Friday, September 25, 2020

Could Just 2000 Shifting Votes Swing The ACT Election?

 Advance Summary


(This article is rated 5/5 on the Wonk Factor scale.  It is extremely mathsy and technical.)


Yesterday the ABC published an article that claimed that the Liberals could win the 2020 ACT election if just 2,000 ACT voters switched their vote compared to how they voted in 2016.  The article is still up and the author continued to defend it after both Tim Colebatch and I independently pointed out on Twitter why it was incorrect, so here is an article to explain in detail why this claim is not correct.  In the process I hope to highlight that interpreting Hare-Clark spreadsheets really is rocket science and that a simple question like "how close was the election?" can have a very complex answer.  

The article's core claims are as follows:

* In Murrumbidgee, the Greens' Caroline Le Couteur was 800 votes ahead of the Liberals' Peter Hosking, so that difference would have been erased had 400 voters for Le Couteur switched to the Liberals.

* In Yerrabi:

"In 2016, sorting through this electorate's mess of preferences was more complex than elsewhere.

But when it mattered, Liberal prospect Jacob Vadakkedathu was 2,789 votes short of becoming an MLA.

If 1,395 voters had preferred him over Labor's Michael Pettersson or Suzanne Orr, he might have had their seat in the Assembly."


It is correct that had 401 voters for Caroline Le Couteur (this could include votes that preferenced her and reached her at full value) instead voted for Peter Hosking, or preferenced Hosking in such a way that their votes reached him at full value, Hosking would have won.  But this is not the same as saying that if 401 Greens voters switched to the Liberals at full value, Hosking would have won.  The reason is that a vote that switched from Le Couteur to Giulia Jones (Lib) would have decreased Le Couteur's tally, but not increased Hosking's.  A vote that switched from Le Couteur to become a primary vote for Jeremy Hanson, even if it was 1 Hanson 2 Hosking, would have decreased Le Couteur's tally, but would not have flowed through as a full vote benefit to Hosking (because it would have increased the value of all Hanson's surplus votes, many of which favoured Jones).  Thus the idea that 401 votes swinging would change the seat result is artificial, because it relies on all those votes moving to a specific candidate (which would never happen in real life).  A more realistic estimate is 570 votes.


In the case of Yerrabi, the article makes an error concerning the point at which Vadakkedathu's position mattered.  Vadakkedathu was 2789 votes short of quota after Count 28, at which point he had 5754 votes; quota was 8543.  But this is not the point at which it mattered, and this is a product of the ACT's habit of continuing to throw preferences past the point at which a contest has been mathematically decided.  (Markus Mannheim is in good company when it comes to getting tripped up by this quirk - even the Tasmanian Electoral Commission has been led astray here, in a different way.)  

In the contest for Yerrabi, nobody polled a quota on first preferences.  At count 16 (see Yerrabi table 2 here) Megan Fitzharris (ALP) was elected on the preferences of the first excluded Labor candidate.  At count 18 Alastair Coe (Lib) was elected on the preferences of the second excluded Liberal candidate.  Exclusions continued, reaching this point:

Milligan (Lib) 6899

Vadakkedathu (Lib) 5358

Petterson (ALP) 8086

Orr (ALP) 6855

Wensing (Green) 4968

At this point Wensing was excluded, and Count 24 consisted of Wensing's full-value votes (4900 votes).  Of these 62.3% flowed to Labor, just 5.8% to the Liberals, and the rest exhausted.

After this throw the numbers were:

Milligan (Lib) 7028

Vadakkedathu (Lib) 5511

Petterson (ALP) 9309 

Orr (ALP) 8683

Wensing (Green) 68 (part excluded)

At this point the election is already decided.  Petterson and Orr are over quota and have won so Labor has three seats.  There are only 974 votes left to throw and Milligan is 1517 ahead, so Milligan will certainly win the fifth seat.  But the ACT system continues distributing preferences anyway.  

