Antony Green

Antony Green - Election Analyst

How many Voters mark Referendum Ballot Papers with a Cross? Not many based on evidence.

Finding – in 2009 WA held a referendum on daylight saving. A one-box ballot paper similar to the Federal referendum ballot was used and the formality rules on ticks and crosses were exactly the same. Out of 1,148,853 ballot papers, just 199 were marked with a single cross and declared informal, a rate of just 0.02%.

And in addition – as I explain later in the post, the ticks and crosses issue arises because parliament hasn’t acted to clarify the law.

At ‘The Voice’ referendum, how many people will be confused by the referendum ballot paper? The instructions are very clear to write “Yes” or “No”, but how many are going to be confused and instead use a tick or a cross?

This has become an issue because the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act states that where a voter has not written Yes or No, the ballot paper will be assessed for intent.

Unlike NSW electoral law, the Referendum Act doesn’t provide specific guidance on how to deal with ticks and crosses. The Referendum Act was amended earlier this year to deal with ballots marked with ‘Y’ or ‘N’, but everything else is still left to assessment of intent.

On the Australian Electoral Commission’s legal advice, the intent provision means a tick is a sign of agreement and will be counted as a Yes, but a cross is ambiguous in intent and will be treated as informal. This is the same ruling that applied at four referendums in 1988 and two in 1999.

Parliament could have amended the Act at any time in the last 35 years to address ticks and crosses, as NSW has done four times in the same period. But the politicians haven’t addressed it and now some attack the Electoral Commissioner, despite him simply applying the law as written by politicians, and despite using the same rules as applied by commissioners going back to the 1980s.

This morning “The Guardian” reports a field director for Fair Australia as saying that crosses could account for up to 5% of the vote being discounted.

This is a ridiculous figure in my experience. Due to preferential voting, Australia is devoid of ballot papers with instructions to use a tick or a cross.Read More »How many Voters mark Referendum Ballot Papers with a Cross? Not many based on evidence.

A Quick and Easy Referendum Voting Guide

(Update – the writ for the referendum was issued on Monday 11 September and you can now apply for a postal vote through the AEC website. The electoral roll will close on Monday 18 September.)

Over the last fortnight I have read several referendum voting guides that are over-long, over-complicated and in some cases downright confusing.

What needs to be understood is that the process of turning up to vote at a referendum is exactly the same as at a general election.

With one single exception – a different ballot paper is used.

All the options on when, where and by what method you vote are identical to last year’s Federal election.

In this post I am not addressing whether you should vote for or against the referendum. Every household in the country has been sent a guide to the referendum including the official Yes and No cases. The media and internet are full of information about the referendum and its consequences, though not all of the information is accurate.

In this post I’m trying to de-mystify the process with a simple FAQ about voting at the referendum.

Let me start with the only real difference in the process – the ballot paper and how to complete it.Read More »A Quick and Easy Referendum Voting Guide

Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries take 2

UPDATE: A very embarrassing “administrative oversight” means that the release of the final boundaries, due in September, has had to be abandoned. Notices for the earlier stages of the redistribution were not gazetted as required by the Electoral Act. The NT Solicitor’s office has advised that the process must begin again. It seems unlikely that this will substantially alter the boundaries drawn under the now abandoned process, but it is embarrassing and means the boundaries to be used for the 2024 election won’t be finalised until the new year.

The timeline for the initial stages of the re-started process is –

  • Public suggestions open (30 days) – Monday 11 September 2023
  • Public suggestions close – Wednesday 11 October 2023
  • Comments on suggestions received open (14 days) – Thursday 12 October 2023
  • Comments on suggestions received close – Thursday 26 October 2023
  • First proposed redistribution released – Monday 30 October 2023
  • Objections to first proposed redistribution open (30 days) – Monday 30 October 2023
  • Objections against first proposed redistribution close – Wednesday 29 November 2023

The original commentary on the second draft is inside this post.
Read More »Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries take 2

Pauline Hanson Deposes Mark Latham as NSW Leader

UPDATE 22 August: NSW MLCs Mark Latham and Rod Roberts have announced their resignation from One Nation. They will continue to sit in the NSW Legislative Council but as Independents. Recently appointed Tania Mihailuk will remain a One Nation member. Tables in this post have been updated to reflect today’s events.

