VIC22 – Werribee – Analysis of Preferences

Werribee was one of the seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its re-check of election night votes by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system. Werribee had 15 candidates, and as explained in my Melton post, this presented difficulties for the VEC in conducting manual re-checks so data entry was used.

Werribee was of interest in 2022 after the second place finish of Independent Joe Garra in 2018. Werribee had a very safe 13.4% margin versus the Liberal Party, but slightly less safe 9.2% margin versus Garra. Labor MP Tim Pallas was saved from another challenge when Garra contested Point Cook after his home suburb of Werribee South was transferred to Point Cook in the redistribution. But a new Independent emerged in local car dealership owner Paul Hopper. In the end Hopper’s challenge fizzled and he finished fourth with only 5.9%.

With 15 candidates, Werribee saw a very high informal vote at 9.7% on a turnout of 85.6%. A very low 30.1% of votes were cast on polling day, 57.3% were Pre-polls, 8.2% Postal votes and 3.8% Absent votes.

The two major parties attracted 70.7% of the vote between them, Labor 45.4%% and the Liberal Party 25.3%. The other 29.3% was split across 13 candidates, none of whom passed 7%.

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston, Hawthorn, Brighton, Melton and Point Cook, 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 Werribee are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in 71.5% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. Note that Liberal preferences were not distributed.
  • For the 12 Point Cook candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, 25.6% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. Labor at 26.9% and the Liberal Party 34.6% were the highest concordance rates, with Independent Hopper third at 27.4%. Fewer voters for the plethora of minor parties and independents followed a how-to-vote.
  • In the two-party preferred count, a relatively low 53.1% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal.
  • The full two-candidate preferred count finished as Labor 23,517 (60.9%) to Liberal 15,086 (39.1%), 0.4% higher for Labor than the VEC’s count derived from polling place results.

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.

In the case of Werribee, data on Liberal preference flows would never be available. The Liberal Party was one of the final two candidates, as in 2018, so Liberal preferences would not be counted out.

The existence of data entered ballot papers makes it possible for the first time to calculate Liberal preferences flows in Point Cook. Overall 71.1% of Liberal voters directed preferences to the Greens and only 28.9% to Labor. In all seven districts where the electronic ballot papers are available, Liberal preferences followed the party recommendation and favoured the Greens.

Labor versus Liberal Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows

The Labor versus Liberal preference flows from other candidates favoured Labor 53.1% to 46.9%, a low flow rate to Labor compared to other seats. Preferences from the Greens flowed 80.0% to Labor and 76.2% from the Victorian Socialists. Freedom Party preferences flowed 78.4% to Liberal, Independent Hopper 71.4% and Family First 63.0%.

Werribee – Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows
Ball First Prefs Prefs to ALP Prefs to LIB
-Pos Candidate (Party) Votes Pct Votes Pct Votes Pct
6 Boddeke (GRN) 2,613 6.8 2,090 80.0 523 20.0
11 Hopper (IND) 2,278 5.9 651 28.6 1,627 71.4
8 Munro (VS) 1,391 3.6 1,060 76.2 331 23.8
12 Emerson (FFV) 964 2.5 357 37.0 607 63.0
4 Breakwell (DLP) 767 2.0 364 47.5 403 52.5
10 Segrave (AJP) 730 1.9 438 60.0 292 40.0
2 Wicks (DHJP) 709 1.8 346 48.8 363 51.2
14 Strother (FPV) 663 1.7 143 21.6 520 78.4
15 Collins (TMP) 360 0.9 150 41.7 210 58.3
9 Tandon (ND) 319 0.8 156 48.9 163 51.1
13 Hogan (HAP) 260 0.7 121 46.5 139 53.5
3 Barcatta (IND) 213 0.6 96 45.1 117 54.9
5 Kwan (IND) 45 0.1 33 73.3 12 26.7
Total 11,312 29.3 6,005 53.1 5,307 46.9

How-to-Vote Concordance

Twelve of the 15 candidates registered how-to-votes. 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 15 preferences. The table has been ordered in descending primary vote order.

With 15 candidates on the ballot paper, the chances of a voter guessing the correct 15 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. A low percentage suggests most voters did not see a how-to-vote for the party.

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 15 preferences.

The percentage of Liberal ballot papers that exactly matched the Liberal how-to-vote sequence was 34.6%, Labor 26.9%, and Hopper (IND) 27.4% and Greens 10.3%. The Freedom Party achieved 16.1%, a notable rate for a party with only a small vote.

Low how-to-vote concordance rates may reflect many voters not receiving a how-to-vote for their chosen party. Candidates are most active in distributing how-to-votes on polling day, but the VEC data does not identify whether a ballot paper was cast as a polling day vote, a pre-poll vote or some other category of vote. That makes it impossible to test whether the channel used to vote has an impact on whether voters receive or follow a how-to-vote.