What is important here is that Petterson and Orr can no longer receive those preferences as they have reached quota.  The two Liberals can receive them, but since they are mostly votes from the Greens that have already preferenced Labor, it's likely most of them would have actually gone to Labor had that still been possible.

Milligan reaches 7279 and Vadakkedathu 5754 at the point where the latter is irrelevantly excluded, but they only got most of those last few hundred votes because  Labor was blocked from getting them.  

Furthermore, the number of votes that need to be switched to cause the Liberals to win cannot be calculated simply by looking at how short Vadakkedathu is of quota, because just taking enough votes off Labor to put Vadakkedathu over one Labor candidate only causes him to win instead of the other Liberal, Milligan.

On the assumption that the 68 leftover votes for Wensing would not assist the Liberals more than Labor, let's see how many votes we have to shift to put a Labor candidate into last place.  Orr and the two Liberals between them have 21222 votes, so we need to bring Orr down to a third of that and the two Liberals up to the same figure.  This takes Orr down to 7074, removing 1609 votes from Orr.

However, we have a further problem: Petterson is still over quota by 766 votes.  We already know Wensing's votes flowed strongly to Labor, but those that flowed to one Labor candidate are much more likely to flow to the other, because this means the voter hasn't exhausted their vote at the end of the Greens' ticket and is also more likely to preference the Labor ticket than if all we knew was that they had continued preferencing.  On the other hand, they only have one Labor candidate left to go to, not two.  Let's say, conservatively, that Orr gets 70% of the surplus, the Liberals get 5% each, and the rest exhausts (though since it's the ACT, it may well be that nothing would exhaust; see below).  Now after Petterson's surplus, Orr is 498 votes ahead of the two Liberals.  We can fix this by taking another 332 votes from Orr and splitting them between the two Liberals, so we have now taken 1941 votes from Orr.  It might be a little bit more than that if no votes are actually exhausting.

But again, this is an extremely artificial scenario that relies not just on taking votes from Labor and giving them to the Liberals, but on taking votes from a given Labor candidate and giving them to two specific Liberal candidates in a very specific proportion.  It's unrealistic in practice and so the number of votes that would have to be moved in reality is much larger. It's actually extremely difficult to model, but a possible approach is: how many votes would we have to move at the key point if votes left Labor in proportion to the two candidates' totals, and arrived in the same proportion?

Here the answer is that Orr has 8683 votes (48.3% of Labor's total) and Vadakkedathu has 5511 (43.9% of the Liberals).  The gap is 3172 votes, and every vote that comes off the Labor ticket and goes onto the Liberals on average reduces that gap by 0.922 votes.  So we must move 3440 votes - far larger than the 1941 votes for a targeted artificial manipulation that would never happen in reality, which in turn is more than the 1395 votes specified in the article.  So the article's claim that:

"Four years ago, just 1,795 votes, across two electorates, prevented the Liberals from governing with a majority."

is false.  

(To further highlight that 1395 is incorrect, 1395 is the number of votes you would need to take from one of Petterson and Orr at the end and give to Vadakkedathu to put him in front of one of them.  But the fact that Petterson and Orr earlier in the cutup had more votes than they finished with should give some pause for thought that this is not the way to do it.)


I've already shown that the number of votes that must be moved to make the Liberals win, given realistic assumptions, is more like 4000 than 2000.   But there's more, because the electorates have been redistributed.  

As calculated by Ben Raue, in Murrumbidgee Labor loses 1.5%, the Liberals gain 1.73%, the Greens gain 0.09%.  The total vote in the seat was 50055, so that's +866 votes to the Liberals and +45 to the Greens.  Splitting the votes between the two remaining Liberals proportionally gives Hosking a 358 vote leg-up in the fight with Le Couteur.  Taking votes from Labor also gets rid of 99% of Labor's surplus of 760 votes, which benefited Le Couteur over Hocking by 603 votes.  To observers of Tasmanian Hare-Clark distributions, that may appear staggeringly high, but the ACT has a system that exhausts votes without continuing preferences and preferentially keeps votes with continuing preferences in the count.

