Preference Flows at the 2018 South Australian Election and the Influence of How-to-Votes

The 2018 South Australian election saw a record vote for minor parties. This was largely due to the campaign by Nick Xenophon and his SA-Best party, polling 14.2% in the House of Assembly, a creditable 18.4% in the 26 seats it contested. The failure of the party to poll as strongly as published polling well out from the election suggested, or to elect a member to the Assembly, saw its campaign labelled a failure by political commentators.

In the end the party was used by voters as a conduit for preferences to the Liberal and Labor Parties. As you would expect for a party viewed by voters as sitting in the political centre, the party’s preferences split evenly, 51.6% to the Liberal Party and 48.4% to labor.

The release of preference flow data by the SA Electoral Commission provides an opportunity to analyse preference flows against party preference recommendations. Several unique features in the conduct of SA House of Assembly elections allows the comparison of preference flows with how-to-votes lodged by candidates and displayed in voting compartments.Read More »Preference Flows at the 2018 South Australian Election and the Influence of How-to-Votes

2020 Northern Territory Election – Tracking the Early Vote

In this post I will keep track of the surging rate of early voting ahead of the Northern Territory election’s formal polling day on 22 August.

After the last day of early voting on Friday 21 August

  • In total 75,537 votes have been recorded in advance of polling. This total includes all pre-polls, remote mobile votes and postal votes returned to date. The total in 2016 was 51,155. The 2020 total will increase as more postal votes return in the two weeks allowed after polling day. Already the 2020 figure represents a 48% increase on the early voting in 2016.
  • The total early votes currently represents 53.5% of enrolment. Given turnout is generally around 75%, that means roughly 70% of all votes to be counted have been completed before election day.
  • The breakdown at the end of voting was Pre-poll 60,292 (42.7%), Remote Mobile 12,019 (8.5%) (this might include on the day mobile votes) and returned Postals 3,953 (2.8%). A total of 10,242 (7.3%) of voters had been sent a postal vote pack, though not all will be used or returned in time.

Read More »2020 Northern Territory Election – Tracking the Early Vote

Close of Enrolment and Nomination Details for 2020 Northern Territory Election

Nominations closed today for the Northern Territory election on 22 August. A total of 111 candidates have nominated, second only in number to the 115 candidates that nominated for the 2016 election.

Early, postal and mobile voting starts on Monday 10 August. You can find all the details of when and where to vote at the NT Electoral Commission’s website.

Details of nominated candidates have been added to each district page on my 2020 NT Election guide at the ABC Elections site. (Now published.) Check out the guide for background on the election and on the contest for each seat.

In this post I’ll summarise the final enrolment and details of nominations by party.Read More »Close of Enrolment and Nomination Details for 2020 Northern Territory Election

South Australian Government Proposes Optional Preferential Voting

In proposing that South Australia adopt optional preferential voting for House of Assembly elections, the Marshall government is highlighting democratic principles in favour of making preferences optional. But you don’t have to be cynical to see that in backing principle, the SA Liberal Party is also backing its own self-interest.

Since 1982 there have been 26 South Australian electoral contests where a candidate trailing on first preferences won. Of these, 14 were won by Labor, 11 by Independents or minor party candidates, and just one by the Liberal Party. (Newland in 1989).Read More »South Australian Government Proposes Optional Preferential Voting

Eden-Monaro By-election – Regional and Vote Type Breakdown of the 2019 Result

To help in analysing the Eden-Monaro by-election results on Saturday night, I’ve broken down the 2019 results by region and by vote type.

In summary, the electorate has three broad regions. The largest by population is the Queanbeyan-Palerang council area with 32.0% of votes taken in 2019. The rural areas surrounding the ACT including Yass, Tumut and Cooma took 28.1%, while voting centres on the NSW far south coast took 25.9%.

Labor’s two-party vote versus the Liberal Party was strongest in Queanbeyan-Palerang (54.6% to 45.4%), then the South Coast (52.5% to 47.5%) and weakest in the rural areas (46.1% to 53.9%). The Liberal Party’s two-party vote was strongest in the reverse order to Labor’s, shown as the second figure in the bracketed numbers above.

Of first preferences support for minor parties, National support was weakest on the South Coast (2.5%) and strongest in the Yass-Tumut-Cooma area (11.1%).  Green support was strongest on the South Coast (10.0%).