Werribee – Pct of Ballot Papers Following How-to-Vote
Matched How-to-Vote to Preference Number
Candidate (Party) 2 3 4 5 15
Pallas (ALP) 42.3 30.2 28.0 27.6 26.9
Shaw (LIB) 44.3 36.5 35.8 35.5 34.6
Boddeke (GRN) 23.8 15.7 12.4 10.7 10.3
Hopper (IND) 37.1 33.1 29.6 29.2 27.4
Munro (VS) 43.1 24.4 20.6 18.5 17.0
Emerson (FFV) 9.5 4.8 3.8 3.7 3.4
Breakwell (DLP) 23.7 12.3 11.5 11.0 10.2
Segrave (AJP) 9.9 6.8 5.3 3.7 3.7
Strother (FPV) 38.2 19.3 18.9 17.5 16.1
Tandon (ND) 17.6 8.8 8.8 8.5 8.2
Barcatta (IND) 28.6 17.8 14.6 13.6 12.2
Kwan (IND) 33.3 17.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 39.0 28.8 27.0 26.4 25.6

Second Preferences

Low rates of how-to-vote concordance are normal given many voters never see the how-to-vote of their first choice candidate. Parties achieve higher concordance rates on early preferences if they are obvious, that is for another party for which voters see some natural political affinity. Voters who don’t see a how-to-vote are more likely to guess an obvious preferences, and voters who do see the how-to-vote are more likely to follow a recommendation they agree with.

The table below shows the highest rates of second preference flows. The highlighted entries in bold are the rates to parties that appeared second on a party’s how-to-vote.

42.3% of Labor voters gave second preference to the Greens in line with the party how-to-vote distribution. Labor drew top spot on the ballot paper and there were 712 Labor votes that numbered one to 15 directly down the ballot paper, a ‘donkey’ vote rate of 4.1%. These may not all be dumb donkey votes. With Labor preferences never distributed, numbering straight down the ballot paper was a quick and easy way to vote without having to think about preferences that would never be counted. The Werribee Labor vote has a much higher rate of ‘donkey’ voting than was seen in the other six electorates with other parties at the top of the ballot paper. This suggests that the party at the top of the ballot paper has an impact on the percentage of voters who then number straight down the ballot.

As usual Green voters favoured Labor with their second preferences (39.2%) and only 23.8% gave the HTV suggested second preference for the Victorian Socialists. Either Green voters did not see the HTV recommendation and guessed Labor second, or they did receive the HTV and ignored the recommendation.

There were three Independents on the ballot paper with HTVs, and each recommended a second preference for another Independent. All three produced relatively strong concordance on the second preference. I’ve noticed a pattern previously with preference data that voters selecting an Independent for their primary vote then tend to preference other Independents before minor party candidates. I suspect this tendency boosts the Independent second preference figures.

Werribee – Pct Second Preferences by Party
Candidate (Party) Second Preferences to (over 10%)
Pallas (ALP) Greens 42.3%, Labour DLP 13.9%, Liberal 12.6%, Hinch Justice Party 10.4% (donkey vote)
Wicks (DHJP) Labor 19.9%, Liberal 13.8%, Barcatta (IND) 12.4% (No HTV)
Barcatta (ND) Hopper (IND) 28.6%, Kwan (IND) 18.8%, Labor 11.7%
Breakwell (DLP) Labor 27.8%, Liberal 23.7%, Family First 16.3%
Kwan (IND) Barcatta (IND) 33.3%, Labor 22.2%
Boddeke (GRN) Labor 39.2%, Victorian Socialists 23.8%, Animal Justice 10.3%
Shaw (LIB) Hopper (IND) 44.3%, Labor 13.3%
Munro (VS) Greens 43.1%, Labor 19.3%
Tandon (ND) Labor 22.9%, Liberal 17.9%, Hopper (IND) 17.6%
Segrave (AJP) Family First 17.8%, Greens 17.3%, Labor 11.6%, Victorian Socialists 9.9%
Hopper (IND) Barcatta (IND) 37.1%, Liberal 17.9%, Labor 12.7%
Emerson (FFV) Health Australia 19.1%, Freedom Party 13.1%, Liberal 10.9%, Hopper (IND) 9.5%
Hogan (HAP) Family First 25.4%, Freedom Party 18.1 (No HTV)
Strother (FPV) Family First 38.2%, Health Australia 11.2%
Collins (TMP) Freedom Party 32.5%, Family First 13.9%, Health Australia 10.6%, Labor 10.3% (No HTV)

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