All this means that the actual number of votes the Liberals need to be transferred to win in Murrumbidgee is zero (all else being equal); the seat is notionally Liberal by a very small margin as a result of the redistribution.  

In Yerrabi, it's a different matter.  Labor gains 0.63%, the Liberals lose 0.19% and the Greens lose 0.33% (323 votes, 97 votes, 169 votes).  That makes Labor's position roughly 320 votes stronger than indicated, pushing the number of votes that need to be shifted to probably over 3500 (approaching a 7% swing) in this particular electorate.

This shouldn't be surprising if we look at the 2016 primary totals in Yerrabi.  Labor beat the Liberals by 8.1% on primaries.  That alone would normally need a 4% swing to overturn unless the Liberals had something go right for them on the candidate breakdown, which they didn't (actually their 2nd and 3rd candidates are further apart than Labor's.)  But there is more, because the Greens, who polled 7.1% in this electorate, were eliminated, and their preferences favoured Labor.  

And this leads further to the generic problem with articles of the ABC type: if there is a big swing in one electorate, there won't be nothing happening in the others.  If thousands of votes are swinging in Yerrabi that probably means a massive ACT-wide swing with tens of thousands moving overall.


Hang on, who said anything about Brindabella?  Well, the point is seats shifting cuts both ways.  The Liberals could win government by gaining seats in Yerrabi and Murrumbidgee, but they are also vulnerable in Brindabella, which they would need to hold.  In 2016, Labor's Angie Drake lost by being 553 votes behind the Liberals' Nicole Lawder.  So if 277 of the voters who voted for Lawder instead voted for Drake, then Drake would have won.  But again, this is an artificial scenario because it relies on being able to take votes from one candidate of one party and shift them to a specific candidate of another party, distorting the proportion of votes within that party.  The real number of votes to shift would be larger.

But not so much larger anymore, because the redistribution has taken an effective 80 votes from the Liberals and handed them to Labor, so if those are redistributed proportionally, the minimum number to move to change the outcome comes down from 277 to about 245.  But by the proportional method I used for Yerrabi, the number of votes that need to shift without changing the breakdown within each party is more like 620, a 1.3% swing.  This makes sense because the Liberals beat Labor by 8.3%, which would normally require a 4.2% swing to shift.  However, Labor benefited from Greens and Sex Party preferences, and also from a more even split between its candidates.  

When the flag drops and counting starts many of these swing scenarios will go out the window, because of different exclusion orders, different fourth party candidates, different breakdowns between the parties and so on.  But overall, the key point is that the Liberals were not close to winning the 2016 ACT Election.  In particular, in Yerrabi, all else being equal they need a swing of several percent.  

Absent of a large swing, what would really spice up the ACT election is if a fourth-party candidate willing to work with the Liberals snatched a seat from Labor and the Greens in either Ginninderra (Belco Party, this is your life) or Yerrabi.  Given the candidate list the former seems more interesting. The pathway for the Liberals to victory then is to take Murrumbidgee from the Greens (which requires no swing at all) and to then form minority government with 12 seats.  This seems a more promising pathway than picking up the swing required to win 13 - but can any minor parties step up to the plate?

A Side Note On Exhaust

Finally, can we please not have headlines like "More than 15,000 exhausted voices weren't heard"?  This isn't in the article and plays into the same furphy spread by clueless opponents of Senate reform in 2016, the bizarre claim that exhaust is the same as disenfranchisement.  Every vote that is formal is heard.  The full value of every formal vote is counted as a primary vote, even if the voter only votes 1-5 (or just votes 1 and has their vote saved by the savings provision.)  The remaining value of the vote, which will be only part of it anyway if the vote has already helped elect somebody, leaves the count when the voter chooses to stop numbering boxes (or in rare cases makes a mistake).  This is (mostly) the voter's choice.   I generally advise voters to always number all the boxes (see How To Best Use Your Vote In ACT Elections) but if voters choose not to that is their right, and it does not mean the system has ignored their voice.  What the system has done is followed their instructions.

