VIC22 – Brighton – Analysis of Preferences

Brighton was another of seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) chose to conduct its re-check of election night votes by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system.

Brighton has never been won by Labor, but new Liberal candidate James Newbury came close to defeat in 2018. Newbury withstood a Liberal pre-selection challenge by former Bayside City Council Mayor Felicity Frederico ahead of the 2022 election. Frederico contested Brighton as an Independent but she finished fourth with 9.1% of the vote.

The VEC conducted a Liberal versus Frederico indicative preference count on election night but switched to Liberal versus Labor on the Monday after. The VEC also decided to data enter ballot papers for the check count.

The VEC reports Newbury as having won Brighton with 54.2% after preferences based on an indicative preference count. Despite using electronic ballot papers, the VEC stopped the distribution of preferences when Newbury passed 50% with three candidates remaining in the count.

Analysing the electronic ballot papers for this post has allowed me to calculate the correct two-candidate preferred results. The final Brighton result is Newbury 22710 votes (55.1%), Labor 18,486 (44.9%).

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston ahd Hawthorn, this post will use of the electronic ballot papers to analyse preference flow statistics and also to look at the influence of candidate how-to-votes.

The key findings for Brighton are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in a very high 85.7% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. At last May’s Federal election by comparison, when the Liberal Party still listed Labor ahead of the Greens on how-to-votes, Liberal preference flows to the Greens were a much lower 31.7% in Cooper, 29.8% in Melbourne and 26.7% in Wills.
  • For the seven Brighton candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, including three versions for Frederico, 39.1% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. A high 57.0% of Liberal voters completed the same sequence of of preferences as listed on the Liberal how-to-vote. This helps explain the strong preference flows to the Greens. A lower 31.8% of Labor voters exactly followed the party’s how-to-vote sequence.
  • In the two-party preferred count, 68.0% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal, including 84.6% from the Greens, 60.7% from Frederico, 59.5% Animal Justice and 55.4% from Independent Gibson.
  • As I have noted in my previous posts, it is clear that the Liberal Party’s decision on how-to-vote recommendations has a major impact on whether Labor or the Greens receive the majority of Liberal preferences.

More detail with tables inside the post.

Liberal Preference flows

In mid-November when the Liberal Party announced it would list the Greens ahead of Labor on how-to-votes, I went through past evidence on Liberal preferences in this post that examined state and federal election results in Victoria since 2006.

The post makes clear that the Liberal Party is able to shift preference flows between Labor and the Greens with the use of campaign messaging and how-to-vote material. That finding is fully backed by 2022 election result preference data.

In the case of Brighton, data on Liberal preference flows would never normally be available. The Liberal Party led on first preferences, as it did on defeat in 2018, so we would never normally see data on Liberal preferences.

The existence of data entered ballot papers makes it possible for the first time to calculate Liberal preferences flows in Brighton. Overall an astonishing 85.7% of Liberal voters directed preferences to the Greens and only 14.3% to Labor. As explained later in this post, a very high 57.0% of Brighton Liberal voters completed the same preference sequence on their ballot paper as was printed on the Liberal how-to-vote.

I have the same caveats with preference flows in Brighton as I did for Hawthorn. Despite the narrow result in 2018, Brighton is traditionally a safe Liberal voting district where Liberal voters would never expect their preferences to be distributed, which was not the case in Labor voting seats north of the Yarra where the Liberals have consistently finished third this century. Brighton was also hotly contested in 2022 so a much higher proportion of Brighton voters would have seen a Liberal how-to-vote compared to seats north of the Yarra.

Labor versus Liberal Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows

The Labor versus Liberal preference flows from other candidates favoured Labor 68.0% to 32.0%. Green preferences flowed 84.6% to Labor and Animal Justice 59.5%. Preferences from the two Independents also favoured Labor, Frederico 60.7% and Gibson 55.4%.

Frederico registered two how-to-votes, a ‘1-only’ version and a second with three options, a second preference for Labor, the Greens or Liberal. The Green option also listed Labor higher than the Liberal Party meaning two thirds of her options favoured Labor. Of those ballot papers that matched one of Frederico’s three options, 454 votes reached Labor and 251 the Liberal Party.

