Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tasmania Senate 2019: Prospects and Guide

Likely 2 Liberal 2 Labor 1 Green + last seat depending on Lambie's performance
If Lambie vote falters then Labor, Liberal, perhaps someone else could win the final seat

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Tasmania's list of Senate candidates has been released. There are 44 candidates in 16 groups including 4 ungrouped (two of them party candidates), a gratifying decline from the 58 in 21 groups plus ungrouped last time (see my 2016 guide).  Looks like some people are finally getting the message that the new Senate system does not reward parties that cannot get even 1% of the vote!

This piece gives some basic information and views about the parties and lead candidates, and some general background to the contest.  The party candidate section, in places, represents my own opinions of the candidates and parties.  There are always a few obnoxious candidates on the Tasmanian ballot and I have no hesitation in warning voters about these people.  There are also some parties that may not be what they seem.   More content will be added in as time permits, so it may be worth checking back before voting to see if I've added any more details about candidates.

For advice about how to vote in the Senate for now see How To Make Best Use Of Your 2019 Senate Vote  I will be listing how-to-vote cards for the Tasmanian parties, but I strongly recommend ignoring all Senate how-to-vote cards since following any Senate how-to-vote card that doesn't number all boxes will weaken the potential power of your vote.

Two previous articles I have written include background on the Tasmanian Senate race and prospects.  These are Tasmanian Senate Major Party Preselections, which covers the Lisa Singh situation and her prospects in detail, and What Are The Prospects Of A Labor-Green Senate Majority?


Tasmania currently has five Labor, four Liberal, one National and two Greens Senators.  At the 2016 election Jacqui Lambie was elected at the head of the Jacqui Lambie Network ticket, but she was subsequently found to have been ineligible.  Her #2 Steven Martin sat as an independent initially and then joined the Nationals, who have not had a significant presence in the state in recent decades.

Labor Senators Anne Urquhart and Helen Polley, Liberals Eric Abetz, Jonathan Duniam and Wendy Askew and Green Peter Whish-Wilson are not up at this election and will face the voters (if they recontest) in 2022.  The Liberal result at the last election was worse than Labor's, but in one of the daftest decisions in the history of the Senate, the order-of-election method was applied to reallocate term lengths after Lambie was disqualified.  Because of a chunk of Labor's primary vote going to Lisa Singh, the Liberals won three long-term seats to Labor's two by the order-of-election method, although Labor outperformed the Liberals on both primary vote and preference share.

Having somehow voted for this stupidity, Labor now has to defend three seats (Carol Brown, Catryna Bilyk, Lisa Singh) while the Liberals are defending only one (Richard Colbeck).  Also facing the people are Nick McKim (Greens), after a very-near-death experience at the hands of One Nation as the Greens' #2 last time, and Martin (Nationals).

The following would have been the results of recent Senate elections in Tasmania had they been half-Senate elections under the current system:

2001 and 2004: 3 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green
2007 and 2010: 3 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Green
2013: 3 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green (actual result was 2 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green, 1 PUP)
2016: 2 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green, 1 Jacqui Lambie Network

The 2019 preselection for the Labor Party has again seen Lisa Singh dumped to the fourth position, as also happened in 2016 (when it became sixth when the election became a double dissolution).  In 2016 Singh famously won from sixth by polling such a high primary in below the line votes (6.12%) that she was able to be elected on below the line votes and preferences alone, while ALP #5 candidate John Short missed out.  Similarly demoted Liberal Richard Colbeck also polled a high BTL vote (3.97%) but lost, and got back to the Senate only after Section 44 disposed of Stephen Parry.


A good baseline for the party situation between the more obvious contenders is to look at where Labor, the Liberals, the Greens and JLN would have stood in 2016 with all other parties excluded from the race.   After the first two quotas for each major party, the Greens would have had 13.2%, Jacqui Lambie 13.1%, Labor 8.7%, Liberal 6.1%.

For either major party to win a third seat, they need to (at minimum) overtake either the Greens or Lambie, and stay ahead of whoever they have overtaken after preferences (eg if the Liberals are excluded first, their preferences help Lambie). 

The Greens have been struggling in the state recently, including a poor performance at the state election, but that was probably a result of state factors (temporary competition from state Labor's poker machine policy).  They have been making a big effort to highlight McKim who at present is by far the most prominent Senate candidate in corflute terms. The main scenario in which the Greens could lose involves being overtaken by Labor, with Lambie's vote also high enough to stay ahead of them.  However, I don't think this is likely; I doubt Labor will get the swing relative to the Greens needed to take their spot.  The other possible threat I can see would be a Craig Garland breakout into statewide substantial support, but I don't think this is likely to do enough damage to matter.

