Federal elections

Election Night Analysis – Art or Science?

On 15 January I gave a presentation at the 2022 Linux conference on how Australian elections are counted and reported, and in particular, how I go about calling the winner as part of the ABC election coverage.

I titled the talk “Election Night Analysis – Art or Science?”, and as I explain in the talk, it is all statistics and mathematics with only a hint of art and hunch around the edges.

Here’s a video of the address which you can watch in the embedded version below or link through to the version on YouTube.Read More »Election Night Analysis – Art or Science?

2022 Contests of Interest – Capricornia

This is the first of several posts I will do in the run up to the Federal election, expected to be held in May.

These posts will draw on material from my soon-to-be-published election guide guide for the ABC.

My posts on this site won’t be about the key seats that will decide the election. Rather I will concentrate on seats of political science interest, where the 2019 election produced a peculiar result, or where there are significant long term shifts in party support.

My first post on Capricornia fits both these criteria. The 2019 election result was well out of line with past results in the seat. The question is whether the 2019 result in Capricornia was caused by the issues that swirled around the 2019 campaign, or was the result a longer term trend that is undermining Labor support in the seat.Read More »2022 Contests of Interest – Capricornia

Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate

Opponents of the Morrison government’s VoterID bill, currently being debated by Parliament, have regularly pointed out that some groups of voters will be disadvantaged by the new law if passed.

The argument is that some groups of electors are less likely to have the forms of identification set out in the bill, meaning they will be disproportionally represented amongst those denied access to an ordinary vote.

The group most often mentioned is Indigenous voters, in particular remote Indigenous voters, and the electoral division where this will have the most impact is Lingiari, the sprawling outback Northern Territory seat.

According to the 2016 Census, 40% of the division’s residents are Indigenous. But because remote voters are not included in the national automatic enrolment program, and because of cuts in remote indigenous enrolment programs, indigenous voters make up less than 40% of enrolled electors in Lingiari.

In Lingiari, remote postal services are largely non-existent and the electorate has the nation’s lowest rate of postal voting at 2.9%. As a proportion of electors, this figure is even lower in comparison to other divisions because Lingiari consistently has the nation’s lowest turnout. The turnout in Lingiari at the 2019 election was 72.9% compared to the national figure of 91.9%.

Turnout is low because remote Indigenous voters have little access to election day polling places used by other Australians, and because pre-poll ordinary voting is generally only available in Alice Springs, Katherine, and around Greater Darwin.

Most Indigenous votes are collected by remote mobile polling teams that travel around the electorate visiting communities for as little as one hour on a single day.

One of the key campaign jobs of candidates in Lingiari is making sure communities know when a mobile team is turning up, and making sure community members are around to vote when it arrives. Many miss out.

So Lingiari is central to the debate on voter ID. Remote indigenous electors are already the category of Australians least likely to be enrolled, least likely to have the opportunity to vote, and due to this new law, may become the group least likely to be allowed to cast an ordinary vote.Read More »Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate

John Alexander’s Retirement opens up the contest in Bennelong

The announcement today that Liberal MP for Bennelong John Alexander will retire at the 2022 election prompts an obvious question – will it hurt Liberal prospects in the seat?

It is strange to suggest that a seat with a Liberal margin of 6.9%, that has been won by Labor only once in its 73 years of existence, could be put as risk by Alexander’s resignation.

But that Labor victory in 2007, when Maxine McKew defeated Prime Minister John Howard, lives on as one of the most remarkable moments in Australian election night history.

Mention Bennelong and Labor true believers dream the seat can deliver another magic moment for them.

But how vulnerable is Bennelong? Here’s my mini-guide to the seat.Read More »John Alexander’s Retirement opens up the contest in Bennelong

Government Introduces Bill Requiring Voters to show ID to Vote

The Morrison government this morning introduced the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021. (You can find the bill and explanatory notes at this link)

The bill’s provisions will require polling day and pre-poll voters to present some form of identification when they turn up to vote. ID will be checked against details on the electoral roll before ballot papers are issued. Presentation of ID will replace voters being asked for their name and address.

