Saturday, July 2, 2016

Election night arrangements and election watching tips

Live coverage over here starting about 6 pm

When will we know?

We should get exit polls right after 6 pm, which are still a bit of a vague science in this country.  Votes will build up from maybe 6:30 and if the result isn't close we could know who has won the Reps in a couple of hours.  This is especially likely if the Coalition does better than expected on either the 2PP or its sandbagging of Labor marginals. However there's a fairly high chance based on current polling the result (the winner and/or if there's a majority) will be either not quite nailed down or very much up in the air at the end of tonight's counting.

There have been serious information transmission failures in at least one state election or by-election recently (forget which one) so don't be too surprised if there are website issues at either the AEC or ABC end.

Senate Confusion

There have been reports some staff are telling people to vote for 6 parties above the line or 12 candidates below the line in the Senate and not using the magic words "at least".  Some staff have even been reported as saying "only" this number of boxes.  You can number as many boxes as you like and your vote will have more power if you do.  Just make absolutely sure that if voting below the line you do not omit or double any number between 1 and 6.


Tonight I will be live blogging at, covering the national picture but keeping an eye on the Tasmanian seats especially.  The live commentary should start at 6 pm and is unlikely to go beyond 11 (if that).  I will post a link here when it starts.  I do not expect to be on Twitter much during the night before 11 pm so if you have questions please come over to the live blog and post them there.  Comments will not be cleared on this site during that time. I ask that nobody other than Mercury staff calls me on the phone until the live blog is finished, but if you have interesting scrutineering samples from Tasmania you're extremely welcome to SMS them to me (0421428775) or email them to me (  I won't be able to reply immediately.  Media are welcome to call me on Sunday and Monday but my phone will be switched off on Monday night.

After the live blog is over I intend to come back here and do a late-night wrap of the general picture including which seats I think are in doubt.  This probably won't appear until well after midnight. Then over coming days I will roll out post-count coverage for seats in doubt.  Three-cornered seats in serious doubt are likely to receive their own threads, and there will probably be a general thread for all the rest.   

Many readers will probably watch the ABC TV coverage (though if you're sick of the TV but still want to hear people talk about the election, I strongly recommend you head over to Radio National and listen to William Bowe.)  The nature of ABC coverage on both TV and website, while highly useful, has caused many problems for election-watchers in recent elections and here are some points to bear in mind about it and the election more generally:

Seats with the "wrong candidates"

The AEC has procedures for deciding which two candidates to conduct the on-the-night two-candidate-preferred count between, usually based on the result of the last election in that seat.  However when there is a change in the final two, the AEC will be counting a two-candidate result that is irrelevant to the final result.  In many South Australian seats the AEC will count the two-candidate result initially as Liberal vs Labor, but it will actually be Liberal or Labor vs NXT when all the counting is done.  

As well as any SA seat where NXT makes the top two, other candidates for this problem include Cowper (which will be Nat vs Ind), some inner-city seats like Grayndler, Sydney, Higgins and Melbourne Ports where the Greens may make the top two, Indi where it is unclear whether the Nationals or Liberals will be Cathy McGowan's rival, Murray which will become Liberal v National, and I'm not sure what will happen with New England given that the independent who lost the 2CP last time is recontesting.

When the wrong 2CP candidates are selected, any 2CP figure for the right candidates that the ABC put up will be their estimate only - not real numbers.  This may not prevent the ABC on both TV and website from calling some of these seats for candidates, but in the past such calls have often been premature and in some cases wrong.  

When the AEC selects the wrong 2CP candidates, a realignment is conducted in which the votes are distributed to the right candidates.  This is usually done alphabetically by booth.  Because different booths have very different voting patterns, the 2CP result swings around wildly during this process, often causing the seat to be projected wrongly by the ABC computer and the media.  To predict where such seats end up it is necessary to use regressions off the primary votes, and I hope to post these here where necessary.

ABC calling seats prematurely

The ABC computer system will often call classic-2PP seats as won once its projections off a certain percentage of the vote have a party ahead by a certain margin.  Sometimes these calls will be premature.  In cases in the past candidates have turned around 49:51 or worse margins on the night when postal votes are added, plus at this election there are a great number of within-electorate prepolls (PPVC votes) that will be counted late on the night but may display differences in swing pattern with booth voting. 

The Coalition tends to improve its position once non-ordinary votes (out-of-electorate prepolls, postal votes, out-of-electorate votes on the day and provisional votes) are added.  In 2013 on average this was worth about 0.25% two-party preferred, but the ABC will use past patterns from each specific seat to project changes from the on-the-night totals.  It may be that for some reason the pattern changes slightly.