Lambie's position is weaker.  After winning easily in 2016 she has had a reduced spotlight since losing her seat to Section 44, and there was also a poor JLN state campaign in which she wasn't a candidate.  Lambie has been working the state hard, but in the meantime the sort of vote Lambie competes for - the populist non-major-party vote - has become incredibly crowded in Tasmania.  In 2016 One Nation was really the only contender for that vote, but at this election as well as One Nation there is the resurgence of the very well-funded UAP, there is Martin as a Nationals Senator, there is Steve Mav, and even Craig Garland (albeit further from the left) will compete for Lambie's vote if he gets going.  This increased competition could damage Lambie's primary vote, and because of semi-optional preferential voting, the lost votes won't necessarily come back as preferences.

If Lambie's vote isn't damaged, it could be a boring postcount, with Lambie and the Greens too far ahead of the majors for swings between them to alter the outcome.  But if Lambie's vote weakens dropping her into the reach of the majors then either major could beat her.  On paper, more likely Labor, but perhaps there would be a swing back to the Liberals because they have learned from their preselection mistakes in 2016 and picked a more diverse and moderate ticket while Labor haven't learned anything from the backlash caused by demoting Singh.

A further important issue is what size of below-the-line vote Singh gets.  Despite the lack of an obvious groundswell (at this stage) matching the 2016 "Save Lisa" campaign, it's still possible Singh could poll a similar vote to last time, in which case she could become the effective #3 Labor candidate.  But this is dicey - if Labor does really well, then Singh would need to increase her below-the-line vote to knock out John Short, but the better Labor does the harder that becomes.  Until he is knocked out, Short will continue accumulating preferences faster than Singh because all the above-the-lines will flow to him.

If Singh is knocked out, this could become a disaster for Labor in an otherwise competitive situation as her below-the-line vote will leak massively to other parties, especially the Greens.  (This was also covered in the major party preselection article.)  It will be interesting to see if any awareness can be built that Labor's preselection order (via a member/delegate ballot) is potentially a blunder and that Labor will be best placed to win three if an increased number of its voters vote below the line for Singh.

Could anyone different come into the mix?  The main way this could happen is if the various new (or reinvigorated) non-major contestants manage to between them trash Lambie's vote and also take some votes from Labor and the Coalition.  In this case it becomes possible - but not easy - for someone else (provided that they have a box above the line!) to win off even 5-6%.   Forces that might be capable of this include the Nationals (their campaign started poorly with internal dissent and widespread criticism over preferencing One Nation, but they have been given a freebie with the Liberals' implosion in Lyons), the UAP and Craig Garland.  I am unsure whether Garland will poll significantly, but he is something of an X-factor candidate based on his Braddon campaign, authentic reputation and likely media and social media interest.

 Lower House polling provides a poor guide to prospects for minor parties here as in 2016 the Recreational Fishers Party polled well (both in polls and the election) for the House of Reps but sank without trace in the Senate.  State-specific Senate polling, unless very well designed, is unlikely to be that informative, but I will mention any that I see.

Although One Nation were competitive with the Greens for the final seat in 2016, that was because it was a double dissolution (it was One Nation's first candidate against the Greens's second, so the Greens were coming off a handicap of 7.7% in that contest).  The Greens have been portraying the final seat as a contest between them and One Nation but this is almost certainly nonsense. It will be much more difficult for One Nation to be competitive this time unless their vote lifts sharply.

Australia Institute Senate polling, based on which there has been some late speculation, seems to be overestimating One Nation compared to other pollsters, and in any case Tasmania is one of the party's weakest states.  The scenario painted by the Australia Institute, apparently off a far too small sample size, in which One Nation and Lambie both compete for the final two seats with the Coalition and the Greens (and not with Labor) is extremely implausible.

Parties and candidates: a subjective guide

Here is my guide to the parties running for this Senate election.  Mostly I include background on the lead candidate or competitive candidates only, but I will also mention any interesting/concerning minor candidates (especially since there's an argument that because of Section 44, even seemingly unelectable candidates are important). Parties are listed in ballot order.  Where opinions are offered, they are obviously purely mine, and if you don't like them feel free to go and write your own somewhere else, or contest them in comments. I may add more links later, but I will not add or change any material on request except to correct clear factual errors.

The Mercury has a guide to Senate candidates (may be paywalled).

The Australian Conservatives (if referring to this party on Twitter, please tag it as #CoryTories) is the thus far unsuccessful party formed by religious right-winger Cory Bernardi (SA) after his blatant ratting from the Liberal Party.  Family First subsequently merged into this party, and that will learn them and they won't do that again in a hurry.  Lead candidate Justin Stringer (ex-Palmer United) is a culture warrior much in the Bernardi vein (and similarly ridiculed on social media) while support candidate Nigel Frame was 2005 Tasmanian state chess champion.

