VIC22 Election – Northcote – Analysis of Preference Data

In seven districts at the Victorian election, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its check count of ballot papers by data entering each ballot’s preferences into a computer systems for verification and later the distribution of preferences.

In Melton, Point Cook and Werribee, data entry was adopted after the incorrect election night pairing of candidates was chosen for the indicative preference count. An additional justification was that each district had 14 or 15 candidates. Brighton, Hawthorn and Northcote were included in the trial, while Preston was added later in the count when it became apparent the distribution of preferences would be complex with potentially close contests at several exclusions.

The electronic versions of the ballot papers have been made available, and this will be the first of several posts where I pull apart the data to look at flows of preferences and the percentage of ballot papers that followed each party’s registered how-to-vote sequence.

For the district of Northcote, a seat where Labor defeated the Greens by just 184 votes, the key findings are –

  • The Liberal Party changed its preference recommendation in 2022 to place the Greens ahead of Labor. Of all Liberal ballot papers, 64.8% gave preferences to the Greens. The Liberal decision reversed the recommendation that Labor be put first last May at the Federal election when the local seat of Cooper saw Liberal preferences flow 68.3% to Labor. Clearly the Liberal Party’s choice of preference recommendation has a significant influence on preference flows.
  • In the two-candidate preferred count, 67.2% of preferences favoured the Greens over Labor, only voters for Family First favouring Labor.
  • In the two-party preferred count, 87.1% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal with massive difference in flows based on the ideological position of each excluded party.
  • Overall 29.4% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. By party the highest rates of how-to-vote concordance were Labor 38.3%, Liberal 28.3%, Greens 26.0%, Victorian Socialists 22.9% and the Freedom Party 17.8%. All other candidates saw rates of how-to-vote concordance under 10%, suggesting voters either ignored the recommendation or, more likely, never saw the candidate’s how-to-vote.

More detail with tables inside the post.

Two-Candidate Preferred Preference Flows

In the two-candidate contest between Labor and the Greens, the strongest flows to the Greens were the Victorian Socialists 84.7%, from pro-environment Independent Adrian Whitehead 80.9 assisted by the donkey vote, Animal Justice 68.8%, and the Liberal Party 64.8%, the party having swapped its preference recommendation away from Labor and to the Greens for the 2022 election.

In neighbouring Preston the Liberal preference flow to the Greens was 72%, a rate that if achieved in Northcote would have delivered victory to the Greens.

Northcote – Two-Candidate Preferred Preference Flows
Ball First Prefs Prefs to ALP Prefs to GRN
-Pos Candidate (Party) Votes Pct Votes Pct Votes Pct
10 Todhunter (LIB) 5,205 12.2 1,831 35.2 3,374 64.8
5 Larkin (VS) 2,776 6.5 425 15.3 2,351 84.7
9 Clarke (REA) 1,539 3.6 658 42.8 881 57.2
4 Oseckas (AJP) 757 1.8 236 31.2 521 68.8
2 Ntouni (FPV) 729 1.7 315 43.2 414 56.8
6 Cave (LDP) 530 1.2 247 46.6 283 53.4
1 Whitehead (IND) 518 1.2 99 19.1 419 80.9
8 Ashton (FFV) 408 1.0 266 65.2 142 34.8
11 Verma (IND) 80 0.2 33 41.3 47 58.8
Total 12,542 29.4 4,110 32.8 8,432 67.2

Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows

The Labor versus Liberal preference flows from other candidates massively favoured Labor 87.1% to 12.9%. Green and Victorian Socialist preferences flowed at a very impressive 95.2% to Labor, with Reason 86.2%, Independent Whitehead 80.7% and Animal Justice 77.4% not far behind.

The three small right-wing parties all generated strong preference flows to the Liberal Party, 79.3% for the Freedom Party, 80.0% Liberal Democrats and 76.0% for Family First.

All of these preference flows would have been influenced by how-to-vote material, but as the analysis of how-to-votes later in this post shows, the percentage of voters who exactly followed how-to-votes was much lower than the two-party preference flows.

