Preferential Voting – Multi-Member

Increase in Voters Completing Preferences at the 2023 NSW Legislative Council Election

In 2000 New South Wales became the first state to abolish Group Voting Tickets (GVTs), the system then generally used to elect state Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

The NSW decision followed the 1999 Legislative Council election and its infamous “tablecloth” ballot paper. Confusion combined with labyrinthine preference deals made a mockery of any claim that the filling of the final vacancies reflected the will of the electorate.

The system adopted abolished GVTs and introduced a new form of voting above-the-line (ATL) where voters could direct preferences to other parties on the ballot paper by numbering ATL boxes. A single ‘1’ ATL vote was still formal, but a voter could direct preferences to others groups with an ATL voting square by indicating ‘2’, ‘3’ etc to other groups.

With Senate elections continuing to use GVTs where only a single ATL preference counted, few voters made use of the new ATL voting option at Legislative Council elections. At four elections from 2003 to 2015, more than 80% of Legislative Council ballot papers continued to be completed with a 1-only ATL vote and only around 15% of voters indicated further ATL preferences.

When the Commonwealth followed NSW in abolishing GVTs ahead of the 2016 election, it adopted different instructions on how to complete an ATL vote. Senate ballot paper instructions, and advice from ballot paper issuing officers, suggested a minimum of 6-ATL preferences be completed.

The Senate reforms included generous savings provisions permitting ballot papers with fewer than six ATL preferences to remain formal. At three Senate elections since 2016, more than 95% of ballot papers have had six or more preferences, around 80% having exactly six.

Experience with the new Senate ballot paper has clearly encouraged more voters to indicate preferences on NSW Legislative Council ballot papers.

As the chart below shows, only around 15% of voters completed ATL preferences before the Senate changes. At two NSW elections post the Senate changes, 27.6% of NSW voters completed ATL preferences at the 2019 Legislative Council election, and after experience at two further Senate elections in 2019 and 2022, the percentage of ballot papers at the 2023 Legislative Council election completed with ATL preferences rose to 39.2% .Read More »Increase in Voters Completing Preferences at the 2023 NSW Legislative Council Election

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

New Publication on NSW Legislative Council Elections

In December 2022 the NSW Parliamentary Library published a background paper I prepared on the 2019 NSW Legislative Council Election. To keep it timely, the Publication also included an Appendix on prospects for the 2023 Legislative Council Election.

Inside this post I’ll run through the contents of the publication and also publish the statistical highlights section with references to parts of the paper.

The paper can be found in full at this link.

More on the contents inside this post.

Read More »New Publication on NSW Legislative Council Elections

VIC22 Election – Hawthorn – Analysis of Preferences

Hawthorn was one of seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) chose to conduct its re-check of election night votes by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system.

The seat was a three-way contest involving Labor, Liberal and Independent candidates. It was a very different electorate and contest to the Labor-Green battles in Northcote and Preston, the subject of my two previous posts in this series.

At the 2018 election the Liberal Party lost Hawthorn to Labor in a major upset. It was a very public defeat for Liberal MP John Pesutto, the result unfolding while he appeared on the ABC’s election night panel. The seat was won by retiree and little known Labor candidate John Kennedy.

Pesutto returned as the Liberal candidate at the 2022 election in a three-way contest against Kennedy and ‘teal’ Independent Melissa Lowe. On first preferences Pesutto polled 42.3%, Kennedy 22.1%, Lowe 20.0%, the Greens 11.1% with another 4.5% divided between four candidates.

The question to be resolved by the distribution of preferences was whether Lowe would pass Kennedy on Green preferences to finish in the final pairing. Kennedy’s initial lead of 948 votes narrowed after preferences but he still led Lowe by 106 votes at the crucial point when only three candidates remained in the count.

After preferences, Pesutto defeated Kennedy by 1,544 votes with 51.7% of the two-party preferred vote. Using the VEC’s ballot paper, it can be calculated that Pesutto would have defeated Lower by 1,296 votes with 51.5% of the two-candidate preferred vote. Pesutto’s victory was followed by his election as the new leader of the Liberal Party.

