Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Late Postcount And Expected Recount: Herbert

Yeah OK this is kinda closeish, this one ...
Herbert (LNP 6.2%, Qld)
Cathy O'Toole (ALP) ahead by 8 votes at end (?) of indicative 2PP count
O'Toole provisionally won recount by 35 votes.  
Following distribution of preferences O'Toole has won by 37 votes.
O'Toole will be seated and result can be challenged in court, but will retain seat until court (or by-election called by court) determines otherwise.
At least three incidents in which voters were unable to vote have been alleged.


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This thread will follow the final stages of counting in the extremely close Queensland seat of Herbert, up to at least the declaration of the result.  Herbert was previously covered on the Vanilla Reps seats postcount thread but I have decided to start a new thread for it to prominently address some of the confusion that is going on. However, since  I started the thread, more confusion has arisen after the AEC decided to vary from normal procedure in such cases by going straight to a full recount.

On election night it appeared Labor's Cathy O'Toole should win Herbert with a margin of about 50.4:49.6.  Then the LNP incumbent Ewen Jones surged in postals to a greater degree than expected based on 2013 patterns, partly because there were more of them.  Jones was tracking to win the seat by a few hundred votes with votes running out when two significant counting errors in the ordinary-vote booth counts boosted Labor's position and sent the seat to the wire.

That's where it's stayed, with Cathy O'Toole retaking the lead by eight votes on some of the last remaining votes.  The initial 2PP count is over, although at the time of writing 574 votes are still shown on the AEC site as awaiting processing (I understand from the AEC via William Bowe that those are not live votes - they've been rejected and will be dealt with accordingly).

Normal procedure in similar cases

When these two-party-preferred seats are counted, the initial throw of preferences between the top two candidates is for information purposes only.  Even if the outcome is obvious, preferences must still then be formally distributed by excluding the lowest candidate and transferring each of their votes to the next-numbered candidate, then excluding the second-lowest, and so on until all the votes are left with two candidates.  The end result is a table that looks like this (or did in 2013).

Just about every vote will end up in the same pile (on an LNP vs Labor basis) as the one that it is already in, at the end of this distribution.  However, during this process, errors are sometimes found in the original two-candidate count.  Also, any count that is this close will by now be intensively scrutineered, with the formality of dubious votes being challenged, and in cases fresh decisions made.

The margin at the end of the distribution of preferences determines whether or not there is an automatic recount.  If it is below 100 votes, there must be a full recount; if it is 100 votes or above then the losing party normally needs to show cause why even a partial recount should occur.

The normal procedures are set out in the AEC recount policies.  We've just finished second scrutiny (paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4) and third scrutiny (2.5) is completed before the automatic recount can be triggered (4.1).

In the Fairfax count in 2013 (see 2013 late counting thread) there was some movement in votes during this process.  Clive Palmer provisionally won by 36 votes at the end of the indicative 2PP throw (the point we're apparently at now).  After the distribution of preferences his margin was seven votes, triggering the automatic recount.  After the automatic recount, he was declared winner by 53 votes.  At that point the LNP could have challenged his election in court but decided not to.

Variance from normal procedure

The AEC has decided to vary from normal procedure and go directly to a full recount, on the assumption that the automatic recount requirement will almost certainly be triggered when the distribution of preferences is complete.  This should result in a faster declared result.

What happens after the recount

If after everything we end up with a margin about as close as the current one, then we will have a declared winner.  The declared winner will be seated, but may be challenged in court.  If the margin is extremely slender the AEC might even request the seat to be voided and a by-election held (multiple voting being one thing that could cause this to occur.)  The losing candidate would probably also challenge if there were enough dubious votes for there to be a chance of having the margin, whatever it is, overturned.  Depending on the reasons for a challenge, a successful challenge might result in either a by-election or a new winner being declared.

The stakes are rather high, because at stake is the Coalition's ability to have an absolute majority on the floor after providing its own Speaker, and hence suspend standing orders or do anything else that an absolute majority requires, without any crossbench assistance.

