Saturday, November 17, 2018

Site colour change

From time to time I change the colour of this site, often partly or entirely for some reason connected with its content.  Examples of past colours adopted have been:

a shade of dark blue which was the subject of a ludicrous cease-and-desist letter from the Tasmanian Liberal director asking that an "independent liberal" candidate cease using the colour "Liberal Blue"
Orange, partly in amazement at Cathy McGowan's team finding 1000 votes under the proverbial table during the 2013 Indi count.
Purple, signifying neutrality between the major parties
The colour of Senate ballot papers, moving to a purely psephological colour as an expression of disgust with the federal parliament over anti-free speech provisions in the rushed-through same-sex marriage plebiscite safeguards bill.
Burnt orange, flying SA-BEST colours in protest against SA Labor and Liberal parties preferencing the Australian Conservatives.

The new colours (though I'm fiddling with the combination to try not to make it too hard on the eyes) are another protest, concerning the behaviour of nearly every party in or leading up to the current Victorian Legislative Council election.

Virtually every party in this election has supported, deceptively misused, enabled or failed to adequately fight Group Ticket Voting and its rampant abuse by preference-harvesters.  None of the parties in the current parliament introduced legislation to abolish GVTs at any stage.  Beyond the initial Electoral Matters report, I cannot even find any evidence that anyone even spoke in parliament against it.  Virtually all the ticket orders submitted, whether from parties inside or outside the parliament, either engage in preference harvesting or else preference parties that are obvious preference harvesters above at least some of the mainstream parties.

The only party that has adopted a preference ticket ordering that is clearly consistent with the philosophy of its likely voters, speaking out against dodgy Group Ticket Voting deals in the process, is the Victorian Socialists.  As a result, without copying their look, I have lifted some red and black colours from their website.

I am not even nearly a socialist and never thought I'd be flying the Red Flag for any reason. Heck, 20 years ago local socialists (Resistance especially) were my favourite prey items apart from homophobes and the religious Right, and some of them still hate me for it. 

But when injustice remains electoral law, resistance becomes duty!

(This is not an endorsement, just a symbolic protest - it is site policy to oppose obnoxious candidates or parties from time to time but to never endorse anyone.)   

Friday, November 16, 2018

Wentworthless: Another Epic Seat Poll Fail

The failures of seat polling have been a common subject on this site this year.  See Is Seat Polling Utterly Useless?, Why Is Seat Polling So Inaccurate and How Did The Super Saturday Seat Polls Go?

The recent Wentworth by-election was difficult to poll because of a late strategic-voting swing of probably a few to several points from Labor to the winner Kerryn Phelps.  All seven polls that polled a Liberal vs Phelps two-candidate preferred vote did actually get the right winner.  But that is all the good news that there is.  In so many other respects, the seat polls for the historic Wentworth by-election, perhaps the most polled seat in Australian history, were way wrong. And like other recent seat poll failures in such seats as Bass, Macarthur, Dobell, Lindsay and Longman, the failures were characterised not just by the polls being very wrong, but also by them tending to be wrong in the same direction.  The problems go beyond small sample size, and beyond even the tendency of seat polls to be less accurate than their sample sizes say they should be.  They point to systematic errors not random ones, and in this case, I suspect, to the oversampling of the politically engaged.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fear And Loathing With Victorian Upper House Preference Flows

Following the launch of Antony Green's Legislative Council calculator I've been playing around with some possible scenarios for the Victorian upper house group ticket flows.  Quite a few people are doing this and so there are a number of different estimates about what might happen out there.  What we know from the past is to expect the unexpected - we can say that it looks like preference harvesters will win several undeserved seats, but it's hard to say which ones they will be and who.  The whole exercise is incredibly sensitive to starting assumptions - one micro-party you've never heard of might get 1% instead of 0.5% and suddenly something completely different happens.

At the last Victorian election, five candidates won seats as a result of preference-harvesting:

* In Eastern Victoria, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (2.44%) beat ALP-2 (8.68% over quota) and Green (8.23%)
* In Northern Metro, the Sex Party (2.87%) beat Labor-3 (7.06% over quota)
* In Northern Victoria, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (3.5%) beat L-NP-3 (7.84% over quota) and Greens (7.68%)
* In Western Metro, Democratic Labour Party (2.57%) beat ALP-3 (10.65% over quota) and L-NP-2 (6.90% over quota)
* In Western Victoria, Vote 1 Local Jobs (1.28%) beat Greens (9.19%)

There weren't any cases of candidates winning from well below 1%, but based on our experience of the new Senate system since, none of the above would have won had voters made their own preferencing decisions.  These parties only won because the Group Ticket Voting system created completely fake near-100% preference flows.  Perhaps, had the Senate system been implemented in Victoria before that election, some of the minor parties would have merged into larger groups and polled higher primaries, but that doesn't seem all that likely.

