Preston was one of the seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its re-check count of ballot papers by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system.
In the case of Preston, data entry would also simplify what had looked set to be a complex preference distribution. Labor led on first preferences with 37.6%, with the Liberals second 17.3%, Greens third on 15.1% and Independent Gaetano Greco fourth on 13.7%. Preferences were always going to push the Greens into second place. For a time it looked like Greco would pass the Greens to reach third place, but his first preference vote declined significantly with the counting of absent and out of district pre-polls.
As with my previous post on Northcote, I will make 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 Preston are –
- The Liberal Party switch to recommending preferences for the Greens ahead of Labor flipped the flow of Liberal preferences. From a first preference vote of 17.3%, Liberal preference flowed 72.3% to the Greens. At the Federal election in May, when Labor was the recommended preference, only 31.7% of Liberal preferences flowed to the Greens. Clearly the Liberal Party’s choice of preference recommendation has a significant influence on how its supporters direct preference.
- In the Labor versus Greens two-candidate preferred count, 69.4% of preferences favoured the Greens over Labor, only voters for Family First favouring Labor. Labor won with 52.1% of the vote after preferences.
- In the two-party preferred count, 71.0% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal with massive difference in flows based on the ideological position of each excluded party. After preferences Labor won 69.7% of the two-party preferred vote.
- From the ballot papers it is possible to calculate an alternative Labor versus Independent Greco preference count. Had Greco reached second, the final count after preferences would have been Labor 57.0% to Greco 43.0%. Greco received only 60.1% of preferences, doing very well with flows from every party except the Greens whose preferences flowed 61.8% to Labor. This was despite Greco being listed above Labor on the Greens’ how-to-vote recommendation.
- Overall 24.7% of Preston 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 33.4%, Liberal 29.4%, Freedom Party 24.0%, Victorian Socialists 19.5%, Greco 18.2% and the Greens 15.8%. 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.
Labor versus Green Two-Candidate Preferred Preference Flows
In the two-candidate contest between Labor and the Greens, the strongest flows to the Greens were from the Victorian Socialists 77.3%, from the Freedom Party 73.4% and the Liberal Party 72.3%. All other parties flowed more than 60% to the Greens except for Family First which flowed 54.4% to Labor.
|Ball||First Prefs||Prefs to ALP||Prefs to GRN|
Labor versus Liberal Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows
The Labor versus Liberal preference flows from other candidates favoured Labor 71.0% to 29.0%. Green preferences flowed 90.2% to Labor, Victorian Socialist preferences 87.3%, Reason Party 84.8%, Greco 63.1% and Animal Justice 60.3%.
The two small right-wing parties generated strong preference flows to the Liberal Party, 86.2% for the Freedom Party and 73.6% 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.
|Ball||First Prefs||Prefs to ALP||Prefs to LIB|
Labor versus Gaetano Greco Two-Candidate Preferred Preference Flows
In the immediate aftermath of election day, it appeared that fourth placed Independent Gaetano Greco could pass the Greens to reach third place, then pass the Liberal on Green preferences, to eventually compete with Labor to win Preston. However, Greco’s vote slipped with the later counting of votes cast outside the district, both Absent ballots and out-of-district pre-polls.
Greco needed to pass the Greens during the distribution of preferences, and to defeat Labor, needed 75% of all preferences. He fell just 376 votes short of passing the Greens, but fell well short of achieving 75% preference flows, receiving only 60.1%. Using the ballot papers to calculate a Labor versus Greco count, Labor on 57.0% would have easily defeated Greco on 43.0%.
The Victorian Socialists listed Greco second on its how-top-vote, but he appeared 4 on the Liberal, Animal Justice and Reason Party how-to-votes and fifth on the Greens’. Liberal preferences flowed 76.3% to Greco before Labor, the rate he needed to win, but Victorian Socialist preferences flowed only 59.6% to Greco and Green preferences flowed to Labor 61.8%. The close contest two days after polling day proved not to be close at all.
|Ball||First Prefs||Prefs to ALP||Prefs to Greco|
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 10 preferences. Independent Sanaghan had a how-to-vote with a second preference for Greco but no further suggestions.
With 10 candidates on the ballot paper, the chances of a voter guessing the correct 10 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 the full 10 preferences.
As in Northcote, the Freedom Party had a low first preference vote but high rate of people following the how-to-vote sequence. The Labor Party had the highest rate of how-to-vote concordance at 33.4% with the Liberal Party second on 29.4%.
|Matched How-to-Vote to Preference Number|
Second Preferences by Party
Low rates of how-to-vote concordance usually indicates that a party distributed few how-to-votes. High rates correspond to parties that distribute lots of how-to-votes. High rates of matching 2nd and 3rd preferences are boosted when a how-to-vote has an obvious sequence of preferences that voters can guess without a how-to-vote.
In the previous table, 56.4% of Labor votes had the how-to-vote’s 2nd preference for the Greens, the rate of concordance dropping to 37.7% for the 3rd preferenced Reason Party. Clearly Labor voters who did not see a how-to-vote would be likely to guess a second preference for the Greens, hence the high 2nd preference concordance.
Compare that to only 27.0% of Green voters having the recommended second preference for the Reason Party, despite Reason being the next candidate down the ballot paper. As the table of recorded second preferences below shows, 34.0% of Green voters gave a second preference to Labor, either ignoring the how-to-vote sequence or simply guessing Labor in the absence of a how-to-vote.
The table below shows second preference percentage flows greater than 10% on ballot papers cast for each candidate. The entries in bold were the recommended second preference.
Clearly the suggested second preference on the Greens, Reason and Animal Justice how-to-votes were either ignored or in many cases never seen by voters. The Liberal Party’s high 41.2% 2nd preference flow for the Freedom Party was clearly for a party with which voters saw an affinity, and for a party one position higher on the ballot paper.
|Candidate (Party)||Second Preferences to (over 10%)|
|Greco (IND)||Victorian Socialist 29.6%, Sanaghan (IND) 17.1% (donkey vote), Labor 15.5%, Greens 11.9%|
|Sanaghan (IND)||Greco 65.2%|
|Soliman (FFV)||Freedom Party 35.1%, Greco 12.0%, Greens 11.5%, Liberal 10.2%|
|Paterson (GRN)||Labor 34.0%, Reason 27.0%, Victorian Socialists 15.3%|
|Lahiff-Jenkins (REA)||Greens 32.7%, Victorian Socialists 16.9%, Animal Justice 16.7%, Labor 14.7%, Greco 11.2%|
|Unicomb (AJP)||Greens 25.3%, Labor 12.7%, Victorian Socialists 12.2%, Freedom Party 11.7%, Reason 10.6%|
|Matias (FPV)||Family First 49.9%, Liberal 13.5%, Greco 11.7%|
|Paliouras (LIB)||Freedom Party 41.2%, Greco 16.8%|
|Lambert (ALP)||Greens 56.4%, Greco 10.7%, Liberal 10.1%|
|Price (VS)||Greco 36.9%, Greens 30.3%, Labor 13.3%|