Sunday, November 25, 2018

2018 Victorian Lower House Postcount: Morwell

Morwell (IND vs ALP, Ind Held, 2014 Nat vs ALP 1.8%)
Nat vs ALP two-party figure is irrelevant
Assessment: Northe (IND) wins subject to being 2nd after preferences which is overwhelmingly likely
(update: confirmed, Northe has won)

(Link to main postcount thread and tally)

This is the first of my indie-seat postcounts.  The 2018 Victorian state election has thrown up a very large number of seats where independents have some sort of chance in the postcount and are likely to finish in the top two.  The count in Morwell may be more straightforward than in Melton and Benambra but it is nonetheless still messy.  Perhaps not as messy, however, as many thought it might be.

Russell Northe held the seat narrowly in 2014 despite a monster swing to Labor.  He has been a very much embattled incumbent (including in the final days of the campaign when there was more adverse media coverage of debt issues) but also one who has received plenty of sympathy for his struggles with the unusual pressures of political life in this seat.  He's polled a primary of around 20%, which normally wouldn't be enough, but he may have been saved by the collapse in the Coalition vote.  Here's how the primaries currently line up:

Richards (Labor) 34.22
Northe (IND) 19.97
Harriman (Lib) 12.19
Bond (Nat) 10.93
Muir (Shooters) 7.04
Burgess (IND) 6.15
Greens 3.34
Lund (IND) 2.10
Aussie Battler 2.04
Labour DLP 1.48
Sindt (IND) 0.54

The VEC was counting the 2PP as National vs Labor.  But while Labor will make the final two-candidate race, the Nationals are currently in fourth position.  If the Nationals make the 2PP they virtually certainly lose (the margin has come back with postals but is currently 51.89 to Labor).  If they don't make the final two they lose anyway.  The Liberals would also be expected to lose the final two if they make it.  The questions are:

* whether Northe wins if he makes the final two
* whether Northe makes the final two

I think that given the relative closeness of the Labor-National 2PP, the answer to the first question is yes.  The Nationals are currently getting 67.8% of all preferences in their non-contest with Labor.  Northe as an independent (albeit an ex-Nat) would seem likely to get more, but only needs 65.6% on current figures - though these will move about in post-counting.

Concerning the second, the only possible problem for Northe is that the Coalition parties currently have 23.12% combined.  However, whichever Coalition partner goes out in fourth (I think now at least it will be fourth and not fifth), their preferences will be splitting three ways between Labor, Northe and the other Coalition partner.  Nationals preferences in Victoria often split only about 70-75% between Liberals and Labor without having an ex-National independent incumbent in the mix as well, and so the flow if the Nationals are out fourth to the Liberals will be weak.  It will be stronger from the Liberals to the Nationals if the Liberals are out fourth, but firstly that might not be all that likely.  Secondly even assuming there are enough faithful Coalition preferences to account for the gap back to Northe (and this might become easier with more counting) there is also a massive 22.7% in preferences for minor candidates.  I would expect these to assist Northe in his battle with the Coalition candidates for second and will be very surprised if Northe doesn't make the final two.

The main reason for doubt about this seat is the possibility that flows to Northe might be unusually weak on account of his troubles.  But I don't think that will be the case by enough to matter.

We should get at least a provisional answer to the first question when the VEC re-aligns the two-candidate count in coming days.  The second question may have to wait until the preference throw when all the votes are in.

Note that the 2CP percentages will bounce around during the realignment depending on which booths have been counted.  ABC computer projections have been unreliable in the past during such realignments.

Updates to follow.

Monday: The VEC has confirmed the 2CP count will be re-aligned from tomorrow.

Tuesday 5:20: After six realigned booths Russell Northe is trailing on the preferences counted so far, but that is because these are poor booths for him relative to the overall count.  I currently project Northe to get 70% of preferences which on current figures would see him defeat Labor with about a 52-48 result.

Tuesday 5:27: Booths are being added very quickly and my projected preference share for Northe has dropped to 65.9%, moreover there seems to be a slight pattern of him having a worse preference share in the larger booths.  He is currently 52.25-47.75 behind in the booths realigned so far and with his required share now at 65.6%, this is now shaky for the incumbent.  The flow to Northe is surprisingly weak, but he did have significant troubles that may have affected it.

Tuesday 6:20: I probably overstated the threat to Northe above as although his projected preference share based on linear regression is only 65.9%, his actual preference share so far is 68%.  There are a few outlier booths that are good for Northe and the regression seems to be ignoring them.  His preference share is likely to improve on prepolls.  That he is currently behind (52.3-47.7) means little as that is just based on on-the-day votes and we saw a number of ALP leads on booth votes of a similar size or more fall over on the night.

Tuesday 7:40: Northe got a 75% split on postals so he now has 68.8% on votes counted so far.  At this rate he should win about 51.5:48.5.

Wednesday 5:45: Labor is five votes ahead in the realignment but the Traralgon booth and more tellingly over 13000 prepolls have not yet been realigned, so Northe will move into the lead once those are done.

Wednesday 7:08: The realignment is complete and Northe leads 52.3:47.7 which means he has retained the seat subject to being second after preferences (which is more or less inevitable).  I am now transferring the seat to assumed win status.

Tuesday 6:30 Figures tweeted by Richards confirm Northe remained second, which means he wins barring enormous errors in the counting and tallying process.

Tuesday 11:50 Russell Northe has indeed won, after everything with a swing to him of 0.04% on a two-candidate basis, but this time as an independent rather than a National.  Sometimes, when you think almost anything can happen, the least likely thing does - no change!

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