With the release of the new round of Group Tickets it seems that almost all parties have been involved in backroom preference-trading.  There are again tight flows between the micro-parties, largely believed to be networked by Glenn Druery, that seem designed to elect a particular winner or choice of winners in each seat.  Labor has preferenced a range of, for progressives, dubious parties above the Greens in what looks like an attempt to replace the Greens with Druery parties:

* The Aussie Battler Party, an anti-immigration populist outfit that wants to place juries of randomly selected citizens in control of many aspects of the political system, and that promotes illiberal law and order policies including indefinite sentences. This party is the latest home for long-time conservative party-hopper Vern Hughes.
* Sustainable Australia, a seemingly environmentally focused party that is actually a home for old-style pre-Tampa immigration-cutting Dick Smithery.
* The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.  Guns!
* The Liberal Democrats.  More guns!


The Greens are far from blameless themselves, having preferenced the anti-vaccination, anti-fluoridation Health Australia Party, the aforementioned Aussie Battlers and Sussos, and also the law-and-order-loving Derryn Hinch's Justice Party all above Labor in various seats.

This basically means that if you want to vote for either Green or Labor and preference the other in the Upper House without your vote going to at least partial right-wingers or crackpots first, you have no choice but to vote below the line.  

The Liberals, for their part, seem to think that the only parties worse than Labor and the Greens are the Australian Liberty Alliance and Victorian Socialists.

Some of the micro-party preference orderings might be taken as vaguely logical (Fiona Patten's Reason Party) while others (eg Animal Justice) are simply all over the place.  I mention the Victorian Socialists (see comments) as one party that has produced an ordering that very closely reflects its likely voters' views.  The Liberal Democrat and Hinch Party orderings of the major parties and Greens jump around between individual candidates in a way designed to confuse the average voter out of having the slightest idea who is actually being preferenced and what the effect will be.

Some possible scenarios

In trying to test some ranges of possible outcomes, here were some assumptions I made:

* Labor currently seems on track to win the election with a modest swing to it, based on state polling.  I assumed this would be the case, all else being equal, and that the Labor primary might be up a shade.

* The field of micro-parties looks mostly weaker than last time, especially on the religious Right.  So even if Labor wins the election I assumed the Liberal primary would be little changed.

* Generally I gave new and unknown parties about half a percent of the vote, unless they seemed hopelessly limited in appeal (Hudson For Northern Victoria won't get a lot of votes outside Northern Victoria, if even there).

* Logos are now displayed on ballot papers.  I assumed this would reduce the strength of the link between ballot position relative to the majors and votes for the confusingly-named parties (Liberal Democrats and Labour DLP).

* I thought the vote for Labour DLP might be down somewhat as the party has lost all the MPs it formerly had at state and federal level.

* The calculator assigns votes for the Sex Party to Fiona Patten's Reason Party.  But as with the change from Family First to Australian Conservatives, the name change switches from a name with a certain appeal to low information voters to a name that is more obscure (and I also think, in Reason's case, pretentious.)  I could be wrong but Reason might not do as well as the Sex Party did, outside of Patten's home seat.

* It's hard to predict what vote Derryn Hinch's Justice Party might get without Hinch on the ballot paper.  In states outside Victoria it polled less than 1% in the 2016 election.  I think it should do quite a bit better here and have guessed 2-3%.

On my first run of this and with some subsequent fiddling, here were some possible outcomes I got:

* Eastern Metro: In my first attempt I got Transport Matters off 0.5% beating the Greens off 10.4%.  If Transport Matters dropped out early or the Liberal Democrats polled 5% off name confusion (seems unlikely) then the Liberal Democrats took the seat instead.  Either way I seemed to get a preference harvester alongside two of each major party.

* Eastern Vic: On my first attempt the Liberal Democrats off 4% beat the Greens off 8.4%.  If I reduced the Lib Dem vote, the Shooters Fishers and Farmers won off 2.4% instead.  Again I kept getting two majors apiece and a preference harvester.

* North Metro: My first attempt elected two Labor, a Liberal, a Green and one from Hinch Justice, with the latter on 2% beating ALP-3 on 10.4%.  When I tried to elect Fiona Patten instead of Hinch Justice, I found I had to jack her vote up to around 7%.  Depending on how much of that I took from the Greens, in some cases I could leave the Greens short of quota and elect both Patten and the Hinch candidate (this seems unlikely.)