I will have live coverage of the ACT election on the night and of the counting over subsequent days. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Newspoll: The Sound Of Narratives Dying

 This week's Newspoll results have included fresh approval ratings for Labor Premiers Daniel Andrews (Vic) and Annastacia Palaszczuk (Qld), along with a number of issues questions regarding handling of COVID-19.  These are well worthy of comment - Victoria especially - along with some brief comments on less striking results (but strikingly if typically bad reporting) in federal Newspoll land.


A widespread narrative in Victoria has been that Premier Daniel Andrews is severely on the nose and his Premiership is in crisis, either because of the second wave of COVID-19 in the state that resulted from avoidable quarantine failures on his watch, or from the severity of lockdowns deployed in response to (so far successfully) bring new case numbers down.  

Victoria has recently seen public voting intention polling, finally, via a 51.5-48.5 lead in Roy Morgan Research's SMS polling.  I am not a fan of SMS polls as a method (I think they are too prone to motivated response), and Morgan's recent state polls have a history of volatility and being rather inaccurate, but at least this is something.  Also, ALP-linked campaigning firm Red Bridge has issued a 53.5-46.5 result for Labor.  These results followed Liberal Party MediaReach polling that had the Liberals picking up massive swings in a group of Labor-held seats (which if applied statewide would see Labor losing), but this is the same firm that, for instance, had the Territory Alliance on course to be the largest party in the NT parliament (it won a single seat very narrowly).  The internal poll also showed a rather heavy fall in the Greens vote, which seemed unlikely in the absence of anything that would cause it and given the general resilience of the Greens vote in recent elections (OK, except for Eden-Monaro.)  

Critics have continued to suggest that Andrews has cooked his goose and is now doomed, perhaps even at risk of a leadership challenge before the term is out.  But Newspoll says otherwise, for now at least: Andrews' net rating is up seven points from +20 to +27 (62-35).  Perhaps it is helping his cause that case numbers in the second wave are rapidly dropping (and have dropped further since the new poll was taken), whereas at the time of the previous poll they were growing out of control.  

It should also be noted that this result can't be explained away by modest sample size.  The theoretical margin of error is around 4%, so maybe Andrews' approval is really 58 or 66 not 62, but it doesn't really matter.  

Nationally, 61% think Victoria's restrictions are just right, 25% think too strict and 10% say too lenient.  But in Victoria, the lead for just right falls to 54-37.  

Much gnashing and wailing has been seen on the pages of the Australian already in response to this inconvenient result and much more will be seen elsewhere, but there's a lot of overthinking going on.  At the moment, most people really want to feel safe, and movements and attacks based on any other presumption have been falling flat.  

It is worth noting that while Newspoll finds satisfaction with Daniel Andrews to be on a par with some of the other Premiers, Essential finds satisfaction with his government's performance in managing COVID-19 to be lagging, at 47% compared with values from 67-84% for other states.  


The Queensland results are also quite significant because Annastacia Palaszczuk's government is just six weeks out from an election that at this point is hard to predict.  There has been no useful statewide voting intention polling data for Queensland since way back at the end of July, so it's hard to even estimate what's going on there, but so far the heat of battle has done little to deflate the Premier's COVID-19 approval bounce.  Annastacia Palaszczuk is down insignificantly from net +35 in late July to net +30 (63-33) now.  

There is actually no precedent for a Premier with such a high net satisfaction rating in a sample taken entirely this close to an election losing.  The nearest approaches are:

* Rob Kerin (SA) +28 on the eve of an election he very narrowly lost (early Feb 2002) and +39 in Nov-Dec sample of the year before.  Kerin had only been Premier for a few months.

* Wayne Goss (Qld) +45 in May-June and +28 two weeks out from the mid-July 1995 election that Labor initially won by one seat, but ended up handing over government mid-term after one of their wins was annulled and they lost the subsequent by-election.