Northcote – Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows
Ball First Prefs Prefs to ALP Prefs to LIB
-Pos Candidate (Party) Votes Pct Votes Pct Votes Pct
3 Gome (GRN) 12,797 30.0 12,177 95.2 620 4.8
5 Larkin (VS) 2,776 6.5 2,642 95.2 134 4.8
9 Clarke (REA) 1,539 3.6 1,326 86.2 213 13.8
4 Oseckas (AJP) 757 1.8 586 77.4 171 22.6
2 Ntouni (FPV) 729 1.7 151 20.7 578 79.3
6 Cave (LDP) 530 1.2 106 20.0 424 80.0
1 Whitehead (IND) 518 1.2 418 80.7 100 19.3
8 Ashton (FFV) 408 1.0 98 24.0 310 76.0
11 Verma (IND) 80 0.2 33 41.3 47 58.8
Total 20,134 47.2 17,537 87.1 2,597 12.9

How-to-Vote Concordance

The table below shows the percentage of each candidate’s first preference votes that went on to exactly match the candidate’s registered how-to-vote sequence. The table shows the percentage of ballots papers that matched the sequence to a given preference number. The tables show the matching percentages for preference 2 to 5, along with a final column showing the percentage of ballot papers that matched the how-to-for the full 11 preferences. Independents Whitehead and Verma are not included in the table because they did not register how-to-votes.

Northcote – Pct of Ballot Papers Following How-to-Vote
Matched How-to-Vote to Preference Number
Candidate (Party) 2 3 4 5 11
Theophanous (ALP) 47.3 42.6 40.2 39.8 38.3
Gome (GRN) 32.5 28.9 27.5 26.7 26.0
Todhunter (LIB) 42.2 36.8 36.3 35.9 28.3
Larkin (VS) 69.1 32.8 29.1 24.4 22.9
Clarke (REA) 13.6 7.9 6.8 5.7 5.3
Oseckas (AJP) 20.1 7.5 6.5 6.5 6.1
Ntouni (FPV) 41.3 27.0 25.1 22.8 17.8
Cave (LDP) 14.3 8.1 5.8 5.5 4.7
Ashton (FFV) 45.1 33.6 31.4 2.7 2.2
Total 41.3 34.4 32.5 31.4 29.4

With 11 candidates on the ballot paper, the chances of a voter guessing the correct 11 number sequence is highly 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 a full 11 preferences.

An interesting feature of the Liberal figure is that it dipped from 35.4% at preference 8 to 28.5% at preference 9, the Liberal how-to-vote listing the Greens as the 9th preference.

Second Preferences by Party

Some of the lower rates of how-to-vote concordance correspond to parties that had second preferences that were not correctly guessed by voters who did not see a how-to-vote. Green and Reason Party voters who did not receive a how-to-vote did not guess that Adrian Whitehead was the recommended second preference rather than Labor. Similar issues arose with Animal Justice and the Liberal Democrats.

Family First and the Freedom Party both polled under 2% but generated strong preference flows to each other as a second preferences.

Entries in bold indicate the second preference on each candidate’s how-to-vote.

Northcote – Pct Second Preferences by Party
Candidate (Party) Second Preferences to (over 10%)
Whitehead (IND) Freedom Party 28.0% (donkey vote), Greens 28.0% (No HTV)
Ntouni (FPV) Family First 41.3%, Liberal Democrat 12.1%, Animal Justice 10.4%
Gome (GRN) Labor 35.2%, Whitehead (IND) 32.5%, Vic Socialists (15.3%
Oseckas (AJP) Greens 29.5%, Vic Socialists 20.1%, Labor 14.7%
Larkin (VS) Greens 69.1%, Labor 10.6%
Cave (LDP) Liberal 39.6%, Family First 14.3%, Freedom Party 13.6%
Theophanous (ALP) Reason 47.3%, Greens 31.6%
Ashton (FFV) Freedom Party 45.1%, Liberal 15.7%
Clarke (REA) Greens 32.6%, Labor 23.8%, Whitehead (IND) 13.6%, Vic Socialist 11.9%
Todhunter (LIB) Family First 42.2%, Liberal Democrats 24.0%
Verma (IND) Whitehead (IND) 35.0%, Liberal 27.5%, Reason 10.0% (No HTV)

1 thought on “VIC22 Election – Northcote – Analysis of Preference Data”

  1. Interesting post, thanks Antony.

    I’m interested in what Labor’s margin would be if Liberal preferences flowed either as they did in Cooper at the Federal election or as they did last state election.

    Seeing as all ballots have been released, do we know how many were donkey votes?

    ANSWER: There were 113 left to right donkey votes and 12 reverse donkey votes. If the Liberal preferences had flowed as they did in Cooper last May, the Labor margin would have been 4.4%. There isn’t a precise figure to use from 2018 but I imagine it would have been about the same value as produced by the Cooper flows.

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