But we're not there yet.  There is still a long way to go.  In 2013 the distribution of preferences in Fairfax took a week and a half, and then the recount (blown out by the vexatious challenging of almost every adverse vote by Clive Palmer's scrutineers) took nearly a month.  It will probably all be much faster this time and they should be able to knock it over in time for the August 8 deadline for the return of the writ. The expected schedule is around two weeks from Thursday 21 July.

For those wondering about previous federal close seat records, the closest federal seat margin to stand was seven votes in Werriwa in 1914 but the closest by 2PP percentage was the Griffith by-election in 1939 (8 votes - hat tip to Malcolm Baalman for spotting this one).  The closest by 2PP percentage at a regular election was Hawker in 1990 (14 votes).  Another famous contender is Stirling in 1974 (12 votes). McEwen in 2007 had a declared margin of 12 votes, but it was amended to 31 by the Court of Disputed Returns,  A one-vote margin in Ballaarat (as then spelled) in 1919 was voided by the Court and a by-election held, and likewise for a five-vote margin in Riverina 1903.  Both were voided because of electoral irregularities.

Updates

Updates on the progress of the recount will be posted here.

Thursday 21 July: Alleged Military Voting Issues: There are claims by Sky News that up to 85 voters based in Townsville and on a military exercise, Exercise Hamel, may have been unable to vote.   More details are still needed on this story including how many, if any, were actually enrolled in Herbert.  The important point is that should it be found that this is grounds for voiding the final result, then that argument could be made by either party.  The fact that soldiers tend to vote conservative is irrelevant.  Michael Maley has also noted that given Section 367 of the Electoral Act, a challenge on these grounds might not go smoothly.

Thursday midnight: There is no change in the figures as yet.  For the 2013 Fairfax recount detailed special results including numbers of vote challenges by booth were posted but I have seen nothing like that so far in this recount.  Hopefully coming!

Friday 11:30 am: There is movement at the station.  O'Toole is up from 44,184 to 44,202 and Jones is up from 44,176 to 44,189, meaning that O'Toole now leads by 13 votes.  There are 6,444 informals. I've seen reports that what actually happened was that some uncounted declaration pre-polls were added, but didn't scrape enough data to confirm this (see discussion on Poll Bludger thread).  I have now copied the current 2PP results by booth so that the cause of further changes can be identified.

There are more claims of irregularities from the LNP camp with Michael McKenna reporting that the LNP claim there were insufficient absent voting papers for Herbert in the seat of Kennedy.  I am unsure why this should delay the recount, whatever its implications for the recount's ability to stand.

Saturday 10 pm: I have been offline today but O'Toole's lead is now nine (44195-44186) and there are minor changes in several booths.

Sunday 12:15 pm: Informal continues to make big gains here; Jones currently leads by one vote (44184-44183).

Monday 12:20 pm: Jones now leads by 12 votes (44,191 to 44,179) but there is a great risk of the margin (whatever it ends up being) being overshadowed by other developments.  Among these we have the ongoing matter of the ADF personnel unable to vote (because of too few polling booths for their exercise); it is still not clear how many are affected.  We have the ballot paper shortage in Kennedy (still no details of the degree of impact there).  Irrelevant to the outcome once a court has looked at it, but we also have Labor (and at least one of my commenters!) objecting to the presence of George Brandis as scrutineer.  Robert Baird (7 News Townsville) has commented that the AEC expect to finish the recount this week.

Unfortunately we are not getting the kind of rich data on numbers of scrutineering challenges and so on that was posted in the case of Fairfax 2013, which makes commenting on the chances of the margin turning around again more difficult.

Monday 3:15:  Jones' lead is now back to 8 votes (44,191 to 44,183).  Looking at the booth data, since Friday Jones has made a net gain of 21.  16 of the 42 booths have had changes to one or both candidate totals, with three cancelling out, O'Toole gaining in eight and Jones in five.  O'Toole has also gained one absent vote.  The main reason Jones has taken the lead is that in a single booth, Railway Estate, he gained 14 votes while O'Toole lost 16.  That looks a lot like a small number of votes might have been in the wrong pile there.

