nsw

The Political Impact of Optional Preferential Voting – NSW 2019 Preference Flows

As mentioned in my previous post, 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.

Optional preferential voting (OPV) means that voters do not have to number a preference for every candidate on the ballot paper. A ballot paper requires only a first preference to be formal. All further preferences are optional.

If during the distribution of preferences, a ballot paper for distribution has no preference for a candidate remaining in the count, the the ballot paper is put aside as having “exhausted” its preferences. Exhausted ballot papers have no direct involvement in determining the winning candidate, but they have an indirect role in altering the winning post a candidate must pass to win. As explained below, OPV works in favour of leading candidates over trailing candidates.

This can be explained by comparing the maths of full versus optional preferential voting.

  • Under full preferential voting, the winning candidate must achieve 50% of the formal vote after the distribution of preferences. The winning post of the votes needed to win is set at the start of the count and does not change.
  • Under optional preferential voting, the winning candidate must receive a majority of the votes remaining in the count, that is the formal vote minus exhausted preferences. The winning post is lowered with each exhausted preference making it easier for the leading candidate to win by making it harder for the second placed candidate to catch and pass the leader.

The chart below shows the two-party preferred preference flows for minor parties and Independents at the 2019 NSW election.

I'll explain the political implications of the above graph inside the post. But if you want more detail of the preferences flows by electorate by candidate, or by party by electorate, you can find all the details in this pdf document I've prepared.
Read More »The Political Impact of Optional Preferential Voting – NSW 2019 Preference Flows

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.

Read More »Preference Completion Categories – 2019 NSW Election

Electoral Pendulum for the 2023 NSW Election

With just 11 weeks to go until the NSW election on 25 March, I thought it was time to publish the Electoral Pendulum that I am advising the ABC to use for the election.

Since the 2019 election there has been a redistribution of electoral boundaries, five by-elections and a number of members who have left the party for which they were elected.

The pendulum inside this posts tries to account for the numerous changes. I’ve also summarised the 2020/21 redistribution, and provided notes on alternate margins for seats.

Depending on nominations, there may be one or two seats where I change the margin between now and March.

The Coalition won the 2019 election with 48 seats to Labor 36 with nine members on the crossbench, three Greens, three Independents and three Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. (Three SFF in total, not one of each.)

As I explain in the post, accounting for redistributions, by-elections and defections, the starting point for the 2023 election is Coalition 46 seats, Labor 38 and nine on the crossbench, three Greens and six Independents. Majority government requires 47 seats.

With the increasing number of NSW seats that are no longer major party contests, talking about the uniform swing each side needs to win is becoming less meaningful. The Coalition holds five seats on margins under 4% and Labor six. The nine crossbenchers will be trying to retain their seats, and there will be new Independents nominating, especially in safe Liberal seats.

Labor needs nine seats on a daunting swing of 6.2% for majority government, but can hope to form government with support from the crossbench if it can gain five seats to finish with more seats than the Coalition, though the presence of at least three Greens may open the possibility that Labor could form government with fewer seats than the Coalition.

Premier Perrottet and his predecessor Glady Berejiklian have managed to govern for more than two years without a clear majority in the Legislative Assembly. It is one of the rare occasions in recent years where a Coalition government has successfully managed a hung parliament. The size of the crossbench, and the chance it will increase in size on 25 March, mean the result of the election may only be the starting point for the formation of the next NSW government. Read More »Electoral Pendulum for the 2023 NSW Election

The Secular Decline in Support for the NSW Christian Democrats

While the term is normally limited to use in finance and economics, ‘secular decline’ is an apt description for the downward trend in support for the NSW Christian Democrats over four decades, as well as being an irresistible play on words.

The Call to Australia was formed from groups that were active in the late 1970s campaigning against pornography, abortion, homosexuality and various issues that were often lumped together as “victimless crimes”. The Call to Australia campaigned to enter parliament.

Which it did at the 1981 NSW election when Call to Australia Leader, the Reverend Fred Nile, was elected to the NSW Legislative Council. The party polled 9.1% of the vote, 1.46 quotas, and might have elected a second member were it not for leakage of preferences.

After several previous announcements over many years that he would leave the Legislative Council, Rev. Nile is finally calling time on his parliamentary career after nearly 42 years. Nile will not contest the 2023 election. Instead he will put forward his second wife, Silvana Nile, to fill his spiritual void on the ballot paper.

Mrs Nile faces a difficult task. Support for the Christian Democratic Party has declined since its glory days in the 1980s. Even worse, the party has been de-registered at both state and federal level, so the Nile ticket will have no party label at next year’s state election.

Since party names were first printed on NSW Legislative Council ballot papers in 1991, no unlabelled group has ever elected an MLC. Pauline Hanson running as an Independent coming closest from 2.4% in 2011.

There is also another oddity. Often retiring members will vacate their seat in favour of their replacement, the NSW Constitution requiring that the replacement be from the same party.

But the Christian Democratic Party has not only been de-registered. It was actually wound up by the courts, so does not even exist as an unregistered party. The NSW Parliament has not previously filled a vacancy for a party that has ceased to exist, and appears to have no intention of doing so before next March.

The graph below shows the party’s decline in support since its first election in 1981. The party elected a member at every election until missing out in 2019.