Of all votes cast in 2019, only 50.6% were ordinary votes cast in polling places on election day. Another 35.4% were pre-poll ordinary votes cast during the campaign. There were another 5.8% of votes cast as pre-poll absent votes, 5.6% as postal votes, 1.9% as absent votes, and 0.7% as others including provisional and special hospital votes.

In descending order of Labor two-party preferred percent versus the Liberal Party, the results were absent (54.6% to 45.4%), polling places (52.8% to 47.2%), pre-poll absent (52.3% to 47.7%), pre-poll ordinary (48.9% to 51.1%)  and postal votes (42.9% to 57.1%). In summary, Labor won polling day, the Liberal Party won the pre-poll period, with Labor winning narrowly overall.

More detail can be found in this post below, with much more detail on the by-election, the candidates and polling place results at my ABC Eden-Monaro by-election guide.

Read More »Eden-Monaro By-election – Regional and Vote Type Breakdown of the 2019 Result

Eden-Monaro By-election – Tracking Pre-poll and Postal Votes

(Final Update 4 July – based on final figures)

In this post I’ve been tracking how many people have cast pre-poll votes or applied for a postal vote ahead of the Eden-Monaro by election this Saturday, 4 July.

My interest has been to measure whether there has been a change to the number of voters using these advance voting options compared to their use in Eden-Monaro at last year’s Federal election. You would expect some increase as the by-election is being conducted mid-winter in one of the coldest parts of the country at a time of continuing concerns over Covid-19 infection.

The Queensland local government elections in March, conducted in warmer weather but at a time of greater Covid-19 concern, saw a huge increase in the use of both postal and pre-poll voting.

So far there has been a marked increase in postal voting and some increase in pre-poll voting. As there is no absent voting and only limited pre-poll absent voting available for the by-election, some of the observed increase in postal and pre-poll voting may simply reflect a shift from absent voting. Last year there were 1,983 absent votes in Eden-Monaro and 6,207 pre-poll absents, together representing 7.7% of all votes.

In summary – at the end of the pre-poll voting period, 38.2% of the electorate have voted pre-poll, 43,684 in total compared to 41,355 pre-polls taken for all districts in 2019, or 37,808 in total for Eden-Monaro in 2019. This is an increase of 15.5% on 2019. There were 6,920 pre-polls taken on the final day of pre-poll voting on Friday, representing 6% of all voters.

The big increase has been with postal vote applications, up 127% on the number of applications in 2019. The deadline for the receipt of postal vote applications passed on Wednesday, so the final total of applications received is 16,840 or 14.7% of electors. That is more than double the 7,428 applications in 2019. Most notably, Labor is running a serious postal vote campaign for the by-election, 4,447 forms returned to the AEC as against only 41 returned by Labor in the whole 2019 campaign. Full detail inside this post.

For more background on the Eden-Monaro by-election and on the candidates, check out my guide to the by-election at the ABC elections website.

Read More »Eden-Monaro By-election – Tracking Pre-poll and Postal Votes

ABS Population Statistics Confirm Changes in House Representation

(Update 3 July – the determination by the Australian Electoral Commissioner has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

The Australian Bureau of Statistic’s national population report, released this morning, confirms the expected changes to state and territory representation for the next election.

The statistics confirm that Victoria will gain a 39th seat in the House of Representatives, Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016, and the Northern Territory will lose the second member it has elected since 2001.

The statistics in this morning’s report, for the December 2019 quarter, will now be used by the Australian Electoral Commissioner to make a formal determination on 3 July setting down the number of members to be elected from each state and territory at the next election.

When implemented, the changes will reduce the size of the House of Representatives from 151 to 150 seats and begin the process of electoral boundary re-drawing in Victoria and Western Australia. In the case of the Northern Territory, the existing seats of Lingiari and Solomon will be merged as a single seat with revived name Northern Territory.

However, a bill has been moved in the Senate designed to save the Northern Territory’s second seat. While the Constitution determines the allocation of members to states, representation for the territories is determined by legislation and can be changed by parliament.

I have published two recent posts on the allocation of House of Representatives seats. The first deals with the constitutional law around state representation, the second with territory representation including some suggestions on changes that can be made to the formula for territory representation.

