australia

Local Seats for Local People – Who Should be Allowed to Contest Elections

Whether candidates live in the electorate they contest is a question that induces rage with some voters.

Who are these blow-in candidates they’ve never heard of contesting the local seat?

It is a matter that raises particular attention in country seats, where being an outsider is a major disadvantage for a candidate.

But for political parties, trying to find candidates for your opponent’s safest seats is always difficult. It is an obvious truth of politics that the quality of a party’s candidates dips as the chances of the party winning a seat declines. It is a truth that becomes even more evident at elections where a party looks certain of defeat.

Serious political parties contest every seat, even if only to attract a few extra dollars from public election funding. But trying to find candidates that are qualified to stand, (think dual citizenship issues at Federal elections), doesn’t have an embarrassing social media history, and won’t start spouting loopy ideas that attract mainstream media attention, can be something of a challenge.Read More »Local Seats for Local People – Who Should be Allowed to Contest Elections

How to Manage the Eden-Monaro By-election in a time of Covid-19

With the decision of Labor’s Mike Kelly to resign from Parliament, there will need to be a by-election held in his marginal seat of Eden-Monaro.

With a margin of just 0.9%, and with NSW Deputy Premier and well-known local state MP John Barilaro tipped to contest the by-election, Labor will have a fight on its hands to retain the seat. This despite the fact that no government has taken a seat from the opposition in a century, not since the special circumstances of the Kalgoorlie by-election in 1920.

With Covid-19 restrictions still in place, it may also be an unusual by-election. The Speaker has asked the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for advice on special procedures that may be needed to protect voters and staff.  The by-election may be delayed until after the toughest of the social distancing regulations have been eased.

(You can check my guide to the Eden-Monaro by-election over at the ABC Elections website.)

A useful guide for Eden-Monaro will be the Queensland local government elections, held on 28 March as Covid-19 restrictions mounted. There were significant changes to the conduct of polling by both Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) staff and by party campaign workers. It changed the way electors voted, how scrutineers observed the count and how results were reported.

At the time there were calls for the elections to be deferred as a public health risk. The elections went ahead and there has been no spike of Covid-19 cases in the aftermath.

But the expected surge in pre-poll voting has the potential to delay the release of Eden-Monaro election results. Is Eden-Monaro an opportunity to test procedures for counting pre-poll votes under secure conditions before 6pm on polling day?

Read More »How to Manage the Eden-Monaro By-election in a time of Covid-19

Exposing a Rubbish Statistic – there were more Labor than Liberal voters at the 2019 Federal election

The Morrison government was re-elected in 2019 with a three seat majority. The government won 77 seats in the 151 seat House of Representatives against 68 Labor and six crossbench members. The Coalition recorded 51.53% of the national two-party preferred vote and gained a 1.17% swing in its favour. The Coalition also improved its position in the Senate, gaining several seats that had been won by small right-of-centre parties at the 2016 double dissolution election.

Labor recorded its lowest first preference vote in more than 80 years, a lower vote than on the defeat of the Rudd government in 2013. The Labor Party accepted that it lost the election, the party’s postmortem largely blaming its own policy and campaign failures for the defeat. One external factor it did highlight was how much Clive Palmer was allowed to spend on advertising.

Yet some in the twittersphere have not accepted the legitimacy of the Morrison government’s victory. They put forward various arguments about why the government didn’t or shouldn’t have won.

Read More »Exposing a Rubbish Statistic – there were more Labor than Liberal voters at the 2019 Federal election

Should we Count Pre-poll votes before 6pm on Election Day?

The last decade has seen a dramatic surge in pre-poll voting at both state and federal elections. At the 2007 Federal election, just 8.3% of votes were cast as pre-polls. Twelve years later that figure had quadrupled to 32.3%.

In 2007 80.0% of votes were ordinary polling day votes, in 2019 just 54.5%. Without the efforts of a horde of additional staff brought in to count pre-polls late into the evening, few recent elections would have produced a clear winner on election night.

The growth of pre-poll voting has altered the flow of results on election night. By 9pm most polling places have reported their results, but count completion for some of the country’s largest pre-poll centres can take several hours longer. It was pre-poll votes as much as the closeness of result that pushed coverage of the last two Federal elections into the early hours of Sunday morning.