Incumbent Senator Steve Martin head up the Nationals ticket in their first attempt for a while to establish a presence in the state.  Attempts in the last several decades have failed miserably, though the Country Party had representation in the state in the distant past.  Martin was once a campaigner on hospital issues who then became Mayor of Devonport, and survived a challenge to his eligibility for the Senate on that basis.  He was Jacqui Lambie's #2 in 2016 polling an unremarkable personal vote in his own right, but inherited the seat when Lambie was disqualified.  Martin has tried hard to get announceables for the state in his short time in office.

#3 on the grid is the Sustainable Australia Party, whose lead candidate is Todd Dudley, a well-known St Helens environmentalist.  This party's placement on the spectrum is controversial - in many respects it campaigns on environmental issues similarly to the Greens, but it also argues for immigration restrictions.  While it does so mainly on ostensibly environmental grounds, it can do so in a rather dog-whistly and alarmist manner, causing many on the left to regard it as xenophobic, and its operatives tend to become irate when challenged on this aspect.  I am unaware, however, of Dudley ever involving himself in the immigration side of SAP's position.  Dudley was also the party's lead candidate in 2016.

The Greens ticket is headed by incumbent Nick McKim.  Support candidates are Helen Hutchinson who has run for the Greens a few times before (most recently polling 818 votes in Lyons at the 2018 State election) and Simone Marsh.

The Liberal ticket has just three candidates, so if they somehow manage to poll over 43% then any surplus will flow directly to other parties.  Head of the ticket is Richard Colbeck, a former Minister and a Senator since 2002, except an interruption from 2016-8 when he briefly lost his seat after being kicked down the ticket in preselection.  Colbeck is considered a moderate.  #2 and more or less ensured of election is business analyst former Young Liberal state President Claire Chandler, while Hobart City alderman (council members can choose if they are "aldermen" or "councillors") Tanya Denison runs in the difficult but potentially winnable #3 spot.  Denison is a mining engineer and was the first first female CEO of the Civil Contractors Federation.  She was also the party's candidate for the seat then known as Denison (now Clark) in 2013, following which she won a Council seat by three votes in 2014 and retained it comfortably last year.

The Animal Justice ticket is headed by Karen Bevis, who gives her occupation as "project officer".  According to the AJP web page she has "a BA in Philosophy and Sociology, a Grad. Dip. in Human Nutrition, and experience in project work in the community sector." Bevis was also the lead candidate in 2016.  The AJP is somewhat trendy at the moment and just won a second NSW seat on merit and by voter choice, to go with the one it won undeservedly in Victoria by preference harvesting.  The party is philosophically radical and opposes practically all killing of animals, humane or not (including when for environmental control reasons) as well as the sale of pets "other than from shelters or rescuers".

The Citizens Electoral Council ... oh for goodness sake, Lyndon La Rouche is dead now, give it up! This veteran waste of ballot paper is a reliably low-scoring party that promotes many ridiculous conspiracy theories. Lead candidate Ray Williams was a Liberal state candidate in 2002, a Derwent Valley councillor and ran as an independent for the Legislative Council seat of Derwent in 2011.  At that election he pushed an anti-Green "traditional user" focus similar to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and came third with 16.3% in a field of five.

The Liberal Democrats ticket is again headed by Clinton Mead, the mayor of Campbelltown (NSW) and an interstate ring-in on the Tasmanian ballot.  Mead also headed the ticket in 2013 and 2016.  The LDP is a US-style ideological right-libertarian party that aims to support individual freedom in both social and economic areas but also in the ownership of dangerous guns. Its former Senator David Leyonhjelm did not much endear himself to Tasmanians with remarks suggesting that Port Arthur conspiracy theories deserved more investigation.

The Australian Labor Party ticket is headed by Carol Brown (Senator since 2005) and Catryna Bilyk (Senator since 2008), who will both be re-elected although their profiles are relatively low.  The action is further down the ticket where unionist John Short has again been preselected ahead of factionally unaligned Lisa Singh (Senator since 2011, previously a one-term state MP) whose positions on asylum seeker issues endear her to left-wing inner-city voters.  See above for comments on their prospects.  Labor has selected two further candidates, teacher Wayne Roberts (who stood in Braddon at the state election) and unionist Robert Flanagan, presumably with an eye to keeping their below the line votes formal.

