(Admin note to commenters: I have just done a cleanout of duplicate comments (where people submitted multiple copies of a comment). If you get an email saying your comment was deleted, please don't feel rejected! One comment from a few months back was rejected for being off-topic but there will be a thread on the matter it relates to soon.)
This is the thread where I will post the result and details of the preference distribution that determines the last Tasmanian Senate seat. The thread that has been following the late Senate count and attempting to model the outcome has been extremely popular but has also become far too long and I want to keep the analysis of (i) the known result, once it is known (ii) any recount action that might be necessary, separate.
My thanks to the AEC for their very quick provision of preference distribution information.
On Wednesday at about 10 am the AEC's computer system will be commanded to perform a complete distribution of preferences for the Tasmanian Senate. Liberal Senators Richard Colbeck and David Bushby, Labor Senators Carol Brown and Catryna Bilyk and Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson will be re-elected. Unless all modellers modelling this count have somehow missed something surprising and important, Labor Senator Lin Thorp will lose her seat, which will go to one of Palmer United Party candidate Jacqui Lambie, Liberal candidate Sally Chandler or Sex Party candidate Robbie Swan.
Tasmania has had some close finishes in previous Senate counts (a few thousand votes difference for the final spot or a critical exclusion is fairly common) but this could well be the closest for a very long time and it has been the most complex to attempt to model. You can see my various meanderings about this result on the thread linked to above. We are in the remarkable situation that as we go "to the button" we simply do not know in advance what the outcome will be; we cannot even have much confidence which of the candidates will win. To have that confidence would have involved having someone who knew exactly what they were doing giving up the last few weeks of their time standing over the data entry of a very large number of below-the-line votes.
The following, I think, are the consensus views of the modellers who have attempted to model this count, both on this site and elsewhere:
* The first critical point in the fight for the last place comes when there are seven parties (Greens, Liberal, LDP, Labor, PUP, Sex Party, Family First) remaining. The Sex Party is extremely likely (some modellers say certain) to stay ahead of Family First at this point, in which case Family First are eliminated. If Family First somehow avoid elimination at this point, they probably win.
* The second critical point comes after the exclusion of Family First, with six parties remaining (Greens, Liberal, LDP, Labor, PUP, Sex Party). Whichever of the Sex Party and Labor is last at this point is excluded. The Sex Party is notionally ahead "on the calculator" by 795 votes, but in practice needs to gain an amount variously estimated as between 280 and 605 votes over Labor from the below-the-line votes of a large number of minor parties (the exact target figure depending on the rate of leakage in the Labor ticket, which is hard to predict.) No modeller thinks this is more likely than not to happen. Some modellers think it is almost or even perhaps about as likely to happen as not to happen, while some think it is unlikely.
* The third critical point comes assuming the Sex Party is excluded, with three parties remaining (Liberal, LDP, PUP) after the exclusion of Labor's Lin Thorp and the election of Peter Whish-Wilson. If PUP are last at this point the Liberals win, otherwise PUP win. The contest for last place is between PUP and the Liberal Democrats, who cannot win, but can spoil PUP. The Liberal Democrats are notionally ahead "on the calculator" by 1469 votes, but in practice need to outperform PUP on the preferences of minor parties to exclude them at this point. All modellers think PUP is more likely than not to survive this exclusion but no-one is confident in calling it. It would probably be callable if not for the confusion caused by the name "Liberal Democrats" and the possibility that as the count unfolds they may gain preferences from voters filling out a number of squares and "donkeying" the rest.
It appears that PUP is the best placed of the three parties, but because they need both these last two critical points to go their way and there is a reasonable chance of failure on either, they should not be feeling especially confident. Margins of perhaps only hundreds of votes are involved in a count with tens of thousands of below-the-line ballots. The other two parties cannot be ruled out.
It will take a little while after 10 am for news of the result to filter through.
10:10 am Announcement of the result is expected within about 15 minutes.
10:12 am Examiner journalist Ben McKay tweets that there are unconfirmed reports that Lambie (PUP) has provisionally won. Update: Now stated as confirmed by scrutineers.
10:33 am It is now confirmed by the AEC that Jacqui Lambie is provisional winner. Awaiting distribution of preferences to see how close it was and whether there is risk of challenge.