Meanwhile there is yet another alleged irregularity with a claim that 39 patients in a hospital ward in Townsville did not get to vote.

Monday 5:00:  A massive boost to O'Toole with a 39-vote swing in the booth of Vincent and also a small gain in the Nelly Bay booth, putting her now 37 votes ahead (44209 to 44172).

Monday 5:40: Lead to O'Toole now 44.

Monday 6:50: Things continue moving O'Toole's way - she is now up by 47!

Monday 7:10: Another big gain for Labor, this time a 22 vote margin shift in the Northern Beaches booth.  Lead to O'Toole is 73 (44,222-44,149).  There are now 25 booths with changes, but a further six are shown as having been updated (presumably without).  So there may be only another 11 booths to recount.

Tuesday 11:30 am: Some more slight changes with the lead now 74 (44,221-44,147).  No new booths are shown with changes.

Tuesday 11:45 am: Reports that the lead came down to 67 58 without any more booths being checked, but ... the AEC website is down!  Reports are that the recount part will finish today, followed by the preference distribution.
Tuesday 12:30 pm: The AEC website is back up, eight booths have not had any rechecking now and the margin is 57. (44,214-44,157)
Tuesday 1:15 pm: There are seven booths remaining and the margin is 51.  I'm working today so haven't had time to project whether certain kinds of booths are good for one or the other in terms of vote gains.
Tuesday 3:40 pm: Another booth bites the dust and the margin is 49.
Tuesday 4:40 pm: Presumably the smallest remaining booth (a special hospital booth) is in and the margin is 48.  Five booths to go!
Tuesday 5:12 pm: The rally by Jones continues but the lead is not coming down fast enough.  He trails by 40 with four booths to go.  (There may also be postals to be dealt with.)
Tuesday 5:16: Three booths to go and O'Toole has gained a vote and leads by 41.
Tuesday 5:43: Two left and O'Toole leads by 39.
Tuesday 7:21: Just one booth left and O'Toole leads by 37. There have been changes in most of the postcount categories so there may not be much left to go!
Tuesday 7:54: The very last booth has seen a two-vote shift so O'Toole still leads by 35.  Awaiting confirmation as to whether that is the end of the recount and at what point a result might be formalised.  I would assume after the distribution of preferences.

See the comment by Geoff Lambert who has been tracking the total numbers of votes per booth and has noticed that the changes are not just because of movements back and forth between the candidates and the informal pile, but also the total number of votes at specific booths is changing.  I have seen reports to this effect from other electorates too.

Recount Finished: What Does This Mean?

The recount has finished with a margin of 35 to O'Toole.  However as confirmed by the AEC on Twitter, this is not the final result.  The distribution of preferences will be prepared on Wednesday, commence on Thursday and is expected to take at least two days.  Changes are possible in this time but barring extremely sloppy recounting it seems highly unlikely that they will overturn the apparent result.

Distribution of Preferences

Thursday 12:00 The distribution of preferences is presumably underway since O'Toole has gained a vote and now leads by 36.
Friday 11:00  Only two booths have been changed so it seems very few errors indeed are being found and O'Toole now leads by 35.
Saturday 1:30 Eight booths now have changes and O'Toole leads by 39.  Reports vary as to when the distribution will finish with some saying today and others saying the result will not be known til early next week but it looks very much like only small errors are being found, of a vote here and there, and that O'Toole is going to be seated.

Sunday 1:00 The distribution of preferences has finished and Cathy O'Toole has won by 37 votes.  She will be declared the winner and is the new MP for Herbert.  It remains to be seen if a legal challenge will be lodged in the 40 days following the election, but in the event that there is a challenge, O'Toole will be the MP for Herbert until such time as the court either:

* reverses the outcome and awards the seat back to Jones, or
* orders a by-election which O'Toole then fails to win

The first would only happen if the court reversed formality rulings about a large number of votes and as a result declared Jones the winner, but this is not likely.  In the 2007 McEwen case, court rulings on vote formality affected the margin by 19, but awareness of those rulings should mean that such a large impact is unlikely.