As with my previous posts on Northcote and Preston, this post on Hawthorn will use of the electronic ballot papers to analyse preference flow statistics and also to look at the influence of candidate how-to-votes.

The key findings for Hawthorn are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in a very high 79.5% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. At last May’s Federal election by comparison, when the Liberal Party still listed Labor ahead of the Greens on how-to-votes, Liberal preference flows to the Greens were a much lower 31.7% in Cooper, 29.8% in Melbourne and 26.7% in Wills.
  • For the seven Hawthorn candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, 39.3% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. A high 53.9% of Liberal voters completed the same sequence of of preferences as listed on the Liberal how-to-vote. This helps explain the strong preference flows to the Greens. A lower 29.6% of Labor voters exactly followed the party’s how-to-vote sequence.
  • In the two-party preferred count, 73.4% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal, including 85.9% for the Greens and 74.1% for Independent Melissa Lowe despite Lowe not recommending any preferences on her how-to-vote. By comparison, the flows to Labor in the local Federal seat of Kooyong last May were 77.2% overall, 83.5% for the Greens and 80.5% for Independent Monique Ryan.
  • Calculating preferences for the Liberal versus Melissa Lowe contest, the overall preference flows were 75.6% to Lowe including 79.2% from Labor and 82.4% for the Greens.
  • As I noted for both Northcote and Preston, it is clear that the Liberal Party’s decision on how-to-vote recommendations has a major impact on whether Labor or the Greens receive the majority of Liberal preferences.

More detail with tables inside the post.Read More »VIC22 Election – Hawthorn – Analysis of Preferences

2022 Victorian Legislative Council Election – Party Vote Totals

UPDATE: Table has been updated with final figures.

The table displays total votes by party, percentage vote, change in vote since 2018 and the percentage of below-the-line votes by party. It also includes seats won and change in seats.

I’ve been providing commentary on the results by region which you can find at the ABC election site’s Legislative Council results.

Vote total table inside the post.Read More »2022 Victorian Legislative Council Election – Party Vote Totals

Inclusive Gregory – another serious problem with the Victorian Legislative Council’s Electoral System

My criticism of Group Voting Tickets at upper house elections is well known, but in the past I have also criticised the formula used at Senate and the Victorian Legislative Council elections to distribute surplus-to-quota preferences.

I’ll get into the technical detail of the problem inside the post, but the problem is that Victoria uses the “Inclusive Gregory (IG)” method to determine how to distribute surplus-to-quota preferences.

This method weights the transfer of surplus-to-quota votes in favour of parties that have already elected members, and weights against parties with no elected members.

Essentially ballot papers that have already played a part in electing members are given greater weight than ballot papers that have elected nobody.

I wrote about this problem back in 2014 when the use of IG resulted in the election of an extra Labor MLC for Northern Victoria Region ahead of a Country Alliance candidate.

And the problem has reared its head again in 2022 in the count for South-Eastern Metropolitan Region.

The output of my ABC Legislative Council Calculator for South-Eastern Metropolitan Region reveals the problem. (The problem currently appears as outlined below but may change with further counting.)

As it currently appears, after the election of the Legalise Cannabis candidate Rachel Payne, the IG method causes her surplus to massively over-represent Labor’s preference tickets and under-represent ballot papers for the Greens and Legalise Cannabis.

This over-representation brings Liberal Democrat David Limbrick close to winning the final seat, and the only reason Limbrick is even close to election is the distortion caused by the IG method.Read More »Inclusive Gregory – another serious problem with the Victorian Legislative Council’s Electoral System

Updates on Victorian Legislative Council election

Two quick updates on extra material I’ve published on the ABC election site.

First, I’ve published a Legislative Council Voting guide explaining above and below the line voting and the pitfalls created by Victoria still using group voting tickets.

The guide includes links to the pdf GVTs I listed in my previous post, but also a link to a web version of each region’s GVTs which is more accessible on mobile devides.