As has happened so often in the past, Pauline Hanson has fallen out with other MPs that represent One Nation.

Hanson has deposed One Nation’s NSW state executive and announced that Mark Latham is no longer the party’s state leader. This has led to Latham and Roberts resigning from the party.

Let me run through a series of question on where this dispute will go, and also the remarkable history of MPs leaving One Nation after falling out with Hanson and her backers.Read More »Pauline Hanson Deposes Mark Latham as NSW Leader

2023 Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries Released

(UPDATE: The second version of the draft boundaries have been released. You can find my analysis of them in this post.)

The Northern Territory Redistribution Committee has this afternoon released its draft boundaries for the NT’s 25 Legislative Assembly divisions.

You can find the details on the NT Electoral Commission website.

The redistribution has been undertaken to bring enrolments in divisions back within the permitted 10% variation from quota.

As of 17 April, there were a total of 147,798 voters enrolled to vote with the average enrolment per division at 5,911 per division. Given the small electorate sizes, the Committee will update the enrolment data through the process. All enrolments at the end of the process must be within 10% of the quota.

On current enrolments, only Splillett was outside of the permitted variation, 17.8% over quota.

Five divisions were more than 5% under quota, Barkly, Gwoja, Fannie Bay, Fong Lim and Sanderson. Another three were 5-10% over quota, Drysdale, Mulka and Wanguri.

I was going to write a long post on the redistribution, but the boundaries have been released a day earlier than I expected, plus the draft boundaries involve only minor changes and no seats change political allegiance on my estimated new margins. More inside the post.Read More »2023 Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries Released

2023 NSW Election – the Race for the Final Legislative Council Vacancy

Final result: Final votes by group, the names of elected candidates and final composition of the new Legislative Council can be found on the Legislative Council Page at the ABC website.

I had intended to write something more detailed here about the final result but other pressing work intruded so just a few points at this stage.

Liberal Rachel Merton won the 21st seat defeating Animal Justice’s Alison Waters by 10,628 votes. Preferences did not change the order of election and the 21 elected candidates were the ones that could have been predicted based on first preferences at Count 1. Merton led Waters by 0.07 quotas on first preferences, a lead that was narrowed to only 0.05 quotas after preferences.

On exclusions from the point where the second Green was elected, 72.1% of preferences exhausting. 7.5% of preferences flowed to Animal Justice, 6.4% to the Coalition, 5.7% to Legalise Cannabis, 4.3% Liberal Democrats and 4.1% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. Merton’s lead fell to under 4,000 votes before increasing to the final margin after receiving 10.2% of One Nation preferences on the exclusion of Tania Mihailuk.

At several exclusions, preferences that might have flowed to Animal Justice instead flowed to Legalise Cannabis. Animal Justice received a boost with a reasonable flow of preferences from Christian conservative Lyle Shelton, almost certainly due to donkey votes where voters preferenced left to right from Shelton in Column A to Animal Justice in Column C.

Original post inside.Read More »2023 NSW Election – the Race for the Final Legislative Council Vacancy

How many NSW contests would have had different results under full preferential voting?

Unlike the Commonwealth and every other mainland state, NSW uses optional preferential voting (OPV) to elect its lower house of parliament. OPV was adopted by the Wran Labor government in 1980, the only state where a Labor government implemented what at the time was party policy. The Whitlam government tried and failed to implement OPV for Federal elections.

Labor’s embrace of OPV followed the Labor Party’s experience with losing seats to the Coalition on DLP preferences between 1955 and 1972. There was also a desire to make it harder for the Coalition to win seats where both parties nominated candidates.

The Wran government not only introduced OPV, it entrenched it in the state’s Constitution. OPV can now only be repealed by referendum. I doubt that a referendum to repeal OPV would pass.

