south australia

Dunstan By-election Updates plus problems with the SA Electoral Act

After looking the clear winner of the Dunstan by-election on Saturday night, Labor has finished with a narrower margin than expected.

Dunstan had been held by former Liberal Premier Steven Marshall since 2010. He squeaked home with a narrow 0.5% margin at the 2022 state election which meant the seat was always going to be a hotly contested by-election on his retirement. (For background on the by-election and the results see my profile on the ABC Elections website. Final figures published.)

On election night the Labor Party finished on 53.8%, boosted to 54.0% on Sunday by check counting. At that point, based on declaration vote trends at the 2022 state election, Labor would have expected to finish with 52.7% once all votes were counted.

In fact the race has been much closer. On Thursday 28 March, Labor’s Cressida O’Hanlon is on 50.8% after preferences with a lead over Liberal Anna Finizio of 347 votes. The count is at 80.5% of enrolment with only a handful of outstanding postal votes remaining to be counted. Due to Good Friday, postal vote return closes on Tuesday 2 April to be followed by the formnal distribution of preferences.

Labor will win after a swing of 1.4%, down substantially on the 4.5% swing seen on election night.

The table below shows how the count narrowed with the release of each successive declaration vote count.Read More »Dunstan By-election Updates plus problems with the SA Electoral Act

Coverage of Tasmanian State Election and Dunstan By-election

This is one of my usual posts on election night designed to deal with the surge of visitors to the site driven by Google searches.

I will not be posting here this evening as I am involved in the ABC’s live coverage of the Tasmanian election. The coverage is being broadcast live across Tasmania from 6pm eastern daylight time on the ABC’s main channel, and across Australia on the ABC News channel. There will also be updates of the important Dunstan by-election in South Australia during the Tasmanian coverage.

The ABC will also be publishing live results at ABC-online. Access the Tasmanian live results site here. You can also find the Dunstan by-election results here.

Inside this post I have information on the early vote at both elections.Read More »Coverage of Tasmanian State Election and Dunstan By-election

SA 2022 – Legislative Council Result Finalised

The last count for the South Australian election was finalised today with the distribution of preferences for the Legislative Council.

Several weeks of scanning and data entry have turned all the LC ballot papers into electronic records. Today the records were fed into the SA Electoral Commission’s preference distribution software to determine the winning candidates.

Details on the count are provided in the post.

Update: – some overall numbers on how voters completed their ballot papers.

  • Above-the-line with only a first preference – 62.7%
  • Above-the-line TL with preferences – 31.1%
  • Below the line – 6.2%

The above figures are derived from batching for ballot paper scanning. The detailed table of results below has 6.1% for below the line votes. The discrepancy is due to below the line votes that were informal or reverted to above the line votes after applying formality checks.
Read More »SA 2022 – Legislative Council Result Finalised

2022 SA Legislative Council Result

Update on when the count will finish – While the lower house count is complete, the time-consuming scanning of Legislative Council ballot papers takes time. The button push for the distribution of preferences is expected around the Anzac Day weekend.

Update: With every vote now counted, there are some slight changes to the partial quota values. One Nation is 0.51, Labor 0.42, LDP 0.39, Family First 0.37. I still stick to my view in the post that Labor’s position will improve with scrutiny of BTL votes, with preference flows from the Greens, Animal Justice and Legalise Cannabis, and with the general leakage of preferences to the larger parties. But there is a chance the gap could close if there are any significant preference flows between the LDP and Family First. And there is still a chance that order could alter.

Original Post Follows

With the lower house counts being finalised today, it is time to take a closer look at the upper house election for the Legislative Council (LC).

Almost all Legislative Council first preference votes have been counted. The process of scanning and data entering ballot papers is underway. Once that is completed, the distribution of preferences will be undertaken very quickly by computer.

Nine seats are clear, electing four Labor MLCs, four Liberals and one Green. The final two seats look likely to go a fifth Labor MLC and the state’s first One Nation MLC.

If the election finishes as set out in the previous paragraph, the new Legislative Council will be 9 Labor, 8 Liberal, 2 Greens, 2 SA Best and a One Nation member. Assuming Labor appoints a President, then Labor would need the votes of three of the five cross bench members to pass legislation.
Read More »2022 SA Legislative Council Result

2022 SA Election – Pre-Poll and Postal Voting Rates

The final figures for pre-poll and postal votes were as follows –

  • 29.9% of enrolled voters have either applied for a postal vote or cast a pre-poll vote.
  • 208,136 pre-poll votes have been cast representing 16.4% of enrolment. This is a 75% increase on the 120,468 pre-polls taken in 2018 representing 10.0% of enrolment. There were 35,820 on the final Friday of pre-polling.
  • There were 170,081 postal vote applications including around 25,000 permanent postal voters. This is twice the 82,213 applications in 2018 (not including 20,00 permanent postal votes) representing 6.8% of enrolment. Voters in Covid isolation can collect a postal vote pack from Covid testing centres which may add a few thousand extra postal votes.