I have the distribution of preferences and the key margins were:
* Sex Party over Family First by 821.
* Labor over Sex Party by 244 (so close!)
* PUP over Liberal Democrats by a cushy 1276 . Less close than expected but I did warn on the modelling thread that even with a calculator lead of over 2000 the LDP would not necessarily make it (if they had that).
And the moral of this story is that the ABC Calculator does not tell you the result! Lambie had to overturn two calculator leads (Sex over Labor and LDP over PUP) to get this and did so.
The margin is sufficient that I doubt there will be anything further by way of challenges (etc).
The key margins are noted above. The distribution is available here.
The result was the least unexpected of the three that seemed seriously
possible, but I hope people can see from the closeness of one of the
exclusions why there was great reluctance about calling it. It appears
to be the closest Tasmanian result (at a key exclusion) since the
current Senate system started in 1949 (note that this system was
modified by the inclusion of ATL voting in 1984). Notes concerning
issues canvassed in modelling will be progressively added in this space
through the day.
As the Sex Party / ALP exclusion point was the closest I'll look at how that unfolded:
* Leakage from the #1 and #2 Labor tickets was relatively light compared
to many projections with the loss of 124 votes from Carol Brown's
surplus and 19 votes from Catryna Bilyk's. The hold back from John
Dowling to Thorp was 88.4%, slightly but not significantly below normal.
* Net loss from the ALP ticket to the Sex Party ticket at the Labor
surpluses and exclusions was 292 votes. However John Dowling gained 49
votes during the count from other parties so the net effect of ALP
leakage was a loss of 243.
* The Sex Party made large BTL gains on Labor at three exclusions: the
Pirate Party (Sex Party gains 155), the HEMP Party (Sex Party gains 71)
and perhaps surprisingly the Shooters and Fishers Party (Sex Party gains
80). On the latter, see the excellent modelling by Christopher Burge
near the end of comments to the modelling thread here
in which he used an old Victorian count to project that the Sex Party
could gain 70. It seems that Shooters and Fishers voters do not see
their party as a right micro and the Sex Party as a left micro but
rather see both as having a compatible degree of pro-freedom attitude.
* Despite this, if we add up all the exclusions and surpluses on which
the Sex Party gained, they still fell over 60 votes short of catching
Labor on those. A part of the problem here is that some expected gain
exclusions, like Australian Independents, were slight gains to Labor,
while others, like Stable Population Party, were not significant gains
to the Sex Party.
* Labor's margin over the Sex Party was further bolstered - if you can
call 244 votes that - by a string of minor counts where the ALP made
small gains. These most prominently included Liberal Party leakage (44
votes), leakage from Green candidate Helen Burnet (37 votes), the
Country Alliance (29 votes), and the DLP (26 votes) as well as a long
string of others. Ticket order would have influenced the Country
Alliance flow and gender voting and Thorp's remaining left-cred the
Greens flow, but the general impression I got was of Thorp picking up
preferences here, there and everywhere because she had profile in
Tasmania while Swan did not.
It is possible that the Sex Party missed out only because they did not
have reason to believe Tasmania was winnable for them (and nor should
any "left" micro have believed they could win in the state but for the
huge PUP vote providing a tasty bonus to anyone who could deal well
enough and then catch them.) If the Sex Party candidate for Tasmania
had been an even vaguely well-known Tasmanian, I believe that they would
have won this count from the starting position.
I will look at the LDP-PUP point and what happened there later. The
high margin - which was always possible - makes that one less
interesting but it will be useful to see why it was so high.
Actually, rather than me reinventing the wheel, for that one I suggest you have a look at Antony Green's coverage of calculator-to-actual differences here.
A comment about the ABC Senate calculator. The calculator was indeed a useful tool for following and modelling the count but it again caused unnecessary trouble. The trouble was caused by presentation which was not prominently clear about the calculator's limitations. The disclaimers appearing in small print at the bottom should have appeared at the top of the page in, oh, at least 20-point. That would hopefully have discouraged some of the bad reporting we saw of the post-count.
There are some really neat colour graphs by Truth Seeker of the BTL flows here.
In the end, the Tasmanian outcome is not that odd. The party with 2.63 quotas won two seats, the party with 2.30 quotas won two seats, the party with 0.82 quotas won a seat and the party with 0.46 quotas beat the party with 2.63 to the last seat on preferences. Could happen in Hare-Clark even with semi-optional preferencing.
