Preferential Voting – Single Member (AV)

VIC22 – Melton – Analysis of Preferences

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

Melton had 14 candidates, and electorates with more than 12 candidates presented a counting problem for the VEC. After election night, all votes are manually check counted in bundles of 50 ballot papers, each bundle made up of first preferences for one candidate. After the counting of each bundle, bank note counters are used to quickly double check the number of counted papers in each bundle. The note counters verify the hand tally, NOT what’s written on the ballot papers.

Ballot papers with more than 12 candidates can’t fit into note counters. Hence why Melton (14 candidates), Point Cook (15) and Werribee (15) were data entered. The inability to use note counters would have substantially slowed down the amalgamation count where ballot papers are broken out of their polling place bundles and amalgamated ahead of the distribution of preferences. The distribution of preferences itself would also have been slowed.

Melton was a closely watched seat in 2022. It was the only seat in the state that had swung against Labor at the two previous state elections, and there had also been unusual swings against Labor in the area at May’s Federal election. Melton also attracted two noteworthy Independents in Dr Ian Birchall, who polled well in 2018, and Jarrod Bingham. When rolled in, it turned out neither had polled significantly, Birchall finishing third with 9.0% and Bingham fourth on 5.8%.

The two major parties attracted only 62% of the vote between them, Labor 37.7% and the Liberal Party 24.3%. But the other 38% was split across 12 candidates. In a seat with a low Green vote and with Independents campaigning against the government, Melton was a rare seat where preferences favoured the Liberal Party.

But the main threat to Labor in Melton was an Independent finishing second and sweeping up Liberal preferences, which in the end did not happen. That Bingham recommended preferences for the Liberal candidate ahead of Birchall further reduced the chances of the minor party vote coalescing. Too many candidates resulted in the anti-Labor vote dissipating in the distribution of preferences, as had happened in 2018.

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston, Hawthorn and Brighton, this post 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 Melton are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in 73.9% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. Note that Liberal preferences were not distributed.
  • For the 12 Melton candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, 27.0% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. The Liberals at 36.7% and Labor at 33.4% had the highest rate of ballot paper concordance with how-to-vote recommendations. The plethora of minor parties showed very little how-to-vote discipline.
  • In the two-party preferred count, a rare minority 44.5% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal. The Greens polled only 4.6% of the vote but still delivered 80.3% of preferences to Labor despite fewer than one in ten Green ballot papers having the recommended how-to-vote sequence.

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

VIC22 – Brighton – Analysis of Preferences

Brighton was another 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.

Brighton has never been won by Labor, but new Liberal candidate James Newbury came close to defeat in 2018. Newbury withstood a Liberal pre-selection challenge by former Bayside City Council Mayor Felicity Frederico ahead of the 2022 election. Frederico contested Brighton as an Independent but she finished fourth with 9.1% of the vote.

The VEC conducted a Liberal versus Frederico indicative preference count on election night but switched to Liberal versus Labor on the Monday after. The VEC also decided to data enter ballot papers for the check count.

The VEC reports Newbury as having won Brighton with 54.2% after preferences based on an indicative preference count. Despite using electronic ballot papers, the VEC stopped the distribution of preferences when Newbury passed 50% with three candidates remaining in the count.

Analysing the electronic ballot papers for this post has allowed me to calculate the correct two-candidate preferred results. The final Brighton result is Newbury 22710 votes (55.1%), Labor 18,486 (44.9%).

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston ahd Hawthorn, this post 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 Brighton 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 85.7% 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 Brighton candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, including three versions for Frederico, 39.1% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. A high 57.0% 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 31.8% of Labor voters exactly followed the party’s how-to-vote sequence.
  • In the two-party preferred count, 68.0% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal, including 84.6% from the Greens, 60.7% from Frederico, 59.5% Animal Justice and 55.4% from Independent Gibson.
  • As I have noted in my previous posts, 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 – Brighton – Analysis of Preferences

VIC22 Election – Preston – Analysis of Preferences

Preston was one of the seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its re-check count of ballot papers by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system.

In the case of Preston, data entry would also simplify what had looked set to be a complex preference distribution. Labor led on first preferences with 37.6%, with the Liberals second 17.3%, Greens third on 15.1% and Independent Gaetano Greco fourth on 13.7%. Preferences were always going to push the Greens into second place. For a time it looked like Greco would pass the Greens to reach third place, but his first preference vote declined significantly with the counting of absent and out of district pre-polls.