* Jeff Kennett (Vic) +22 in July-August and +12 on election eve for the mid-September 1999 election that he narrowly lost.

We shouldn't place too much stock in Palaszczuk's current high netsat as a predictor because the relationship between COVID-19-fuelled approval ratings and actual voting intention seems to be very patchy - super-popular Premiers like Gutwein and probably McGowan are getting large lifts but the Morrison federal government has gained relatively little, and Queensland Labor was trailing in voting intention even while the Premier polled strong personal ratings in June-July.  Nonetheless I don't recommend ignoring it either.  

Newspoll finds 53% of voters nationwide think Queensland's restrictions are about right, 37% think they are too strict and 7% think they are too lenient.  However, in Queensland, "about right" holds a 58-32 lead.  It's NSW, Victoria and the ACT where the margin is closer - and they won't be voting on October 31. (Essential has made a very similar finding this week.)

South Australia

It is also worth briefly mentioning the YouGov poll of SA released last week.  Despite a rough run with expenses scandals that have cost it a few Ministers and triggered chaotic speakership election chaos in both houses, Steven Marshall's Liberal government has polled a 53-47 lead.  This may sound underwhelming since it is only a 1% swing before the election, but it is a six-point turnaround from the same poll in early March.  Premier Marshall enjoys a very strong +52 net personal rating (68-16) and a 54-26 lead on the Better Premier metric (which skews to incumbents).  The poll is far from terrible for Labor, with leader Peter Malinauskas continuing to poll better than other Opposition Leaders for whom data exists (he's at net +22 (44-22).  However the 46-35 primary vote lead to the government would be of some concern, as would the possibility that without the ministerial and parliamentary chaos, the government would be even further ahead.


The federal Newspoll came in at 51-49 2PP, a one-point lift for the government.  However this one-point 2PP lift came from a poll with the government and Opposition up 2% and down 2% respectively on the primary vote.  I get the typical 2PP off the published primaries at 51.3%, so the government may well have been close to getting rounded up to 52-48.  

The poll mainly attracted commentary because the previous Newspoll had seen a tightening to 50-50.  This may have been explained by heat on the government over aged care failures in the COVID-19 response during the previous poll cycle, but it may also be viewed as a bit of an outlier.

As well as the large degree of attention heaped (as usual) on a statistically insignificant partial correction to the shift in the previous poll, the new poll generated an error-ridden article from Simon Benson, which I decline to link to:

* "[..] Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s approval ratings tumble into negative territory for the first time." - False.  Albanese had recorded six previous negative net satisfaction ratings, five of them last year and one in late February.

* "For the first time this year, the Labor leader’s net approval ratings went negative, with a four-point fall to 39 per cent in satisfaction levels compared with 40 per cent dissatisfied." - False.  See above; net -1 is not even Albanese's worst rating of the year.

* "The improvement maintains Mr Morrison’s long-running popularity since the pandemic but is still short of the record highs in support in June and July when he reached 68 per cent approval." - Misleading.  68% was not any kind of record (the record is 71% held by Kevin Rudd).  Morrison did set a record of sorts for keeping his satisfaction rating so high over an extended period (nobody else has been at +66 or above over a three and a half month period) but this is meaningless because the change in YouGov methods late last year has artificially increased Morrison's satisfaction rating.  Net satisfaction is the better measure for historical comparisons, and on that front Morrison still has several weeks to go to break Kevin Rudd's record for the longest streak above net +30 (just over six months).

* "a corresponding fall for Labor, which has returned to near-historical lows of 34 per cent." - Misleading.  34% is near to the historic low for the party in an election, but it is not near the historic low for the party in polling.  The Gillard government at one point sank to a primary vote of 26%.

I have had a long-running Not-A-Poll in the sidebar regarding what sort of net rating Scott Morrison would be polling come September.  The PM easily outperformed the expectation of the voters on this site.  The most popular pick was +20, with 28% of the votes, and the average pick was +16.2, but closest to the pin was +30, with 22.6%.  Morrison's actual netsat was +34 (65-31).  

