each party is shown on the left, the percentage completion method for each party shown in the chart.
Saying that 60.4% of votes were single ATL vote means that these votes had no preferences available to flow to other parties on the ballot paper. This guarantees a high rate of exhausted preferences, even before the number of ballots with preferences that exhaust in the count is taken into account.
Preference Exhaustion Rates at the 2018 Election
In 2018, three Liberal, three Labor and two SA-Best MLCs were elected on filled quotas with a race on between 12 groups to fill the three final vacancies. The real race was between Liberal 0.86 quotas, Greens 0.71, Labor 0.47 and Family First 0.47 for the final three seats.
The preference flows of eight excluded groups between 12 groups in the race and only four left were as follows.
|12 parties left||0.8587||0.7092||0.4650||0.4267|
|4 parties left||0.9735||0.8982||0.5656||0.4907|
Of the eight groups excluded to the above point, 68.8% of preferences examined were exhausted representing 1.06 quotas worth of votes. When the last Family First candidate was excluded, 20% of preferences flowed to the Liberal Party representing 0.10 of a quota, by far the largest single preference transfer at the 2018 election.
It is almost certain that the 2022 election will see the same high rate of exhausted preferences. There will be only small preference transfers from excluded to continuing parties and candidates. It is certain that parties ahead in the count after the lection of the first nine MLCs will be advantaged in the race for the final two seats by the constant loss of preferences to the exhausted vote pile.
The Race for the Final Seats in 2022
The best way to look at the race for the final seats is to exclude the nine quotas for elected members and examine only the remaining partial quotas. For Labor, Liberal and the Greens, these are the remainder quotas beyond the filled quotas that elected members. For other parties these partial quotas represents the total vote. (Updated 28/3 for 88.8% counted)
The quotas and parties are -
- 0.50 - Pauline Hanson's One Nation
- 0.44 - Labor Party
- 0.39 - Liberal Democrats
- 0.37 - Family First
- 0.25 - Legalise Cannabis SA
- 0.18 - Animal Justice
- 0.13 - Liberal Party
- 0.13 - SA Best
- 0.10 - Real Change SA
- 0.10 - Aust Family Party
- 0.09 - The Greens
- 0.08 - The Nationals
There are 0.25 quotas distributed across the other 8 groups on the ballot paper.
Preference flows from excluded parties will be strongest where lots of how-to-votes were handed out, or where voters for a party see some affinity with other parties on the ballot paper.
The Labor Party, Liberal Party, Greens and to a lesser extent Family First handed out the most how-to-votes. Unlike lower house preference recommendations, upper house recommendations are not shown on voting screens. While all but one group lodged a how-to-vote recommendation (you can see all the recommendations here), most voters will never have seen these recommendations unless handed a how-to-vote.
The two parties whose preferences will be most important are the Liberal Party and the Greens. Both will be excluded from the count, and as parties that distribute lots of how-to-votes, more voters will see and follow the recommendation. However, over half of their preferences will exhausted if the single-vote ATL rates are the same as in 2018.
The Liberal Party recommended preferences for Real Change SA, SA-Best and The Nationals, none of whom will feature in the final race. It is highly likely that the Liberal surplus will exhaust, though I suspect there may be some flow to Family First given the party name is familiar and in an adjacent column to the Liberal Party.
The Greens how-to-vote recommendation was (2) Animal Justice then (3) Labor. I expect strong flows of Green preferences directly to Labor who lie two columns to the right on the ballot paper. Animal Justice would need to double its vote on preferences to catch either Family First or the Liberal Democrats, so I expect the exclusion of Animal Justice will release a secondary flow of Green preferences to Labor, along with some Animal Justice preferences.
If Animal Justice pass Legalise Cannabis there might be a flow of Legalise Cannabis preferences to Animal Justice following a how-to-vote, but I doubt many voters will have seen either party's how-to-vote. I think both parties are likely to aid Labor's cause in the quest to win a fifth seat. Animal Justice have come from behind to win election at the last two NSW Legislative Council elections, but they were not as far behind other parties as they are in South Australia.
I think preferences from several partiers, and a natural flow of preferences from all excluded parties to the best known parties, will help Labor to one of the final seats. Labor starts high on the list, will benefit from preferences, so stands a strong chance of election.
But One Nation will still have a battle with the Liberal Democrats and Family First for a seat. I expect One Nation will win the seat as it is a better known party, and experience from Queensland Senate elections shows that the name Pauline Hanson's One Nation is a bit of a preference magnet for voters for micro-parties.
Family First received no significant preference recommendations so will struggle to catch One Nation. The Liberal Democrats also received no significant preference recommendations but might benefit in Column A from a natural tendency for voters to read and number left to right on the ballot paper. Still, it is hard to see either party gaining the 0.11 quotas needed to catch One Nation.
In the race for the final two seats, Labor's Russell Wortley and One Nation's Sarah Game are the clear favourites. Wortley will benefit being second on the partial quota count and benefit from preferences that will keep him ahead of the following pack. Game will benefit from having the highest partial quota at the start of the count.