The ball is now in the Coalition's court as to whether they bother to challenge.

43 comments:

  1. Should we be worried about the apparent "housekeeping" problem that leads to the presence of 574 "not real votes", in a count as close as this one? Given that the numbers add up if you include them, it seems more than a tad unnerving!

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    1. I should probably reword that bit! They're votes that have been rejected but are not showing up as rejected yet.

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    2. Thanks Kevin. Best explanation I've seen yet!
      Couple of questions.
      Is it common to have nearly 1900 declaration votes excluded?
      Will these excluded votes be reassessed in the course of a recount or are they simply left out from now on (unless there is a Court of Disputed Returns case)?

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    3. Re the 574 Votes:
      The data from the AEC - Dec Progress, Decs Received, Media Feed gives me the following for Herbert as of 8PM

      Enrollment 104841
      Formal Votes Counted 88360
      Informal votes 6444
      Total Counted 94804
      Turn-out so far 90.4%
      TCP Counted 88360
      TCP as %age Formal 100.0%
      TCP Gap 8
      Leading Party ALP
      DEC status
      (http://vtr.aec.gov.au/HouseDecScrutinyProgressByDivision-20499.htm)
      Envelopes received 17043
      Envelopes Rejected 1268
      Envelopes processed 16469
      Envelopes Awaiting Processing 574
      Ballot Papers Disallowed 0
      Ballots Counted 15159

      DECs Received
      (http://vtr.aec.gov.au/Downloads/GeneralDecVotesReceivedByDivisionDownload-20499.csv
      )
      DECs by type Received Counted Not Counted???
      Provisional 1134 229 905
      Absent 3328 2812 516
      PrePoll 3349
      PrePollOwnDivision 122 2765 706
      Postal 9232 8594 638
      Total 17165 14400 2765
      Uncounted DECs 2006

      Sorry for the lack of formatting

      These numbers have been bugging me all day - do the headings used by the AEC mean what they say, or do they mean something different?
      In the AEC data files, the 574 appears against "Envelopes Awaiting Processing.

      As you say, it is an indicative TCP, so was somebody piling up the stacks of votes to calculate this TCP, even though their statistics hadn't been entered into the tables?
      It makes sense - but how did you deduce this?

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    4. I haven't kept exact stats on numbers of exclusions at previous elections but 1900 isn't a figure that I find suspicious or unusual at all. It was very common to see several hundred provisionals rejected per electorate in 2013, for instance.

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    5. From what I can see in the Electoral Act it doesn't appear that decisions to accept or reject declaration votes get revisited in a recount, but I don't claim to be an expert on that matter!

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  2. I can see why I have had problems:
    The CSV Downloads for DEC Progress and the HTML pages for DEC Progress show different fields: the latter are segregated by Vote Type, the former are not.

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  3. I can understand how provisional votes get rejected, and possibly postal if people can't follow fairly simple instructions.

    But given Absent and Dec Pre-poll involve interaction with AEC officials and a check of a (I believe electronic) postal roll, how do these get rejected.

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    1. I don't believe the AEC does yet have universal electronic look-up, especially not in booths on the day for absents.

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  4. Why do they throw out the result if it is extremely close? Seems to me like a win is a win whether it's by 1 vote or 1000.

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    1. Results aren't always thrown out just because they are extremely close, but a very close margin greatly increases the chance that any small mistake in the running of the original election could have caused a different result. In the case of Ballaarat 1919 the court found there had been irregularities in the way the election had been run. Another good example is Mundingburra in the Queensland parliament in 1995 - the margin was 16 votes but 22 voters had been disenfranchised because their votes from overseas were delayed by a late plane arrival, so it was not clear the right candidate had won and so a by-election was called.

      In theory a win by one vote could stand. In practice the chance of it being thrown out for some reason or other is high. The general principle is that if it is not clear that the right person won, have another vote and let the voters make a fresh decision.

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    2. Kevin Bonham,

      Just a thought. If say a similar scenario was to play out in the future, and say 22 voters were disenfranchised because their postal votes were late. Would holding a by-election then disenfranchise the absentee voters who would otherwise have to resort to postal votes or give up voting altogether (given the information that absentee booths no longer exist in a by-election).

      Would that be a fair argument against holding a by-election in such tight numbers?

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    3. It does indeed seem like a fair argument, but it's not one that has been accepted by courts in these situations so far. I suppose the difference is that in the first case you have concrete disenfranchisement - that certain electors are known to have taken reasonable steps to vote from among the available options and yet not had their vote included. In the by-election case there is a more restrictive range of options available, but voters can, in theory, be aware of this and plan to ensure they vote accordingly. If they are disenfranchised it is arguably their own fault, but it is not someone's fault if they vote by post, following the instructions, and then their vote is not included. Or if they plan to absent-vote in an adjacent electorate and then the station has run out of ballot papers.

      There is a case that by-elections advantage the conservatives though I don't know if anyone has tried to measure this (it would be very hard to control for all the noise in the data like existing margins, circumstance of vacancy, opposition vs government, etc.)

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  5. Hi Kevin,
    Under s274 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, subsection (7AA) (b) (ii), the two party preferred count can be relied on if it is mathematically impossible for a third candidate to beat out the deemed second candidate but otherwise a full distribution is required. I think they should tweak this to allow a three cornered count as well in seats where it is deemed necessary.

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  6. This is a very informative piece, Kevin. Thanks!

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  7. Warringah

    I have just come back from the Warringah Declaration, where Tony took first place (of course). However, the second rung on the TCP ladder was taken by Clara Williams Rolden of The Greens, when the ALP was excluded at the final cut-up. The Greens are now the TCP contestants at both a State (Manly 2015 – Clara again) and Federal level. Thus Warringah becomes a non-classic seat. The DRO would not release the numbers until a revised Notional TCP is counted on Monday. According to the DRO, Warringah is unique in this regard in this election. My take on this is that GRN received about 80% of the preferences of Mathison, an Independent. If so, this would bring the published TPP for Coalition back to a TCP of about 55-56%.
    As a side note, it was said at the Declaration that a large proportion of the NXT vote (they ran an open ticket) were informal, the punters just writing the numbers 1 to 6, as per the Senate instructions.

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  8. GL - NXT voters - NXT got 6.35% valid vote. Informal 6%. No way that any more than a minor portion of NXT voters went 1-6 only unless a lot better evidence?

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  9. Kevin,

    Thanks so much for your blog I feel after this election I'm up to about wonk factor 1.5 ... if only by osmosis.

    My question is about the Attorney General being a scrutineer. Now I'm not one of the conspiracists that are suggesting he can steal or alter votes, but would you agree (a) that it is a questionable 'look' and (b) are there any circumstances whereby he might end up being called as a witness in the disputed returns court case that may well be coming?, - because if so that in itself could be potentially embarrassing for Brandis and the Government (assuming that is an emotion they are familiar with of course ;)).

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    1. This business of politicians acting as star fly-in-fly-out scrutineers for other politicians has often intrigued me because I'm not sure why they should necessarily be ace scrutineers!

      In terms of a possible challenge to the result based on rulings about particular ballot papers, I would not think Brandis would need to be called as a witness. The procedure here is that once the scrutineers challenge a ruling by the District Returning Officer to the state Electoral Officer, then it is potentially subject to court review. The last such case, Mitchell v Bailey (No 2) [FRA 2008] can be found here: https://jade.io/article/79845 There is no mention of any expert view being called upon to establish the standing of any ballot paper. The lawyers for the challengers make the case on such ballot papers and the court makes its own decision.