But the process by which this unfolded is bizarre and I think it is worth highlighting some of the strange aspects of it to draw attention to the absurdities of Senate preferencing and the need for reform of a farcical voting and counting system:
1. The Liberals would have won had more voters confused the Liberal Democrats for them. This would have resulted in the LDP eliminating PUP.
2. Liberal scrutineers had a vested interest in campaigning for the inclusion of votes for their traditional rivals the ALP in order to exclude the Sex Party and keep their own candidate in the race. They also had an incentive to have their own votes ruled informal in order to reduce the quota for the same reason.
3. The Sex Party almost won. Had they won it would have resulted in the election of someone from outside the state (but who I suspect would have been welcomed here by many) off a tiny percentage of the primary vote, and a 4-2 left-right split in a state in which Lower House seats split 3-2 to the right (if you count Wilkie as left, which I do).
4. Had PUP received more votes instead of those votes being informal, they may have lost. The reason for this (see geekLections) is that more PUP votes would have increased the quota and reduced Labor's surplus, causing the Sex Party to eliminate Labor. (I think that with an extra 844 votes PUP might have nipped the Sex Party at the three-party exclusion point with the Liberals, but that losing by having too many votes is even possible is rather funny.)
5. A crucial element of PUP's victory was that while nearly all the other micros were snowballing to the Liberal Democrats, PUP received one significant micro preference source: the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party (664 votes ATL). Had these also gone to the LDP, PUP would have lost by twelve votes.
6. Two major contests in the count involved two parties of which one could win the seat and the other was running dead with no prospect of election. One of these was only so high because of a combination of voters mistaking the party's name and preference harvesting. Its candidate had no profile in the state as shown by a negligible BTL vote.
7. The Family First party was only narrowly eliminated. It was eliminated because the Sex Party vote surged on the day compared to pre-poll and postal voting and did so by more than the national average. Had it only surged by the national average, Family First would have won. Whatever the reason for this (and I'll not be shy about accepting a small part of the possible credit, though this might have more to do with it as the postal-to-day swing was strongest in the north) a victory for an extremely anti-gay Family First candidate on the preferences of Bob Brown's former party was averted by 0.25% of the overall Tasmanian vote.
8. Then there's the Inclusive Gregory system, an egregious violation of "one vote one value" that - at certain stages - causes the votes of leakers from the party tickets to lose value while party ticket votes increase in value or lose less value than leakers. This advantaged PUP repeatedly in their fight to get over the Liberal Democrats, eg by downweighting leaks from the Labor and Greens tickets.
9. And finally - and this one I think is the most telling of all - is what happened to the Pirate Party above-the-line votes. The Pirates had 1442 above-the-line votes, which went directly to the Greens. By doing so, they increased the Greens' surplus by 1442 votes, compared to if they had gone somewhere else. But the Green surplus included enormous numbers of Labor and Green above the line votes. Because the Inclusive Gregory system weights surpluses by ballot paper numbers irrespective of their previous reductions in value, this meant that every Pirate ATL vote that reached the Greens was worth almost nothing from the Whish-Wilson surplus on, but increased the net value of the combined Labor and Green ATLs in the surplus by nearly a vote! The result - Pirate Party ATLs that preferenced the Liberals ahead of PUP, causing a benefit to PUP over the Liberals ... of almost exactly the size by which PUP escaped elimination by the LDP.
But if you think this is bad, it is nothing compared to Western Australia, where the fate of as many as five different possible winners of the last two seats has been hanging on minute differences in whether the Australian Voice Party plus the Sports Party exceeds the Rise Up Australia Party, or whether the Shooters catch Australian Christians, or vice versa, or who prevails in a heavyweight showdown between Animal Justice and HEMP (neither of whom can win). Worse still in NSW there has been the (hopefully fading) possibility that an Australian Democrat might be elected, although nobody, including the Australian Democrats, seems to know for sure what an Australian Democrat is anymore!
It is more like a lottery than a democracy. In Tasmania's case it may be argued that the absurdities cancelled out and a reasonably democratic outcome was the product. But if so that was more by luck than by good management, and in other states it looks like the same thing won't be the case.