This has led to calls for pre-poll counting to commence before 6pm on election day, something that is currently illegal. The call has come from several electoral authorities, including the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). It has also been suggested by some state political parties.

Is this a good idea? In my view the answer is unambiguously yes, as long as the results of pre-poll vote counts remain secret until after the close of polling at 6pm.

Read More »Should we Count Pre-poll votes before 6pm on Election Day?

2019 Northern Territory Senate Election – Results and Preference Flows

Summary of findings

  • Preferences were not distributed in the NT, the lead Labor and CLP candidates declared elected on the first count.
  • At 19.5% the Northern Territory had the highest rate of voters going beyond six preferences above the line, four times the national average. This was helped by there being only nine ballot paper groups in the NT.
  • 77.7% of Green preferences reached Labor, but not by following the Green how-to-vote. Of all Green votes, 45.5% went to Labor as a second preference, another 21.3% at the third preference after giving a suggested second preference for HEMP.
  • United Australia Party (UAP) preferences favoured Labor, against the party’s how-to-vote recommendation for the CLP, largely because one in five UAP above-the-line votes were donkey votes.
  • On how-to-vote concordance, 16.0% of Labor voters followed the how-to-vote exactly compared to 10.3% for the CLP and 10.2% of the Greens. Green concordance rates were lowered by the 2nd preference being given to HEMP rather than Labor.
    Read More »2019 Northern Territory Senate Election – Results and Preference Flows

2019 Federal Election – Post-Election Pendulum

This post is unfinished business from the 2019 Federal election, setting out a post-election pendulum of the results. A pdf version arranged on two sides of an A4 page can be found via this link.

While this pendulum is current on publication in January 2020, new electoral boundaries will see it superseded before the next election, due to be held between August 2021 and May 2022.

Read More »2019 Federal Election – Post-Election Pendulum

2019 Senate Election – Above and Below the Line Vote Breakdown

The 2019 Senate election was the second conducted under changes introduced in 2016. The changes continued to use proportional representation by single transferable vote, and retained the divided ballot paper in use since 1984, and . A thick horizontal line continues to divide the ballot paper into two voting options, ‘above the line’ (ATL) for parties and groups, or ‘below the line’ (BTL) for candidates.

The changes abandoned full preferential voting in favour of partial preferential voting, and ended party control over between-party preferences.

Before the changes, voters could only mark a single square when voting ATL, the ballot paper imputed to have the chosen party’s full list of preferences as registered with the Electoral Commission.

The new system abolished the tickets and allowed ATL voters to give second and further preferences, ballot paper instructions suggesting at least six preferences. Above the line votes continued to give parties and groups control over preferences between their own candidates, but ended party control over preferences to other parties and candidates.

Previously a BTL vote required a voter to mark preferences for all candidates on the ballot paper. Under the new system, ballot paper instructions stated that BTL voters should mark at least 12 preferences.

In an earlier post I went into the political impact of these changes and how the system performed at its second test, its first at a half-Senate election. (See How the new Senate Electoral System Performed at its first Half-Senate Election test.)

In this post I’m going to look at how voters reacted to the new electoral system and  whether they voted above or below the line. For each option, I look at how many preferences voters completed.

This will be the first of several posts over the next fortnight going into detail of how the Senate count unfolded in each state, how preferences flowed, and what impact parties and their how-to-votes had on preference flows.
Read More »2019 Senate Election – Above and Below the Line Vote Breakdown

Preference Flows at the 2019 Federal Election

The 2019 House of Representatives election saw a record vote for minor parties, and as a consequence, a record number of seats where preferences needed to be distributed.

As has been the case for three decades, the Labor Party benefited most from preferences, both in flows of preferences and in seats won from second place. But matching the decline in Labor’s first preference support in 2019, preference flows to Labor were weaker than at any election since 2001.

As in the past, Green preferences overwhelmingly favoured Labor, though it was a different story with other parties. The United Australia Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation polled 6.5% between them, but where previously preferences flows from both parties had only weakly favoured the Coalition, in 2019 voters for both parties had a clearer preference for the Coalition over Labor.
Read More »Preference Flows at the 2019 Federal Election