      So I think a scrutineer would only be called as a witness if they somehow personally observed evidence of an irregularity that was otherwise not widely available. My suspicion is that any case could revolve mainly about alleged irregularities, such as people being unable to vote or voting more than once, that will not require scrutineering input.

      I haven't really thought about whether it is a questionable look for the nation's first law officer to be involving themselves personally in such a matter. At first thought I don't see a great difference from many other cases where an Attorney-General may hold an opinion on a matter that may not end up being agreed to by the court.

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    2. Thanks Kevin,

      I guess as you say the ruling on the validity of certain votes will be judged by the Court (if enough are still in dispute) and any contention that the ruling of the DRO was unduly influenced by the AG ... sadly wouldn't be deemed relevant;)

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    3. Of course if Brandis' presence were to unduly affect decisions made during the recount, while they might get overturned by the court, they could still affect who is initially declared as winner. The declared winner is seated in parliament while the case is heard, and there's the question of whether winning first time around is an advantage in the by-election.

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    4. Good point.

      You'd think a byelection which essentially gives the electorate a free kick at the government without perceived ramifications (although as I see it 77 is a big difference to 76) would be advantage Labor.

      But no doubt the pork barreling and scare mongering would be on again in earnest.

      Any idea why Lyons seems to always miss out even when it is marginal? ;) (although to be fair Labor did offer us half a bridge ... yes I am imagining a ski jump!)

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    5. My guess is it is harder to porkbarrel effectively to a dispersed population.

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    6. Yes, I was just thinking the same ... especially in parochial old Tasmania.

      If you promise a stadium (a la Townsville) in the south you piss off half the electorate Similarly in the north. If you build it in Oatlands you piss off almost everybody!

      I'm also intrigued by the polling for non existent 'others' in the latest State polling which seems to be a flow on from Federal polling which expressed a desire for an alternative even where there was none standing (in the HoR at least).

      Do you think this is likely to be an ongoing headache for pollsters - even if they did by science or accidental herding get the national numbers very, very close anyway?

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    7. Federally the voters actually in the end voted for Others at about the levels they said they would. Even if the only Others available in an electorate were unpromising and obscure, the voters voted for them anyway. So it doesn't seem that Others are as big an issue for pollsters as their frequent overestimation of the Greens. At state level I think EMRS have a problem because they include "Independent" as a stand-alone option - this for some reason causes inflated readings for "Independent".

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  10. Malcolm, in 1996 Labor got the Lindsay result overturned and a by-election was ordered. Instead of the expected "free kick" against the government, voters seemed to punish Labor instead, and the Liberals got a decent swing to them.

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    1. Yes, but you'd expect a difference with a new government in honeymoon as against an admittedly only 3 year old government, but clearly no longer in a honeymoon period of any kind.

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  11. If O'Toole retains a narrow lead after the recount but then a by-election is then ruled, does Jones hold onto the seat in the interim, does Labor get provisionally seated or is the seat vacated in the meantime? It would be terribly costly to have to put O'Toole in provisionally only to have to go to another byelection.

    I actually think that in a by-election the LNP have a pretty good chance of holding onto the seat. There is a big difference between a bare majority (76) and 77 seats. People will want to hold onto stability of government than risk another election in only one to two years. And Townsville is generally conservative by national standards.

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    1. If O'Toole wins the count after the recount then O'Toole is seated pending the resolution of any challenges. In theory, we don't know immediately whether there will be a challenge when the count ends, because there is a time window for challenges to be lodged. Even if the AEC itself lodges a request that the seat be voided, there is still the possibility someone might successfully oppose that request in court.

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  12. Working off the Media Feed, which has been spitting out an XML table every 15 minutes with the full election results in it, one can compare the result at the end of the initial count, with the results at 17:30 today (Tuesday):

    24 of 35 TCPs (PP + DEC) have changed from last week. These are invariably a change in the total papers counted and NOT a misallocation.The largest change was for Pre-poll (down 27) and the largest PP changes were at Belgian Gardens and Hermit Park (each up 9) The total number of ballots altered has been 121. That is a number larger than the trigger for a recount.