Unlike every other Australian jurisdiction, Pre-Poll and Postal votes cannot be counted on election night in South Australia. The higher the rate of pre-poll and postal voting, the fewer the votes available for counting on election night and the lower the likelihood we will know the winners on election night.

In this post I explain the rate of pre-poll and postal voting at previous South Australian elections. I also provide charts of the rate of pre-poll voting by day, and the rate of postal and pre-poll voting by electoral district.

Most urban electorates should record a 50-60% vote count on election night which should be enough to call most seats. The seat with the lowest on the day vote will include Finniss (35%), Mount Gambier (45%), and Hartley, Colton, Stuart and Hammond under 50%.
Read More »2022 SA Election – Pre-Poll and Postal Voting Rates

SA Election Preference Recommendations

A unique feature of South Australian elections is that registered how-to-vote material for lower house seats is displayed in front of voters in the partitions where votes are completed. I explained how this works in a previous post.

These preference sheets have been released for use in pre-poll voting. Below I summarise the preference recommendations in important seats.

You can find the how-to-votes for each district on the Electoral Commission SA website.

I’ve also published the Legislative Council recommendations. The posters for these are displayed in polling places but not placed inside the voting partition. You can find the Legislative Council tickets on my ABC election site and I hope to publish more on the LC preferences later this week. Some information on how the 2018 preference count unfolded is included in my Legislative Council Preview, again on the ABC site.

The problems for most minor political parties is a lack of volunteers to hand out how-to-vote material outside polling places. This disadvantage is lessened in South Australia by the display of the how-to-vote recommendations.

For instance, Family First for many years issued how-to-votes with preferences to Labor candidates in a small number of seats, mainly those associated with the conservative SDA union. Preferences in these seats were more likely to flow to Labor rather than the Liberal Party. It was a difference in preference flows rarely seen at Federal elections where influencing voters with how-to-vote relies on volunteers handing them to voters.

Family First was absorbed by the Australian Conservatives for the 2018 South Australian election, but continued with the practice of favouring selected Labor candidates with preference recommendations. In 26 seats Conservative preferences were recommended to the Liberal Party and flowed 77% in that direction. The five seats favouring Labor split evenly, only 51.5% to the Liberal Party, and the two seats with split how-to-votes flowed only 67% to the Liberal Party. They are remarkable differences in preference flows compared to flows at Federal elections.

Here’s the preference recommendation summary in key seats.
Read More »SA Election Preference Recommendations

WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences

The McGowan government in Western Australia has appointed a Ministerial Expert Committee to recommend changes to the electoral system for the state’s Legislative Council. (You can find the Committee’s website here.)

The Committee has a number of issues to examine. Some are controversial, such as whether to change the state’s zonal electoral system. I wrote on the zonal electoral system and its unequal enrolments two weeks ago.

The proposal that has attracted least criticism is the abolition of group voting tickets (GVTs). GVTs were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were introduced as a solution to a chronic high rate of informal voting and designed to make voting easier while retaining full preferential voting.

What has not been fully appreciated is that the tickets sped up voting and also simplified the counting process. GVTs meant that less than 10% of ballot papers needed to be examined for formality and re-examined for preferences during the count. The rest of the ballot papers were ticket votes, and all ticket votes for a party being the same, could be treated as block votes.

These benefits have since been outweighed by the manipulation of results produced by GVTs giving parties almost total control over between-party preferences.

For major parties, GVTs strengthened the strong flow of preferences that parties had previously achieved through influencing voters with how-to-votes. But GVTs gave the same power to small parties that previously struggled to influence preferences due to lack of members distributing how-to-votes. Even the smallest micro-parties that didn’t bother to campaign suddenly had total control over their preferences. Over time, as participants learnt how to use GVTs strategically, the system began to elect candidate from parties with tiny votes who would never been elected had voters controlled preferences.

Three jurisdictions have now abolished GVTs. In this process, great attention was paid to ensuring voters did not have to revert to the pre-1984 situation of completing vast numbers of preferences. But a price of abolishing GVTs has been to make counting more complex. It has required a switch to scanning rather than hand counting and data entering ballot papers. Complexity has also been increased by changes to formulas calculating transfer values for surplus to quota preferences.

As the Ministerial Expert Committee searches for a replacement Legislative Council electoral system, it has the advantage of being able to draw on experience with abolishing GVTs for elections to the NSW and South Australian Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

Two models for electing the WA Legislative Council are being discussed. One retains regions, a four region model with each electing nine members the most discussed. The second is a switch to a single state-wide model.

The state-wide model in particular requires careful design. Careful thought needs to be given to ballot paper design, voter instructions, and the counting method.

Without careful design, using a single electorate to elect the WA Legislative Council could end up producing a ballot paper that is unprintable or uncountable.Read More »WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences