preferential voting

The Decline of Three-Cornered Contests at Federal Elections

This is the first post in a topic I’m calling “Graph of the Day”. It will mainly be shorter posts where I’ll graph something I’ve been researching or otherwise think is worth documenting.

This post and its graphs are about the decline of three-cornered or triangular contests, that is districts where both Coalition parties nominate candidates against the Labor Party.

The decline has been steep, from more than 40% of districts in the mid-1980s to fewer than 8% at the last six Federal elections.

The number of three-cornered contests is likely to fall further if a proposal from within the Federal Coalition to introduce optional preferential voting comes to fruition.

My prediction of a further decline under optional preferential voting is based on the record of state elections in NSW and Queensland. NSW has used optional preferential voting for state elections since 1980, and it was also used for Queensland state elections from 1992 to 2015.

That the Coalition parties actively avoid three-cornered contests under OPV is clear. There has not been a three-cornered contest at a NSW election since 1999. In Queensland, after 61 three-cornered contests at the first OPV election in 1992, the numbers declined to one in 1995, two in 1998, and six at the 2001 election. There were no three-cornered contests in 2004 or 2006, and the Liberal and National Parties merged ahead of the 2009 Queensland election.Read More »The Decline of Three-Cornered Contests at Federal Elections

Should How-To-Votes be Banned at Australian Elections?

Australian is unusual among western democracies in permitting active campaigning outside polling places on election day.

Despite sharing much electoral heritage with Australia, New Zealand sits at the opposite end of the election day campaigning spectrum. Not only are all forms of election day campaigning banned, but all signs erected in the campaign must be removed before election day.

On regulating election day campaigning, most countries sit nearer New Zealand than Australia. Election day is viewed as a time for considered contemplation by voters, not as an opportunity for boisterous last day campaigning.

Australia also has some of the world’s most complex methods for completing ballot papers. Almost all countries use a single cross to vote, some a second cross, and some have a limited form of preferential voting. Some countries, notably the USA, complicate simplicity by holding multiple elections on the same day.

Only Australia requires voters to complete a sequence of numbers for every square on the ballot paper under rules with no allowance for error.

And no other country compels voters to engage with such a complex voting system on pain of being fined.

Thanks to compulsory voting, polling places are the last chance candidates have to engage with undecided and disinterested voters who in other countries probably wouldn’t turn up to vote.

And thanks to full preferential voting, candidates and parties that have attracted a primary vote have enormous interest in ensuring that voters correctly number all other squares to complete a formal vote.Read More »Should How-To-Votes be Banned at Australian Elections?

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