Preference Completion Categories – 2019 NSW Election

New South Wales is the only Australian jurisdiction that uses optional rather than compulsory or full preferential voting for single member lower house elections. It is also the only state that data enters all lower house ballot papers and publishes the data for outside research.

Over the next few days I’ll publish more information on lower house preference flows, but this first post concentrates on preference completion rates.

For this analysis, all ballot papers have been categorised into one of three categories.

  • Single – ballot papers that counted with only a single preference.
  • Full – ballot paper with all squares filled completing a formal sequence of preferences.
  • Partial – formal preferences between 2 and (Max Candidates -1).

Overall 64.3% of ballot papers counted as 1-only votes and had no further preferences. 23.7% of ballot papers counted with all preferences correctly completed, and a further 12.0% had partial preferences. The median number of preferences completed was 1, the average 2.4.

The rate of completion varied substantially by party and also varied from electorate to electorate. This variation in rate is clearly related to published and distributed how-to-vote material. As I don’t have access to the how-to-votes, this post won’t include analysis based on recommendation.

But if you want to see the numbers by electorate by candidate, or by party by electorate, you can find all the details in this pdf document I’ve prepared.

Completion Rates by Party

The rate of completion varied by party

  • The Coalition mostly distributed 1-only how-to-votes and this is reflected in the data with 78.7% of ballot papers completed with 1-only, 7.3% having partial numbering and only 14.0% fully completed. The median was 1 preferences and average 1.8.
  • Labor varied preference recommendation by seat. Overall 57.9% were 1-only, 12.9% partial preferences and 29.1% full. The median was 1 preference and average 2.6.
  • The Greens recommended at least some preferences in more seats than Labor and the overall categories were 36.2% 1-only, 22.2% partial preferences and 41.7% full preferences. The median preference number was 3 and average 3.4.

The completion rates by party varied substantially from electorate to electorate depending on the how-to-vote recommendation. I don’t have access to 2019 how-to-votes but these flows sensibly reflect what might have been on a how-to-vote.

For the Liberal Party, the number of ballot papers with more than a single preference increased in seats with a significant Independent. 25.0% of Liberal voters completed partial preferences in Lake Macquarie (contested by Independent Greg Piper). Maroubra saw 38.5% with partial preference where Independent Noel D’Souza was running against Labor Leader Michael Daley. 31.3% of National voters in Orange gave partial preferences where SFF’s Phil Donato was running, and 34.8% of Liberal ballot papers had partial preferences in Sydney where the Liberal Party recommended a preference for Independent Alex Greenwich.

In the North Coast seat of Ballina, 57.9% of all Green voters completed all square, as did 55.2% of Labor voters. Overall there were 15 electorates where Green completion rates passed 50% and six electorates where Labor passed 50%. The highest Coalition completion rate was 28.6% in Northern Tablelands where there were only four candidates.

There were 39 electorates where more than 80% of Liberal or National ballot papers were 1-only votes, the highest rate being 87.8% in Pittwater.

I hope to publish similar detailed break downs of preference flow data by electorate and by party in the next day or two.

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