Comparative Summary

I thought it would be worthwhile writing a comparative summary of where the different governments and leaders stand in terms of leader approval and whether they have got anything out of COVID-19 in voting intention terms:

Federal (Morrison, Lib): leader approval high, slight boost to voting intention

NSW (Berejiklian, Lib): leader approval high, no evidence on voting intention

Vic (Andrews, ALP): leader approval high, ahead on voting intention (weak evidence) but with swing against from previous election

Qld (Palaszczuk, ALP): leader approval high, no recent evidence on voting intention but was slightly behind in late July

WA (McGowan, ALP): leader approval stratospheric, sketchy evidence on voting intention suggests massive lead

SA (Marshall, Lib): leader approval very high, large boost on voting intention off low polling base

Tas (Gutwein, Lib): leader approval stratospheric, massive boost in voting intention

We have no reliable approval data for the NT or ACT Chief Ministers but NT Labor was comfortably returned despite seat losses, while there is not much to see on voting intention in a single recent commissioned ACT poll.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Guardian debut

Just a very quick post to put up a prominent link to my debut article for The Guardian, a general preview of the Queensland election:

Queensland 2020 elections will be a test of state's COVID response

(This is a single commissioned piece, similar to commissioned pieces I have done in the past for other outlets, most frequently The Mercury.  I thank the Guardian very much for their interest in my work.)

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Tasmanian Electoral Reform and A Current Electoral Amendment Bill

There has been much discussion of the progress, or lack thereof, of electoral reform in Tasmania in recent weeks.  Most of this discussion has focused on donation law reform issues including disclosure requirements, possible donation caps and potentially public spending. These matters were addressed in the Electoral Act Reform Report, which was reportedly completed in December 2019 but remains unreleased.  Premier Gutwein has stated that the progress on electoral reform is not a priority for the government at the moment because it is occupied with coronavirus-related challenges.  

There is still (barring an early election, regarding which speculation has declined) plenty of time for reforms to House of Assembly donations processes to be passed prior to an expected March 2022 election, should the parliament choose to do so.  (My broad view is that donation reform before that election - to increase both the range and timeliness of required disclosures - would be extremely desirable as the current requirements are far too lax, but that spending caps require very careful consideration to avoid the errors of a previous attempt.)

However, the issues being addressed in the current reform process (at least I will assume it's still a thing and is just stalled for the time being) include other matters in the Tasmanian Electoral Act that affect elections for both houses, and that could affect the Legislative Council elections scheduled for May 2021.  These include the Section 191 authorisation requirements for material displayed on the internet (including social media) and also the Section 196 bans on naming candidates in some kinds of material without their consent.

Bringing the latter issue into focus, the Greens have been informed that the Director of Public Prosecutions does not intend to charge them with an alleged breach of Section 196 that arose during the recent Huon Legislative Council contest.  I have not seen any further detail regarding this.  The issue was covered in some detail in my Huon guide in the Campaign section.  The Greens had made a Facebook post including a video that encouraged voters to vote for their candidate and tried to wedge Labor candidate Bastian Seidel (by name) over Labor's post-2018-election backdown on poker machines.  (The wedge attempt failed; Seidel won spectacularly.)  

While I am also unconvinced that Section 196 was breached, I also understand Labor's action in making a complaint about it.  It is difficult for parties to campaign when the meaning of legislation is unclear and where opponents are using tactics that the party itself may prefer not to use out of fear that they may be breaking the law.

Section 196

Section 196 holds that:

(1)  A person must not between the issue of the writ for an election and the close of poll at that election print, publish or distribute any advertisement, "how to vote" card, handbill, pamphlet, poster or notice which contains the name, photograph or a likeness of a candidate or intending candidate at that election without the written consent of the candidate.

Penalty:  Fine not exceeding 300 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.

Issues with Section 196 include:

1. Its application to the internet is unclear.  There is a view that it does not apply to the internet at all because it predates the existence of the internet, and elsewhere in the Act clauses have been added to apply to the internet.