The 2PP, and respondent vs last-election preferences

This is always a hot topic of discussion about polls.  Those polls that are using respondent preferences have implied that Labor does 0.6 points better on them than when last-election preferences are used.  If this is correct, it makes the election closer and another hung parliament more likely.  As the night goes on and two-party preferred counts start to appear, we may well get a feel for whether a substantial preference shift has happened.  Past history is that the expected difference either won't appear or will appear to a lesser degree than polls expect, but the Nick Xenophon Team and the apparently inflated Others vote create a lot of uncertainty here.

We will not know the exact 2PP vote on the night, and at the last election it took many weeks to be finalised.  We will probably know it to about half a point by the end of the night.


A reminder that political-party commentators who appear on TV panels will often give biased readings of how results are going and act as cheerleaders for their parties in any seat where there is any chance (or even some seats where there's none).  This isn't always the case and sometimes a party insider will try to be objective.  


Expect the Senate count to be very long, very slow, very confusing and very difficult to project.  This is the first use of a new system and we do not have any idea how many voters will vote above or below the line, what share will follow how-to-vote cards and how other voter preferences will behave.  It is different to the old system where we would know how most preferences would flow and there were calculator tools to estimate the outcome (though they still had some problems). We will probably know a few things by the end of the night but much will unravel slowly over the several coming weeks and some seats will still be in doubt until the press of The Button.

There will probably be some quirky and completely unpredicted outcomes.  It was essential to bring in a new system to save Australia from the election of random candidates as a result of deliberate system-gaming, but there are still many problems with Senate voting including the excessive number of competing parties.  Over coming elections whatever problems are identified in this first run will be smoothed out, but don't expect things to go perfectly or to be at all easy to follow the first time around.

We will only have official Senate counts dealing with party totals on the night, and there's some doubt how advanced these counts will be even at the end of counting tonight compared to the Reps counts.  A common misconception is that only above the line votes are counted on election night so that parties with high below-the-line rates will gain in coming days - this is completely wrong.  Both above and below the line votes will be counted but they will appear by party as an undivided total.  

In Tasmania there are organised below-the-line rebellions against both major parties' ticket orders, and these could cause the Tasmanian race for the last few spots to become about candidate totals not party totals, and to be extremely complex to project.  This includes the possibility that a party will beat another even though its remaining total vote is lower, because of the way votes are split between candidates, and if you see me start talking about "Ginninderra effects" then you'll know the whole thing has gone to Wonk Central.  For this reason the Tasmanian race may be especially unclear even when most votes have been counted by party.  I am not aware of similar issues in other states. Races for the final spots in all states will also be sensitive to slight shifts in the vote totals in the post-count.  I will have a Tasmanian Senate postcount thread starting tomorrow.  

I hope you all enjoy the coverage!


  1. Kevin - I think Tasmania is likely to be the only place where a significant BTL vote may occur because of Singh and Coldbeck. Size of ballot paper, extra time waiting in queues, ease of ATL vote and previous experience will all push people to vote ATL.

    The number of voters not numbering 1 to 6 will be a factor. I reckon we will know the Senate outcome bar a few possible close spots after the first preference count is done.

  2. Will follow the election results online. Who wants to listen to the constant old party political crap that is spewed from their mouths for a few hours this evening. Looking forward to your expert Tasmanian comments, Kevin. Have recovered from your views of the Animal Justice Party lol and I always so appreciate your blog and commentary.

    All the best for this evening.

  3. KB, bravo to Tasmania for producing the biggest upset of the election. Was there is a genuine late swing to Labor, or just a failure of polling to detect it earlier? If there was a late swing, when did it happen and what caused it? Cheers AC

  4. Damned if I know. ReachTEL has produced Liberal-skewed polling here as well but Galaxy's seat poll was wrong too. Services were an issue here but why did this not show up?

  5. "There have been reports some staff are telling people to vote for 6 parties above the line or 12 candidates below the line in the Senate and not using the magic words "at least"."

    Most assuredly did happen. The HTVs also pretty much read like 'just' so this too.

    Some people voted 1 Labor 2 Greens 3,4,6 some other leftists parties then 6 Liberal. Which might be their intended vote or just them thinking that they put the Liberals last.

    I expect working out how to game the Senate will be a big strategy in the future.

    Id expect major parties to ditch dealing with most micro parties on policy and look to real politic outcomes. The main thing to worry about is that your preferences go somewhere if you go out and that you get somewhat real preference flows (not 500 votes from group that didn't even hand out HTVs) from others.

    Then you want to make sure that your number 6 on your HTV at least 'stuffs up' your biggest opponent if not helping your closest ally win.

    I could see right wing parties potentially directing to Lab 6 to stuff up the Greens and Left parties directing to something like PUP (if they hadn't fallen apart) to stop One Nation or Liberal.