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  13. It is possible that the Lnp will not challenge if they fear a bad byelection

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    1. There's not exactly a lot of precedent to go on: apart from Lindsay 1996 there hasn't been a federal by-election caused by voiding since 1920. Even at state level the most recent precedent I could find for a re-elected government recapturing a seat from the opposition following a disputed return dated from 1912.

      I do think it's highly likely that at a by-election the voters will want to give their new MP a fair go and therefore that the LNP's chances at a by-election would be weak. But they may well have a crack at it anyway out of loyalty to their candidate and former colleague.

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    2. There is of course the Mundingburra by-election example - also in Townsville - at state level in 1996. This produced the opposite result - an opposition capturing a seat from the government following a disputed return. The fact this was enough to then change the government makes it particularly unique, but also suggests that if the LNP just run on a "vote for stable government" message in any Herbert by-election, they might not get very far.

      The LNP are in a difficult position. Given the high value to them of having 77 seats in the House of Reps rather than just 76 (so they can still have an absolute majority once a Speaker has been appointed), it would be very difficult for them not to have a go at trying to win this seat in a by-election. And given all the bluster during the recount about soldiers, etc being disenfranchised, it will also make that not only sound very hollow but make it cleat that they recognise that their public support is very weak.

      But if they do contest and a by-election ends up being held and they lose, it will be a very damaging way for them to start a new term in office, given how much their authority has already been damaged.

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    3. Andrew, what is advantage of 77? With 76, subtracting the speaker gives 75 but the opposition then has 74. Still a majority though of course tighter than if it is 77-1=76 vs 73.

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  14. Motions to suspend standing orders without notice, and also motions to initiate a referendum to change the Constitution, require an absolute majority, ie 76 votes. The Speaker has a casting vote in the event of a tie, but 75-74 isn't a tie. Really the Speaker should be allowed to vote to bring the 75 up to 76 but I have been quite unsuccessful in my search for any clear indication that this is or isn't allowed. Presumably the same issue arose in the Menzies government 1961-3 which had 61/120 seats. If any reader has anything authoritative on the matter it is worth clearing up.

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  15. Hi again Kevin,

    Another not even close to wonkish question

    If all we are waiting for in Herbert is a full preference distribution, why/how are we still seeing updates on a booth by booth basis?

    Might be my ignorance but I would have thought you can't start eliminating candidates until you have the combined tally from all the booths? ... or are they still finding errors as they do that (combine them)?

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    1. They're still finding minor errors. Votes remain allocated to booths while the preference distribution is undertaken (at least that is how it has worked in the past). So as they are distributing the preferences they are, from time to time, finding very small errors in the previous counts (even though those votes have already been counted at least three times). In the Fairfax process in 2013 we know votes must have still been sorted by booth during the distribution, because they were still sorted by booth during the recount (which in that case came after the distribution).

      If two candidates were very close in the distribution there might be a need for repeated rechecking to be sure of the order of exclusion. This doesn't seem to be an issue here.

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  16. Distribution of Preferences

    Hello Kevin

    Where do we get the full DOPs? Can't find them on VTR or Downloads.

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    1. It tends to take a while, sometimes months, for the full DOPs to be released.

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  17. I'm figuring a challenge is unlikely. Given the margin, it could only be on the basis of voters being prevented from voting, which could only lead to a by-election, not a Jones win.

    As much as an extra seat would be terrific insurance for the government, with a by-election offering voters a free hit at the government or a chance to "keep them on their toes", I think it would end up being a significant distraction that ends badly.

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  18. Is it possible for someone other than a political party to challenge a result (e.g. the people themselves who were allegedly unable to vote? Or some non-political party organisation on their behalf?).

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    1. Yes. Anyone entitled to vote in the electorate can challenge. The AEC can also challenge its own result, as it did in WA Senate 2013, but I don't see any reason to expect that in this case.

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