2. Even if it applies to the internet, it is vague.  It's generally reasonably obvious what an "advertisement" or a "notice" are when they are paper items, either free-standing or published in a newspaper.  But is a person posting an unpaid comment or other content online supporting a particular candidate posting an "advertisement", and is it a "notice" if it does not advertise any specific event, but just describes a point of view?

3. It's an unnecessary restriction on free speech.  It is not clear why people should be completely banned from commenting on other candidates by name or using photos of opponents.  Such restrictions don't exist in federal electoral law.  The law does have the effect of minimising use of how-to-vote cards, including by candidates involved in intra-party contests, but such cards would have almost no effect anyway, given that canvassing within 100 metres of polling booths and advertising on polling day are both banned.

4. It is likely to be unconstitutional in some cases. This is not as clear as many opponents of the section make out, because the implied freedom of communication on political matters in Australia applies only to free speech on matters relevant to voter choice at federal elections.  However, there's scope for the latter to include some things said during a state campaign.  See Anne Twomey here.  There has been at least one case of a purely state-related electoral restriction being found not to breach implied freedom.

Ogilvie's Proposals

Independent Madeleine Ogilvie has introduced an Electoral Amendment (Digital Communications) Bill which has passed the first reading stage, as almost all bills do.  However as a private members' bill I would expect it to now stay on the back burner unless there is ever any will in government to bring it forward for debate.  

Regarding Section 196 Ogilvie's proposal is to expand it to include "Digital Communications", which are defined as " a communication utilising a carriage service provider, internet carriage service, broadcasting service, any other content service or datacasting service." (It seems this definition would apply to some audio communications that might not be necessarily "digital" in nature.)

My comments: while this would clarify Section 196 to some degree, it would not remove the unclarity about what is a "poster" or an "advertisement".  It would also expand the range of material that Section 196 clearly refers to, but I think this is moving in the wrong direction and that the pressing need with Section 196 is actually to get rid of it. My view is that Section 196 should be abolished, but that Section 197 (electoral matter that misleads the voter in relation to the casting of their vote) should be expended to include electoral matter that misleads the voter concerning its authorship or source.  This would catch how to vote cards that purport to benefit one party but actually benefit another, which might otherwise be legal. 

Regarding Section 197, Ogilvie's proposal is to expand it to include Voice Calls, defined as " a voice call, the content of which consists wholly of a spoken conversation between individuals, or a call the content of which includes a recorded voice."

My comments: while I am unsure about whether the definition above captures too much (it sounds like it could include even a private phone call) I think the idea of adding robocalls to the list of ways in which someone cannot mislead voters as to the casting of their votes closes a loophole and is a good idea.  

While I am doubtful whether these proposals will actually go anywhere, I think it is worth commenting on them anyway.  My hope is that there will be progress on those sections affecting Legislative Council elections prior to May 2021, or failing that, at least in time for the 2022 lower house and Legislative Council elections.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Curiouser And Curiouser: Recent Queensland Poll And Poll-Shaped Objects Roundup

The Queensland election is six weeks away and there has been no mainstream polling for it since the Newspoll in late July showed the LNP leading 51-49.  There are, however, a number of minor polls flying around and it's time to round them up and put them in a box.  In at least one case, the lid should then be taped firmly shut.

Polls "reported" recently have been:

Australian Institute for Progress (statewide)
YouGov (Currumbin, Redlands and Mansfield)
Omnipoll (Ipswich, Keppel, Mackay, Thuringowa)
Lonergan (Maiwar, McConnell, South Brisbane)

A further poll by AskAustralia Market Research has been reported in field but no results have yet been seen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Age And Canberra Are Still Killing State Governments

 Advance Summary

1. One of the most important factors in state election outcomes is the influence of whether the governing party at state level is in Government or Opposition federally.  To be the same party as the federal Government is a disadvantage.