Labor’s hope for advantage from OPV has failed to live up to expectations. The Coalition has largely abandoned three-cornered contests to avoid losing seats. The emergence and growth of the Greens as a left-wing competitor has cut into Labor’s first preference vote and left the party more reliant on preferences to win seats. Labor regularly comes from behind to win at Federal elections under full preferential voting, but come-from-behind wins are harder under OPV at NSW state elections.

At recent NSW elections it has been the Coalition advocating ‘Just Vote 1’ and the Labor Party encouraging voters to complete more preferences.

I explained more about the political impact of OPV in this post published before the NSW election.

Inside this post I’ll look at the results of the 2023 election and the seats where preferences determined the winner. Many seats had preference distributed, but only six seats saw preferences change the result by allowing a trailing candidate to win.

Using preference flows from last year’s Federal election where full preferences were required, I look at several state seats where there might have been a different result had full rather than optional preferential voting been used.

My conclusion is the Liberal Party probably won four three extra seats due to OPV, two at the expense of Independents (Pittwater, Willoughby), and two at the expense of Labor (Ryde, Terrigal). (A few people are arguing that Willoughby should not be included in this list. They have a reasonable argument. When the result is final it may just be a matter of the result narrowing substantially rather than changing.)
Read More »How many NSW contests would have had different results under full preferential voting?

Election Day in New South Wales

There is always a massive surge of people visiting this site on election day, driven by the way Google searches report.

I’m sad to disappoint but there will be nothing from me here today. I will be busy doing the ABC’s election coverage all day, rehearsing this afternoon and then live analysis on ABC television tonight. There will be live coverage on the main ABC channel in NSW and the ACT, and on ABC News Channel across the country, and on iView.

I might do some tweeting this evening but it is difficult to do while on television.

If you are after information on electorates and candidates, or want online results tonight, you can find everything you need on my ABC NSW election site.

If you are after information on where to vote, visit the NSW Electoral Commission’s site.
Read More »Election Day in New South Wales

NSW2023 – Pre-poll and Postal Vote Application Rates by District

(Figures update on election eve, 24 March)

This post lists pre-poll vote rates and postal vote application rates by district.

The overall figures as of close of business Friday 24 March 2023 were –

  • The final pre-poll vote total was 1,566,493 pre-poll votes representing 28.4% of enrolment. This is up from 21.5% of all votes in 2019.
  • There have been 540,208 postal votes applied for and despatched to voters representing 9.8% of enrolment. Postal vote applications closed earlier this week. I don’t have the postal application figures for 2019 but 2.9% of votes (as opposed to enrolment) were postal votes.
  • A total of 92,077 postal votes have been returned representing 17.0% of postal vote applications or 1.7% of enrolment.
  • In 2019 another 7.0% of votes were Absent votes, the figure including out of district pre-poll votes in NSW. There were also 4.9% of votes cast using iVote, an option not available in 2023. On the day enrolment is allowed in NSW and 2.1% of votes were provisional or new enrolment vote. These numbers would all be slightly lower as a percentage of enrolment.

Much more detail inside the post. Read More »NSW2023 – Pre-poll and Postal Vote Application Rates by District

Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election

I’ve prepared a preview publication on the NSW Legislative Assembly election for the NSW Parliamentary Library.

I won’t claim its an exciting publication. It’s a reference work that tabulates, for each electorate, results at the four elections from 2007 to 2019, plus references to the 2015 and 2021 redistributions.

The period covers four elections, beginning with a comfortable Labor victory in 2007, then tracking results through the landslide Coalition victory in 2011, then the 2015 and 2019 elections where Coalition support ebbed away.

Leaving the finely balanced Legislative Assembly that faces the electorate on 25 March.

You can find the publication at this link.

The analysis uses the four elections to categorise 2023 electorates as being safe for the Coalition or Labor, or the sort of electorates that change sides.

Unsurprisingly, the categories of electorates line up with the 2023 electoral pendulum.Read More »Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election