[EDIT: As commenter hoddlegrid notes, and as others have confirmed on Twitter, the Victorian Socialists in this district are well above average "socialist" ballot clutter level, and seem to be running a well organised union-backed campaign with a lot of street presence and a reasonably high-profile candidate.  The Socialists have very poor preference flows but a strong result for them at least improves the chances of the Greens and Reason compared to Hinch Party; it seem the Socialists would need about 6% themselves for any chance of winning.  If the Greens and Patten do well it becomes more like 9%.  Anything in this range seems unlikely.  If the Hinch Party bombs out I also found chances for Animal Justice and Liberal Democrats].

* Northern Vic: My first attempt here got two of each major and a Liberal Democrat, with the latter off even 2.5% beating the Greens (8%) and Lib-3 (the same).   I had to knock the Liberal Democrat down to below 1% before they lost to Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

* SE Metro: Here I got a sane result of 3 Labor, 2 Liberal at the first attempt, and 2 Labor, 2 Liberal 1 Green was just about as easy to get.

* Southern Metro: On my first attempt I got an unlikely snowball with two of each major and Sustainable Australia (0.5%) beating the Greens (15.6%).  However, see note at the top (I had a crunch point where SA would need almost every preference to get over at least one major), and the snowball is very prone to collapsing early if the primary vote is low.  So probably 2-2 with 1 Green was a more realistic outcome for the range of numbers I was looking at.  However if I give Sustainable Australia a non-trivial vote, over 1%, in some cases I get them up with the Greens and with Labor getting only one.

* Western Metro: Here on my first go I had 3 Labor, 1 Liberal and then Aussie Battler Party (0.5%) beating Green and Liberal-2 (each 10.5%).  If I knocked out Aussie Battler early then the Greens or in other simulations Shooters (even off 1.3%) won the seat.

* Western Victoria: The most dramatic one til last - I got a 2-2 major split with DHJP (2.5%) easily beating Greens (9.4%).  I tried cutting the Hinch candidate down to see how low I had to go to beat them and they didn't lose until reduced to 0.32%.

Overall the Greens seem to struggle - while North Metro might not realistically fall, their other three chances are all shaky.  Both the Liberal Democrats and Hinch Justice seem to have some very good flows, though a note of caution is required because if it is close and comes down to Below The Line votes, then the Liberal Democrats will tend to lose.  With varying degrees of likelihood I found micros possibly winning off c. 0.5% of the vote or even less in up to four seats.

These were just my experiments and others doing the same thing (with varying levels of idea what they are doing) are getting different possible outcomes.  Check the Poll Bludger thread, and also Tim Colebatch's Age piece (written before Antony Green's calculator was unveiled).  Also Antony Green has more voting advice - though I am not so sure that some of these specific disasters will actually happen as he is.  Feel free to leave exciting finds in comments!

Just Don't Vote Above The Line. For Anyone!

Voting below the line is easy in Victoria - you only need to vote 1-5 for candidates.  If you're a major party voter you can even vote for your own party's candidates and then stop if you like.  For a minor party voter, you might need to pick a few more.  Your vote won't be as powerful as if you keep on going, but even stopping at 5 is better than voting above the line.  If your vote exhausts at 5 it still doesn't help candidates with no actual voter support beat candidates with voter support, in the way that an above the line vote often will.  The best thing to do is to keep going, ranking any micro party you do not know either last or only above parties you utterly can't stand - especially if the micro has a gimmicky-sounding name like, oh, "Aussie Battler".  Numbering all the boxes below the line - if you have time - will make your vote most powerful and can never help a candidate further down on your list beat a candidate who you prefer.  (If you're short of time, feel free to leave out the second candidates from all the micro parties, since they'll never get elected anyway.)

Voting above the line instead of taking the effort to number a mere five boxes is an act of cowardice and shirking.  Willingly handing out how to vote cards that encourage voters to misdirect their preferences with a 1 above the line is on a par with giving cigarettes to children and then lighting them.  If parties are too lazy and self-interested to fix group ticket voting in the few states that still have it, maybe voters have to do it for them by making aiding and abetting preference harvesters socially unacceptable.  Just remember, everybody: friends don't let friends vote above the line.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Poll Roundup: Well That Wasn't Much Of A Honeymoon

2PP Aggregate: 54.8 to Labor (+0.8 since last week) by 2016 preferences
54.2 to Labor with One Nation adjustment
Labor would win election "held now" with a very large majority 

It's been a while since my last federal poll roundup.  At that time the Coalition's polling was recovering from the shock caused by the messy and (to the public) inexplicable coup that deposed Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, and it was too soon to read anything into what we were seeing.  Because the Coalition's polling was in recovery mode but the new Prime Minister was still in a polling honeymoon period it was a matter of waiting for things to settle down to get a feeling for how competitive the Coalition really was.