The guide also includes a link to the Legislative Council Calculators, one calculator for each region. The calculators let you enter percentage votes for each group, and then apply the GVTs to predict who will win.

I hope you find them informative.Read More »Updates on Victorian Legislative Council election

Group Voting Tickets Published for the Victorian Legislative Council Election

Group voting tickets for the Legislative Council have been published this evening on the Victorian Electoral Commission’s (VEC’s) website.

The double deck ballot papers being used for the 2022 election are bad enough, but their use has thrown out the ticket layout of the VEC’s published tickets. You can find them at this link but they are very difficult to read or understand.

Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of the work for you. I have managed to reformat the GVT data to produce much more readable versions of the tickets for each region.

Processing the tickets to prepare my Legislative Council Calculators has taken all afternoon. As a by-product I’ve produced these easier to use versions of the tickets.

The work setting up the calculators, and preparing the data set-up for the ABC election computer, means I haven’t had time to analyse the tickets and won’t have time tomorrow either.

But I have decided to make the tickets available for others to use. Feel free to make use of the linked documents below. All I request is a credit if you make use of the documents. It’s taken quite an effort to prepare them.

Calculators will hopefully be published by mid-week and there will be html versions of the tickets on the Victorian Election site on Monday morning.

Links for each region are contained inside the post.Read More »Group Voting Tickets Published for the Victorian Legislative Council Election

The Victorian Legislative Council’s Rotten Electoral System – part 1

Victoria is the only Australian jurisdiction that continues to elect its upper house using the discredited Group Voting Ticket (GVT) system.

GVTs in Victoria give parties almost total control over the distribution of preferences, which flows through to controlling who wins the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

GVTs have been abolished in every state and for the Senate because they can be manipulated to elect parties with only a tiny percentage of the vote, a result that distorts the intended proportionality of the chamber’s electoral system.

In the lower house voters control preferences. Parties and candidates can only try to influence voters in how they complete their preferences. It is the same for the reformed Senate electoral system where voters now control the flow of between-party preferences, not parties.

As I explain in this post, the rottenness of GVTs is revealed when you examine the proportion of ‘above-the-line’ (ATL) votes that are under party control at Victorian Legislative Council elections compared to the related data for non-GVT Senate elections.

In Victoria, 100% of every ATL vote for every party, whether big or small, flows according to the party ticket.

In contrast, the 2022 Senate election saw major parties lucky to influence even the second preference of 50% of ATL votes, and the rate dropped precipitously for smaller parties.

It is without doubt that the reformed Senate system delivers an outcome that reflects the preferences of voters, where in Victoria the use of GVTs means the result reflects the decisions made by the tiny cabal of officials who negotiate the preference deals.Read More »The Victorian Legislative Council’s Rotten Electoral System – part 1

Voter Preferences set be Ignored at the 2022 Victorian Legislative Council Election

After three successful Senate elections where results were determined by voters controlling their own preferences, November’s Victorian Legislative Council election will return to the dark ages with upper house results determined by ‘preferences whisperers’ and backroom show-and-tell preference deals.

Even worse, hundreds of thousands of Victorian voters, maybe even millions, will have their Legislative Council preferences ignored and replaced by party tickets.

This is because Victoria is the only Australian jurisdiction that still uses Group Voting Tickets (GVTs), a form of party determined preferences.

The problem for November’s state election is that Victorian voters have used the reformed Senate electoral system at the last three Federal elections.

The reformed Senate system allows voters to determine their own between-party preferences above the line on the ballot paper.

In Victoria voters can’t.

Why this matters is clear when you look at how Victorians completed their ballot papers at May’s Senate election.

Overall 92.7% of Victorian voters completed their ballot papers by numbering preferences for parties ‘above the line’. That’s more than 3.5 million voters marking how they wanted their ballot paper preferences distributed.

If that figure were repeated at the Victorian election, that would be 92.7% of votes going by the party ticket with all other voter preferences ignored.Read More »Voter Preferences set be Ignored at the 2022 Victorian Legislative Council Election