2. Another important factor is the age of the state government, with governments tending to do worse the longer they have been in office.  

3. In the last six years, all same-party state governments that have faced elections have lost seats in significant numbers.

4. In the meantime, two of the three opposite-party governments gained seats (though one very old opposite-party government was defeated, but with a 2PP swing to it.)

4. It might seem logical that if the federal government at one state election was the same as at the previous election for that state, then this factor would not generate further swings against an incumbent state government of the same party, or further protection for one of the opposite party.

5. However, the evidence suggests otherwise.  It appears that more voters continue turning against state governments that are of the same party as the federal government, over successive elections, even when the same federal government had been in office at the state election before.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

EMRS: Tasmania Is A One-Party COVID State

EMRS August Liberal 54 (+11 since March), Labor 24 (-10), Greens 12 Others 10

EMRS May Liberal 52 Labor 28 Greens 10 Others 10

Seat projection if August poll is accurate Liberal increased majority (15-16 Lib 6-7 ALP 2-3 Green)

Seat projection if May poll is accurate Liberal increased majority (15-16 Lib 7 ALP 2-3 Green)

Lowest combined Labor/Green primary vote in EMRS history

Finally we have some new voting intention polling for Tasmania courtesy of the release of an EMRS poll for August accompanied by a back-released poll for May.

We already knew that Premier Peter Gutwein was enjoying virtually universal popularity in the state, courtesy of his Australian record 90% approval rating but it was unclear whether this was translating to anything much in voting intention terms.  It seemed especially doubtful that it was after the Liberals' very high profile candidate Jo Palmer only snuck across the line by 260 votes in the Rosevears Legislative Council contest a month ago, while Labor had a storming win in Huon (albeit without an official government candidate).  This all put to bed building speculation about an early Tasmanian election, but that speculation may return now, although an early election that could create COVID risks would be a risky idea absent of any narrative as to why it was required.  For sure, the disastrous showing by Labor in this poll will trigger leadership speculation, and when the numbers are this stark, the momentum for change sometimes quickly becomes unstoppable.

The voting intention results, if realised at an actual election, would result in an increased Liberal majority, the obvious comparison point being the 2014 state election (Liberal 51.2 Labor 27.3 Greens 13.8 and the Liberals managed 15 seats, though with some help from a lucky breakdown of individual vote shares in the seat of Braddon.)  That does not mean we can reliably assume that an election called right now would see such results, as polling bounces caused by unusual events will often deflate as voters focus on an election campaign.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Preference Flows And The Eden-Monaro Result

 The much-awaited Eden-Monaro preference flows are finally out, following some time after the distribution of preferences, and it's useful to make some comments about these.  (Also see Antony Green's comments.) 

Labor won the by-election by 735 votes (50.39% 2PP).  This means that had 368 voters who preferenced Kristy McBain instead preferenced Fiona Kotvojs, Kotvojs would have won.  This is relevant for checking various claims about preferences of particular parties deciding the result.  In my Eden-Monaro live thread I set some markers at the time for particular preference shifts causing or not causing the result.  

Did Nationals preference flows weakening cause Labor to win?

Answer: Yes - but this isn't necessarily what it looks like.  In Eden-Monaro in 2019 an unusually strong 87.16% of Nationals preferences flowed to Fiona Kotvojs.  At the 2020 by-election the flow was only 77.73%, making a difference of 571 votes to each side's total, and a difference of double that to the margin.  While it was unrealistic for the very high flow from 2019 to have been maintained, any flow above 81.08% would have resulted in the Liberals winning the seat.  That figure is almost exactly the 2019 national average in contests where the Nationals were excluded, so the switch from an above-average to a below-average Nationals to Liberals preference flow can be said to have cost the Liberals the seat.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

2020 Northern Territory Election Live And Post-Count

Election over - ALP 14 CLP 8 TAP 1 IND 2 
ALP returned with reduced majority 

2PP Estimate 54.1 to ALP (Mulka excluded; effective 3.1% swing to CLP)

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