On my aggregate, the recovery from a post-coup low of 43.9% peaked at 46.7% after seven weeks, and since then things have been getting worse rather than better.  Furthermore, since the defeat in Wentworth, they have been getting worse faster, at least if this week's shocker Newspoll is anything to go by.  The Coalition's current position is worse than at any time with Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, and also worse than all but the worst few weeks under Tony Abbott.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Not-A-Poll: Best State Premiers Of The Past 40 Years: Round 2

Two months ago I started a round of Best State Premier Not-A-Polls.  Winners from each state will eventually go through to an elimination-style final similar to my Best Prime Minister series.  Also the skew in this site's reader base (and that's probably not the only cause) led to Labor Premiers winning round 1 in every state, so I am starting a Best Non-Labor Premier/Chief Minister runoff as well.

As it has turned out six states have finished up with two-candidate runoffs.  The first named was the round 1 winner in every case except Queensland which was a tie.

NSW Neville Wran vs Bob Carr
Victoria Steve Bracks vs Daniel Andrews (postponed to January to reduce Vic election contamination)
Queensland Peter Beattie vs Wayne Goss
Western Australia Geoff Gallop vs Carmen Lawrence
Tasmania Jim Bacon vs Lara Giddings
ACT Katy Gallagher vs Jon Stanhope

All these runoffs will go for one month.  (Voting in the sidebar, closes 6 pm Nov 30.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

2018 Hobart City Council Count (With Some Coverage Of Other Councils)

The number above appears at the top of my coverage to highlight the final informal vote rate for the Hobart City Council councillor count, as a result of absurdly strict formality requirements. Launceston (7.94%) and Clarence (7.24%) are not far behind.  

This level of informal vote as a result of absurd legislation is a farce, an insult to democracy, and a threat to the legitimacy of seats being decided by a handful of votes.  The informal rate was 100 times the final seat margin in Hobart.

I call on the state government and other parties in the Lower House to immediately and publicly commit to fixing this problem.  The current government did not create this problem, but the problem should have been fixed after the last election four years ago.

Coverage follows below.

Note added Saturday night: I will be mostly offline for the coming week (Nov 4-10) so comment clearance will be slow.

Introduction (from Tuesday)

Welcome to my live coverage thread for the Hobart City Council count, which will also have some comments on other councils when I find time to look at them.  My Hobart candidate guide and preview was here and has probably been viewed by about 20% of Hobart voters.  Updates will be added below the dotted lines; check back regularly through the week for comments.  These introductory comments will stay at the top, there are also some more detailed introductory comments at the bottom.

Friday, October 26, 2018

2018 Victorian State Election Intro

It's very close to the 2018 Victorian state election for me not to have written a thing yet about it!  Largely this has been because my analysis model needs polling to work, and (in common with other recent state elections) there's hardly been any of it.  Anyway, this is an opening offering on some general issues in trying to forecast this election

Let's start with the important bit.  If voting in the Legislative Council (upper house) in Victoria, vote below the line for candidates, not above the line for parties.  You only have to choose five candidates for a valid vote, though you will make your vote a lot more powerful if you number a lot more.  If you vote above the line, your vote will be at the mercy of your party's decisions about where to send your preferences, and they may well choose to send it to a party who you'd be totally opposed to.  Unfortunately, Victoria is one of the two remaining states that has not got rid of the Group Ticket voting system.  Keep control of your own vote and say no to preference-harvesting which can lead to unknown parties electing unaccountable candidates off tiny percentages of the vote.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ways To Improve Tasmanian Council Elections

On Tuesday I voted in the Hobart City Council elections.  (By the way, if you haven't voted yet, you might want to take your vote direct to your local council centre.) After following this election for months, including researching the candidates and writing a guide to the election it still took me 70 minutes to fill out my ballot papers, albeit with a little live tweeting of my thought processes on the way.  I'm not even convinced I did all that good a job of it, and suspect it would have taken me 3-4 hours to come up with a vote that was the best I could possibly do.  If it wasn't for the fact that there are always people who need putting near the bottom, I would have been wondering why I even bothered.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Wentworth Live: Majority On The Line Again (Plus Post-Count)

WENTWORTH (Lib vs ALP 17.8%)
Dave Sharma (Lib) vs Kerryn Phelps (IND) (16 candidates total)

GAIN by Phelps (IND) - margin will exceed 51:49

Government to lose majority and seat held almost continuously since Federation.

The swings involved, while among the largest, are not an all-time record of any kind. (Not even if you discount Wills 1992)