My calculations of the seat entitlements based on this morning’s ABS report are shown below. Update – the table below has been updated with the Electoral Commissioner’s official determination.Read More »ABS Population Statistics Confirm Changes in House Representation

2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 3 – Changing the Formula for States

(Update 3 July – the determination has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

On 3 July, Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will issue his determination on how many electorates will be contested and representatives elected for each state and territory at the next federal election. The determination will be based on Australian Bureau of Statistics population statistics to be released this week.

Based on population trends, it is expected that Victoria will gain a seat to 39 seats, and Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016. More controversially, the Northern Territory will lose the second member it has elected at every election since 2001.

This is the third of three posts on the subject of apportioning seats to states and territories under Australian constitutional and electoral law.

The first post looked at the constitutional allocation of seats to states under Section 24 of the Constitution, how the current formula works, past attempts to change the formula, and how past High Court cases have interpreted the workings of Section 24.

The second looked at the constitutional basis and history of territory representation. As I explain in the post, the allocation of seats to the territories is governed by legislation, not the constitution. The Parliament can change the territory allocation formula, and I propose that it should be changed to use what is known as Dean’s method. This would provide a fairer and more stable method of allocating seats than the current formula, though it would not guarantee the Northern Territory two seats into the future.

A private member’s bill has been introduced in the Senate to guarantee a minimum two seats for the Northern Territory. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has launched an inquiry into the bill with submissions closing on 10 July. You can find details of the inquiry here.

In this post I will re-cap the US apportionment methods I discussed in my post on the territories and ask whether they could also be applied to the Australian states without risking the wrath of the High Court. In short my findings are that across 26 Australian apportionments since Federation, Dean’s method would have added one seat to one state at one of the 26 apportionments, one change out of 416 state allocations.

For this reason I argue that switching formula to adopt Dean’s method would meet the tests for changing the constitutional formula discussed in McKellar’s case (1977). (See me first post for details). It can be argued that Dean’s method, by minimising the difference between the average enrolment in each state and the national quota, provides a more proportional method than the variant of Webster’s method set out in Section 24 of the constitution.

Read More »2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 3 – Changing the Formula for States

2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 2 – Allocating to the Territories

(Update 3 July – the determination has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

On 3 July, Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will issue his determination on how many representatives (seats) each state and territory will have at the next federal election.

As the numbers stand, it is expected that Victoria will gain a seat to 39 seats, and Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016. Most controversially, the Northern Territory will lose the second seat it has had since 2001.

This is the second of three posts on Australian apportionment. The first post looked at the constitutional allocation of seats to states under Section 24 of the Constitution, how the current formula works, past attempts to change the formula, and how past High Court cases have interpreted the workings of Section 24.

In this post I concentrate on the constitutional basis and history of territory representation, and in what ways Territories are treated differently from the states in allocating seats.

The Labor Party is proposing a bill to save the NT’s second seat by legislating that the Northern Territory have a minimum of two seats. The NT’s Country Liberal Party has expressed some support for the idea. As was the case with a similar bill when the NT’s second seat was marked for abolition in 2003, the bill will be the catalyst for a more detailed discussion of the issue.

In my opinion, it would be better to change the formula as it applies to the territories rather than return to fixing the number of seats. In technical terms, my proposal is that the allocation of extra seats should be determined by rounding at the harmonic mean of two alternate allocations rather than the current arithmetic mean. In the case of the Northern Territory, that would involve allocating a second seat if the quota calculation is above 1.33 rather than the current 1.50. This would almost certainly save the NT’s second seat for the next election.

If you don’t have time to read through all the detail in this post, click here to go to the tables showing how the proposed change formula would have applied to the NT and ACT at apportionments since 1991.
Read More »2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 2 – Allocating to the Territories

2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 1 – Allocating to the States

(Update 3 July – the determination has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

On 3 July, Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will issue his determination on how many electorates will be contested and representatives elected for each state and territory at the next federal election.

As the numbers stand, it is expected that Victoria will gain a seat to 39 seats, and Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016. Most controversially, the Northern Territory will lose the second member it has elected since 2001.

This is the first of three posts on the subject of apportioning seats to states and territories under Australian constitutional and electoral law. This first post will look at the constitutional allocation of seats to states under Section 24 of the Constitution, how the current formula works, past attempts to change the formula, and how past High Court cases have interpreted the workings of Section 24.

A second post will look at how seats are allocated to territories and the different constitutional origins of territory representation.

The final post, for those who already know the background, will be devoted to possible changes to the apportionment formula, drawing on the extensive history of apportionment in the United States.
Read More »2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 1 – Allocating to the States