Brighton – Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows
Ball First Prefs Prefs to ALP Prefs to LIB
-Pos Candidate (Party) Votes Pct Votes Pct Votes Pct
3 Dekiere (GRN) 5,680 13.8 4,803 84.6 877 15.4
5 Frederico (IND) 3,749 9.1 2,274 60.7 1,475 39.3
4 Gibson (IND) 941 2.3 521 55.4 420 44.6
6 Walker (AJP) 851 2.1 506 59.5 345 40.5
2 Sciola (FFV) 558 1.4 99 17.7 459 82.3
9 Casley (IND) 251 0.6 79 31.5 172 68.5
1 Timms (IND) 211 0.5 40 19.0 171 81.0
Total 12,241 29.7 8,322 68.0 3,919 32.0

How-to-Vote Concordance

Seven of the nine candidates registered how-to-votes, including Frederico’s multiple options. The table below shows the percentage of each candidate’s first preference votes that exactly matched the candidate’s registered how-to-vote sequence. The table shows the percentage of ballots papers that matched the sequence to preferences 2 to 5, along with a final column showing the percentage of ballot papers that matched the how-to-vote for the full nine preferences.

With nine candidates on the ballot paper, the chances of a voter guessing the correct nine number sequence is unlikely. The final column can therefore be seen as a reliable measure of how many voters followed each candidate’s how-to-vote. Voters might guess the first two or three preferences, but the percentage of ballot papers matching the how-to-vote to each preference number quickly converges on the value for the full nine preferences.

The percentage of Liberal ballot papers that exactly matched the Liberal how-to-vote sequence was a very high 57.0%, even higher than Hawthorn. Brighton, like Hawthorn, is a traditional Liberal voting area and a hotly contested marginal seat at the 2022 election. The lower concordance rates in Northcote and Preston reflect those seats being very safe ‘left’ areas with fewer Liberal Party members and volunteers. A far higher proportion of voters in Brighton would have received a Liberal how-to-vote leaving fewer voters to guess the recommended sequence.

The Liberal how-to-vote was a very conventional sequence, in order of preference LIB – FFV – Gibson – Timms – AJP – Frederico – GRN – ALP – Casley

Brighton – Pct of Ballot Papers Following How-to-Vote
Matched How-to-Vote to Preference Number
Candidate (Party) 2 3 4 5 9
Sciola (FFV) 14.9 7.3 4.5 4.3 3.6
Dekiere (GRN) 33.8 22.1 20.4 20.1 18.9
Gibson (IND) 39.0 21.3 10.5 8.0 7.8
Frederico (IND) 78.5 26.6 22.2 21.1 18.8
Walker (AJP) 17.9 13.3 12.1 10.8 10.6
Newbury (LIB) 66.4 60.6 59.8 59.0 57.0
Crawford (ALP) 38.8 33.7 33.2 32.9 31.8
Total 53.7 42.8 41.3 40.6 39.1

Frederico has a very high second preference match because she offered a three-option how-to-vote, one with a second preference for Labor, one Liberal and one Greens.

Second Preference Choices

As happens so often, the majority of Green voters placed the Labor second rather than the how-to-vote suggesting of Animal Justice second. Whether this was voters not seeing the how-to-vote or just ignoring it is difficult to determine.

The high rates of concordance candidates achieve by having an obvious second preference on a how-to-vote is shown by 66.4% of Liberal voters giving a second preference to Family First, no doubt seen by many but easily guessed by those that didn’t.

Brighton – Pct Second Preferences by Party
Candidate (Party) Second Preferences to (over 10%)
Timms (IND) Family First 44.1%, (donkey vote), Gibson 19.0%, Liberal 10.9% (no HTV)
Sciola (FFV) Casley 26.5%, Liberal 24.6%, Timms 14.9%, Greesn 12.2%
Dekiere (GRN) Labor 39.8%, Animal Justice 33.8%
Gibson (IND) Greens 39.0%, Frederico 27.0%, Labor 12.3%
Frederico (IND) Labor 27.9%, Greens 27.7%, Liberal 22.9%, Gibson 11.9% (three HTVs)
Walker (AJP) Greens 36.0%, Gibson 17.9%, Labor 14.6%, Liberal 13.2%
Newbury (LIB) Family First 66.4%
Crawford (ALP) Animal Justice 38.8%, Greens 33.6%

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