Read More »The Secular Decline in Support for the NSW Christian Democrats

Mark Latham and Filling NSW Legislative Council Vacancies

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith reports on a plan by One Nation’s NSW Leader Mark Latham to resign from the Legislative Council half way through his current term and contest fresh election to the NSW Legislative Council next March.

This would give Latham a new eight-year term and allow One Nation to nominate a replacement for the four-year balance of Latham’s current term.

Let me quote Smith’s article to explain the plan –

One Nation MP Mark Latham is planning to quit the upper house to run again at the top of the ticket in the March election, in a bid to boost the number of MPs the party has in the Legislative Council.

Latham, who is half-way through his eight-year term, wants to recontest a new position in the upper house in order to “renew his mandate”.

A replacement One Nation candidate would be found to fill his casual vacancy.

One Nation secured two upper house spots at the last election – Latham and retired detective Rod Roberts. However, Latham is eager to increase the party’s representation to at least four MPs.

Latham believes that the party could repeat its 2019 performance in March, particularly if he heads the ticket.

Is this allowed?

The answer is almost certainly yes. Legislative Council members have resigned to contest lower house seats and federal elections in the past, and sometimes been re-appointed if they miss out on election. There seems to be nothing in the Constitution or standing orders that suggest the same rule wouldn’t apply to resigning for a Legislative Council election.

It seems that an MLC elected to an eight-year term can resign after four years to contest election for the alternate Legislative Council term. The member would effectively be elected to two over-lapping positions in the Council created by their two elections, though it would be impossible for one person to hold both positions.

Mr Latham would have to resign before the close of nominations. If elected in March, he could be sworn into a new seat in the Legislative Council and be free to nominate his own replacement at the joint sitting that would follow.

If he were unsuccessful, Mr Latham could be re-appointed to his vacancy after the election. So successful or not, Mr Latham could remain in the Council.

There is probably nothing the NSW Parliament can do to stop the plan. After the election, there would have to be a Joint Sitting of the two houses to elect a replacement, and One Nation is responsible for nominating a replacement without a vote

Yet if a party tried the same tactic for a Senate casual vacancy, a vote would be required to accept the replacement. The Commonwealth Constitution and the standing orders require a vote of approval on the candidate to fill the vacancy. And as the Tasmanian Parliament showed in 1987, a state Parliament can refuse to appoint a replacement.

That’s not an option for Legislative Council vacancies.Read More »Mark Latham and Filling NSW Legislative Council Vacancies

What to Watch for with the NSW By-elections

It’s Saturday 12 February 2022, by-election day in NSW.

It’s not often you get four by-elections caused by such high profile departures from parliament, three former party leaders including a former Premier, Deputy Premier and Opposition Leader, and a former senior cabinet member.

The four by-elections with links to my ABC election guide for each are

I’m involved in the ABC’s live coverage of the results from 6pm on ABC news channel. You can also follow the results at the ABC elections site where I will add some relevant commentary when I’m not too busy with the television coverage.Read More »What to Watch for with the NSW By-elections

2022 NSW By-elections – Tracking the Early Vote

The four NSW by-elections for Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby are being conducted under rules where every voter is automatically being sent ballot papers in a postal vote pack.

You can find my guide to the by-elections at the ABC Elections site. Each page now includes candidate how-to-vote material.

In this post I will keep track of the number of pre-poll votes cast and the number of postal votes returned before polling day. As I explain inside this post, the rate of postal voting is certain to be very high given this automatic send out of postal vote packs. Voters can still vote pre-poll or vote on polling day, but many are certain to use the ballot papers sent to them.

Observation – In the final week of voting you would normally see a surge in pre-poll voting. That hasn’t happened with these by-elections. Pre-poll voting increased each day in week one of voting, but there has been no increase in the per day rate in week two. That voters were receiving postal vote packs last week has almost certainly caused some voters to use their postal vote rather than attend pre-polling. As polling day nears, the number of postals returned has begun to surge.

The rates of pre-poll and postal voting by Friday 11 February on the completion of pre-poll voting:
Bega – 29.4% of enrolled voters have cast a pre-poll and 21.3% returned a postal vote
Monaro – 23.1% of enrolled voters have cast a pre-poll and 15.3% returned a postal vote
Strathfield – 16.3% of enrolled voters have cast a pre-poll and 26.4% returned a postal vote
Willoughby – 9.6% of enrolled voters have cast a pre-poll and 28.1% returned a postal vote

Inside this post I breakdown the pre-polls and postals by electorate by day and compare them to the equivalent rates in 2019. I also explain the rules under which the election is being conducted, and also the changed counting procedures for the by-election.

Update on Counting Procedures – Postal votes envelopes will be processed in the week after the election, but there will be no counting of postal votes until Saturday 19 February.

It is important to stress that this all postal election is not available for the Federal election or the looming South Australian election. Both those elections will allow more voters to apply for postal votes, but full postal mail-outs aren’t an option for either election.
Read More »2022 NSW By-elections – Tracking the Early Vote

A Quick Guide to the Monaro By-election

The resignation of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has understandably triggered changes at the highest levels of the NSW government. This includes Deputy Premier John Barilaro announcing his decision to resign as Minister, Nationals Leader and Member for Monaro.

I’ve removed my blog post for the Monaro by-election as it has now been published on the ABC elections page. I’ve left this post here as a stub rather than break links on Google searches.

I also wrote a piece at the time of the resignations for ABC news on what’s happening with the by-elections.Read More »A Quick Guide to the Monaro By-election