Sunday, November 25, 2018

2018 Victorian Lower House Postcount: Melton

Melton (Labor vs probably Birchall (IND), 2014 ALP vs Lib (11.2))
2014-elected ALP member Don Nardella quit party, sat as independent and did not recontest
Assessment: It's complicated [update: fairly close to an upset but Labor has won.]

(Link to main postcount page and state summary)

Melton? What is this?

The Daniel Andrews Labor government has crushed the Coalition opposition in the state election, but it's had a bit of bother in a few seats from independents, and these create the only real threat to its 2014 seat collection apart from the fairly likely and widely expected loss of Brunswick to the Greens.

One that sticks out like a sore thumb on the 2PP swingometer is Melton, the former home of Deputy Speaker Don Nardella, who resigned from the party and declined to recontest his seat after being caught up in an expenses claim scandal.  In an election where the swings are a sea of red everywhere except a few safe rural Nationals seats, Melton has produced a 2PP swing to the Liberals of 7.2%.  Currently, the Liberals are getting 58% of all preferences in a safe Labor seat where last time they got 42.4%.  There is the in-theory prospect of a bizarre boilover in this seat, and while someone out there might have information to prove it won't happen, I don't.  Even if it doesn't happen, it is worth keeping an eye on in case such a contest happens again in the future.

Here's the current list of suspects:

McGhie (Labor) 34.25
Farrow (Lib) 18.42
Birchall (IND) 11.58
Turner (IND) 9.98
Bingham (IND) 7.01
Ramsey (IND) 5.70
Greens 4.26
Animal Justice 2.52
DLP 2.51
Lang (IND) 2.12
Stirling (IND) 1.03
Vic Socialists 0.63

Of the candidates below third place, all the how-to-vote cards except AJP and VS flow to Birchall ahead of both majors; AJP and VS flow to Labor.  These cards won't have that much impact, as indies tend to have poor hand-out rates and their voters tend to make up their own minds, but one would have to give Birchall a chance of overhauling 6.84% off a total of 35.75% in mostly independent votes (albeit splitting three ways, Labor - Lib - Birchall).  Even if it goes up to, say, 9%, that's still doable.

Assuming Birchall does make the final two, the asking rate is currently 70.9% of all preferences in a Birchall - Labor contest.  The Liberals having preferenced Birchall, this doesn't sound too difficult at all, and I think getting into second is the trickiest bit.  Birchall is a local doctor campaigning on hospital issues.

I am not aware of any case of a candidate winning a seat off such a low primary vote before (there is one Tasmanian Legislative Council case off 12%), but if it was ever to happen a combined major party vote of just above 50% and a scattering of the rest among a band of independents would be the way it would be most likely to happen.

There is also, in theory, the faint possibility that Turner might leapfrog Birchall on preferences from minor candidates (and then potentially win the seat climbing an even steeper mountain), but I don't know of any reason to believe this will occur.

It may be that someone out there has enough information to be sure that the seat will finish Labor-Liberal (in which case Labor will still win). I would be interested in any scrutineering figures on this seat, especially if anyone has tried to sample the three-way splits on the preferences of the other independent candidates.  We may well have to wait until the distribution of preferences to find out what happened here.

Updates to follow.

Friday 8:00:  There hasn't been much going on here (in the absence of a re-alignment) so I haven't updated it, but the following are the current leading primaries:

McGhie (Labor) 34.67
Farrow (Lib) 18.63
Birchall (IND) 10.79
Turner (IND) 9.86

Birchall has dropped back nearly 1% and is now 7.84% behind with 35.91% in preferences, which means he needs to gain .218 votes per vote available.  If he does make the final two he now needs 71.9% of preferences.

Monday 10:50:  There hasn't been any further attention on this seat in the media, and McGhie claimed victory on election night. One would hope the possibility of an indie getting into second was covered off on in the process,  though that wouldn't have been easy.   Or perhaps it has been dismissed since.

Wednesday morning: the distribution started yesterday but didn't get very far, with four exclusions to go. I have seen a tweet claiming Birchall still has a chance but not any actual evidence re how it is going yet.

Wednesday 6:00 This is taking a long time; it's a long and difficult preference throw.

Wednesday midnight: Since Ripon is the only remaining seat with counting activity scheduled I am assuming this is finished but no-one has publicised the result yet.

Thursday morning: No it isn't!  The following interim totals have been posted:
Bob Turner + 986 = 6672 votes
Ryan Farrow + 730 = 9438 votes
Ian Birchall + 1,375 = 8055 votes
Steve McGhie + 645 = 17,874 votes

(The pluses turn out to be the gains from independent Bingham who has been providing some updates on Facebook (I haven't checked the modelling!) but has now run out of scrutineers.)

Birchall needs to gain on Farrow (Lib) off Turner (IND) at .207 votes/vote in a three way split to make the final two.  He could get that, though a big damper is that donkey votes are in the Turner pile and go to the Liberals.  If he makes the final two he now needs 80.5% of preferences.  He could get that off the Liberals; getting it off the other independent might be trickier.   It's still a contest and could at least be close!

Thursday 2:04 Birchall misses second and McGhie wins.  Birchall has missed second by a relatively narrow 771 votes (probably mostly because of donkeys):

Ian Birchall + 3052 = 11,107
Ryan Farrow + 2439 = 11,877
Steve McGhie + 1176 = 19,050

Had Birchall made second he was needing 83.4% of Liberal preferences, which I think would also have been a bit tough.  Melton will remain a 2PP seat.

Thursday midnight: here's the final preference distribution.  The final totals were slightly different and in the end the margin for second was 780.  Needing to gain at .228 votes/vote, Birchall actually gained at .176.  All up he got 44.3% of preferences to 28.9% for McGhie and 26.7% for Farrow.  However on the last distribution for his exclusion (Turner), Farrow's share jumped to 36.6%.  It's not likely the pure donkey vote rate was enough to overturn a 780 vote margin, but had the donkey vote been in Birchall's favour it would at least have been a lot closer.


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