As with my previous post on Northcote, I will make 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 Preston are –

  • The Liberal Party switch to recommending preferences for the Greens ahead of Labor flipped the flow of Liberal preferences. From a first preference vote of 17.3%, Liberal preference flowed 72.3% to the Greens. At the Federal election in May, when Labor was the recommended preference, only 31.7% of Liberal preferences flowed to the Greens. Clearly the Liberal Party’s choice of preference recommendation has a significant influence on how its supporters direct preference.
  • In the Labor versus Greens two-candidate preferred count, 69.4% of preferences favoured the Greens over Labor, only voters for Family First favouring Labor. Labor won with 52.1% of the vote after preferences.
  • In the two-party preferred count, 71.0% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal with massive difference in flows based on the ideological position of each excluded party. After preferences Labor won 69.7% of the two-party preferred vote.
  • From the ballot papers it is possible to calculate an alternative Labor versus Independent Greco preference count. Had Greco reached second, the final count after preferences would have been Labor 57.0% to Greco 43.0%. Greco received only 60.1% of preferences, doing very well with flows from every party except the Greens whose preferences flowed 61.8% to Labor. This was despite Greco being listed above Labor on the Greens’ how-to-vote recommendation.
  • Overall 24.7% of Preston ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. By party the highest rates of how-to-vote concordance were Labor 33.4%, Liberal 29.4%, Freedom Party 24.0%, Victorian Socialists 19.5%, Greco 18.2% and the Greens 15.8%. All other candidates saw rates of how-to-vote concordance under 10%, suggesting voters either ignored the recommendation or, more likely, never saw the candidate’s how-to-vote.

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

VIC22 Election – Northcote – Analysis of Preference Data

In seven districts at the Victorian election, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its check count of ballot papers by data entering each ballot’s preferences into a computer systems for verification and later the distribution of preferences.

In Melton, Point Cook and Werribee, data entry was adopted after the incorrect election night pairing of candidates was chosen for the indicative preference count. An additional justification was that each district had 14 or 15 candidates. Brighton, Hawthorn and Northcote were included in the trial, while Preston was added later in the count when it became apparent the distribution of preferences would be complex with potentially close contests at several exclusions.

The electronic versions of the ballot papers have been made available, and this will be the first of several posts where I pull apart the data to look at flows of preferences and the percentage of ballot papers that followed each party’s registered how-to-vote sequence.

For the district of Northcote, a seat where Labor defeated the Greens by just 184 votes, the key findings are –

  • The Liberal Party changed its preference recommendation in 2022 to place the Greens ahead of Labor. Of all Liberal ballot papers, 64.8% gave preferences to the Greens. The Liberal decision reversed the recommendation that Labor be put first last May at the Federal election when the local seat of Cooper saw Liberal preferences flow 68.3% to Labor. Clearly the Liberal Party’s choice of preference recommendation has a significant influence on preference flows.
  • In the two-candidate preferred count, 67.2% of preferences favoured the Greens over Labor, only voters for Family First favouring Labor.
  • In the two-party preferred count, 87.1% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal with massive difference in flows based on the ideological position of each excluded party.
  • Overall 29.4% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. By party the highest rates of how-to-vote concordance were Labor 38.3%, Liberal 28.3%, Greens 26.0%, Victorian Socialists 22.9% and the Freedom Party 17.8%. All other candidates saw rates of how-to-vote concordance under 10%, suggesting voters either ignored the recommendation or, more likely, never saw the candidate’s how-to-vote.

More detail with tables inside the post. Read More »VIC22 Election – Northcote – Analysis of Preference Data

VIC22 – the Impact of the Liberal Party’s Change of Preference Recommendation

For the 2022 Victorian election, the Liberal Party has changed its position on whether Labor or the Greens should be listed first on the party’s how-to-vote (HTV) material.

Until the August 2010 Federal election, the traditional Liberal decision was to list the Greens ahead of Labor. At the 2010 Federal election, it was the Liberal preference recommendation that elected Greens’ candidate Adam Bandt as the new member Melbourne.

Some in the Liberal Party were unhappy that Liberal preferences were electing members of a party that Liberals labelled as more radical left than Labor.

The position was changed shortly afterwards and it was announced late in the 2010 Victorian state election campaign that Labor would be listed before the Greens on Liberals HTVs. That has been the party’s position in Victoria at state and Federal elections since.

In most seats the choice is entirely symbolic as Liberal preferences will not be distributed. But there are several inner-Melbourne seats where the Liberal candidate is traditionally excluded during the distribution of preferences. The Liberal decision could have an impact on several Labor-Green contests.

In this post I look at the record of preference flows before and after the Liberal switch on preferences. The question for 2022 is whether the new Liberal position will flip the flow of preference as dramatically as the 2010 decision. Will the decision change the result in any seats?