There is no requirement for photo ID. There are numerous permitted documents to prove identity, including driver licences, passports, Medicare cards, proof of age cards, birth certificates, citizenship certificates, credit cards, bank statements, utilities, letters from the Electoral Commission, tax assessments and several documents specific to Indigenous voters.

Voters without ID can also be vouched for if they are voting with a voter who does have identity documents. This provision deals with couples turning up to vote when only one has brought their driver licence.

Voters unable to pass the above tests will still be allowed to vote, but they will be directed to another part of the polling place where they will be issued with ballot papers and a declaration vote envelope.Read More »Government Introduces Bill Requiring Voters to show ID to Vote

Covid19 Set to Change State Representation After 2022 Election

The closure of Australia’s international borders in early 2020 has had a major impact on Australian state and territory population trends. These will play out politically in mid-2023 when the Australian Electoral Commissioner determines how many House of Representatives seats each state will be entitled to for the 2024/25 election.

The rules under which the Electoral Commissioner makes a determination are tightly defined in law and based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population statistics. The Commissioner merely applies the Parliament’s formula and has no room for personal choice.

The ABS’s most recent population estimates for March 2021 were released last week. Based on these, the next term of Parliament will see Victoria lose the 39th seat it has gained for the coming election. On the 2021 numbers, there are no other changes to state representation, though future growth could see Western Australia on the cusp of recovering the 16th seat it recently lost.

The 2022 election will be contested on seat numbers set by the Commissioner’s last determination in July 2020. The new electoral boundaries were finalised in August 2021. My comment on Victoria losing a seat will not be relevant until mid-2023 when the next determination is made.Read More »Covid19 Set to Change State Representation After 2022 Election

More on Minimum Membership Requirements for Registering Political Parties

The Morrison government has introduced legislation that will lift the membership threshold for registering a federal political party from 500 to 1,500.

The legislation will not require parties with current parliamentary representation to meet the new requirement. All other parties will have three months after the legislation is passed to convince the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) that they meet the new membership requirement to retain registration.

There are currently 10 registered parties represented in the Commonwealth Parliament, with an eleventh about to be added with former Liberal Craig Kelly announced this week as the parliamentary leader of the United Australia Party. Kelly’s signing means the UAP no longer needs to meet membership requirement, in the same way the party was able to rely on former One Nation Senator Brian Burston for registration in 2016.

That leaves more than 40 parties needing to triple the list of names they provide to the AEC to retain registration.
Read More »More on Minimum Membership Requirements for Registering Political Parties

Proposed Electoral Act changes for the 2022 Federal Election

Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters, Ben Morton, introduced four bills today to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act ahead of next year’s Federal election.

It’s important to say first that the bills do not include controversial proposals to introduce voter ID and optional preferential voting. Those were put forward by LNP Senator James McGrath in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ (JSCEM’s) review of the 2019 election.

The bills also do not include any of JSCEM’s recent proposals to change the Electoral Act to deal with holding elections in a period when Covid is widespread or lockdowns are in place. Presumably any changes related to Covid will be introduced closer to the election.

These bills introduce a number of changes to counting procedures, party registration, non-party campaign expenditure, multiple voters and other campaigning offences. Some of the changes are more controversial than others, so the changes have been split into four bills.

The most controversial changes concern party registration, and splitting the changes avoids the problem where important changes in an omnibus amendment bill are delayed by more controversial parts of the bill.

Below is my summary of the proposed changes with links to the source documents on the bills.
Read More »Proposed Electoral Act changes for the 2022 Federal Election

2022 Federal Electoral Pendulum

With redistributions of electoral boundaries now complete for 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. (See my previous posts on the redistributions, in Victoria here and Western Australia here.)

Compared to the 2019 election result, the changes reduce the Coalition from 77 to 76 seats and lift Labor from 68 to 69 seats. In the 151 member House of Representatives, 76 seats are needed for majority government.

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