Read More »VIC22 – the Impact of the Liberal Party’s Change of Preference Recommendation

Should the Victorian Liberal Party Change its Lower House Preference Policy?

(Two updates to this post – The Australian is reporting that the Liberal Party is considering the tactic I describe in this post. Second, the Liberals are using a lot of “Put Labor Last” slogans. In an era when fewer voters see how-to-votes, planting a “Put Labor Last” message can influence a voter, which as a by-product produces stronger flows of Liberal preferences to the Greens.)

During the 2010 Victorian Election campaign, the Liberal Party sprung a surprise by announcing that it would recommend preference to the Labor Party ahead of the Greens on Liberal how-to-vote material.

At the time it seemed an odd decision as it ensured that the Labor Party would not be under threat from the Greens in inner-city seats.

I’ve heard alternate views on whether the decision was a clever tactic to win the election or an admission the party didn’t expect to win. Either way, the decision was definitely in line with what many party members wanted. Many had been unhappy that Liberal preferences elected Greens’ candidate Adam Bandt as the new member for Melbourne at the August 2010 Federal election. Bandt polled 36.2% on first preferences to Labor 38.1%, an 80% flow of Liberal preferences responsible for Bandt winning.

It was becoming hypocritical for the Liberal Party to criticise Labor for being too close to the Greens when Liberal how-to-votes were actively helping to elect Greens in both upper and lower houses.

So the decision made for the 2010 Victorian election, and repeated at Victorian and Federal elections since, put Liberal preferences in ideological alignment with the position of the three parties on the political spectrum. Labor was put ahead of the Greens because the Greens were further to the left than Labor.

Putting the Australian Democrats ahead of Labor had always made sense for the Liberal Party. The Democrats were a more centrist party on many issues than Labor, and were also a party the Coalition could negotiate with in the Senate.

There have been rumours that there may be a change of strategy for the coming Victorian election.

If so there is logic as to why. It comes down to deciding whether strategy or ideology is the better tactic for deciding on preferences.Read More »Should the Victorian Liberal Party Change its Lower House Preference Policy?

SA Election Preference Recommendations

A unique feature of South Australian elections is that registered how-to-vote material for lower house seats is displayed in front of voters in the partitions where votes are completed. I explained how this works in a previous post.

These preference sheets have been released for use in pre-poll voting. Below I summarise the preference recommendations in important seats.

You can find the how-to-votes for each district on the Electoral Commission SA website.

I’ve also published the Legislative Council recommendations. The posters for these are displayed in polling places but not placed inside the voting partition. You can find the Legislative Council tickets on my ABC election site and I hope to publish more on the LC preferences later this week. Some information on how the 2018 preference count unfolded is included in my Legislative Council Preview, again on the ABC site.

The problems for most minor political parties is a lack of volunteers to hand out how-to-vote material outside polling places. This disadvantage is lessened in South Australia by the display of the how-to-vote recommendations.

For instance, Family First for many years issued how-to-votes with preferences to Labor candidates in a small number of seats, mainly those associated with the conservative SDA union. Preferences in these seats were more likely to flow to Labor rather than the Liberal Party. It was a difference in preference flows rarely seen at Federal elections where influencing voters with how-to-vote relies on volunteers handing them to voters.

Family First was absorbed by the Australian Conservatives for the 2018 South Australian election, but continued with the practice of favouring selected Labor candidates with preference recommendations. In 26 seats Conservative preferences were recommended to the Liberal Party and flowed 77% in that direction. The five seats favouring Labor split evenly, only 51.5% to the Liberal Party, and the two seats with split how-to-votes flowed only 67% to the Liberal Party. They are remarkable differences in preference flows compared to flows at Federal elections.

Here’s the preference recommendation summary in key seats.
Read More »SA Election Preference Recommendations

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

Analysis of Preference Flows at the Upper Hunter By-election

The NSW Upper Hunter by-election on 22 May was notable for the unusually low first preference vote for the two major parties. The Nationals polled 31.2%, Labor 21.2%, with the combined vote for the other 11 candidates an unusually high 47.6%.

The by-election was conducted under NSW’s optional preferential voting rules and 63.4% of other candidate ballot papers exhausted their preferences before reaching one of the final two candidates. At the end of the count, exhausted ballot papers represented 30.2% of the first preference vote.

With ballot paper data from the by-election now published, it is possible to examine more closely the two-party preferred flows of preferences from excluded candidates, to determine how many preferences voters completed, and to measure the influence of how-to-vote recommendations on preference flows.Read More »Analysis of Preference Flows at the Upper Hunter By-election