The Pauline Hanson's One Nation ticket is headed by Matthew Stephen.  2016 candidate Kate McCulloch is running in NSW instead.  Stephen was a very controversial choice at the Longman by-election but it didn't seem to greatly harm his vote.  If you don't know what you get with this party by now you should have been paying attention, but what you get is xenophobia and chaos with a dash of 90s political nostalgia.  One Nation often pretends to have mainstreamed itself in comparison to its many offspring parties, but I don't recommend believing it.  Stephen alleges that "the Greens, Labor, Lambie and Garland with their crazy climate and death taxes" will ruin Tasmania's economy.

FRASER ANNING'S CONSERVATIVE NATIONALS (sheesh, those capitals are hard on the eyes) is fittingly close to One Nation on the ballot paper.  This party is the vehicle for extreme-right Queensland Senator Fraser Anning (a plug for my article about psephological aspects of Anning's career here), who was elected as Malcolm Roberts' replacement but immediately left One Nation before it could expel him.  Lead candidate Michael Jones believes Australia should get out of the UN.

The Jacqui Lambie Network is the eponymous vector for former Senator Jacqui Lambie.  Lambie was elected as a Palmer United Senator in 2013, but fell out with the party and left it to form her own.  She was again elected at the 2016 double-dissolution with a quota in her own right but lost her seat to Section 44 mid-term.  Lambie combines Labor-ish positions on economic, education and health with right-wing positions on Islam, national service, transgender rights and so on, thereby appealing to politically-incorrect working-class voters (mostly men).  She also has a background of advocacy for military veterans, herself being a former soldier who fought the military system over medical issues.  Lambie is brash, outspoken, often crude and gaffe-prone though her quality control has improved to some degree.  She recently appeared on some rubbish celebrity game show that I decline to publicise by naming.

Help End Marijuana Prohibition is what it says on the label, and we can safely assume it is the only party that will have online advertising that includes the word "lucripetous". Its lead candidate is Alfred Informal, a disability support worker, film-maker and scriptwriter.  He is not to be confused with his father Informal, a former state candidate and fellow hemp activist who was involved in a prolonged stoush with the AEC over his enrolment under the name Informal (which I believe ended with Informal senior off the electoral roll).  Informal junior had an early taste of public life in 2014 when he was suspended from college for a spray at then state Greens leader (now Senator) McKim over statistics regarding the proportion of scientists who support the consensus viewpoint on human-caused climate change.  It appears he still holds similar views. The Informals also walked from Launceston to Hobart in a respectable time of six days to highlight the lack of footpaths.  Another great Tasmanian political dynasty!

The United Australia Party is what a precusor to the modern Liberal Party used to say on the label. It is Clive Palmer's former Palmer United Party, which at first intended to reuse the UAP name but found it preoccupied by another party unrelated to either.  Lead candidate Kevin Morgan is a small business marketer and former Department of Premier and Cabinet advisor, who has run for the party at three previous elections. At this election the UAP is much better resourced than for PUP's token 2016 campaign, and it is bombarding Australia with loud yellow advertising, which is recording very modest bang-for-buck so far in polling.  UAP runs on economic nationalism (at this election with a lot of attacks on China), populist attacks on the major parties, and Trumpy (pun intended) slogans.

Group O is recreational fishermen Craig Garland and Mark Duncan, running together as grouped non-party candidates.  Garland ran in the Braddon state election in 2018 as a scruffy (yeah I can talk) independent, polling very well in some areas on virtually no budget and rather showing up the Greens.  At the 2018 Braddon by-election, Garland again contested and became a cult candidate polling over 10%. The Liberal Party picked a scrap with him, trying to damage him using an old conviction over a fight with off-duty police.  The scrap inflated Garland's vote and the flow of preferences to Labor killed any hope the Liberals had of winning the seat.  Garland first came to attention with concerns over the relocation of seals and other fisheries matters, but in general his policies on forestry and related matters resemble those of the Greens, causing the Liberals to treat him as Greener than the Greens themselves.  During this election campaign Garland has made joint appearances with Andrew Wilkie.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers are pro-gun, pro-hunting, pro-4WD, pro-fishing, pro-resource-industries and not surprisingly anti-Green.  The party holds upper house seats in three states and three Lower House seats in NSW, but it has not had any success yet in Tasmania.  Lead candidate is Rebecca Byfield, who has a journalism and marketing background and is currently a marketing student, and who recently launched an "education and advocacy resource" dealing with responsible hunting.  (I'm sure that the Animal Justice Party would say there is no such thing, but in 2016, 405 Tasmanian voters voted either 1 Shooters 2 AJP or the other way around!)  Byfield wants to see "an end to identity politics and a return to equality for all", whatever that is.

In the Ungrouped column, the most notable candidate is Steve Mav, a high-profile serial candidate (see past profile) in Tasmanian politics who has had a number of nearly-but-not-quite attempts to get into the Legislative Council.  (His only wins known to me were elections for Glenorchy City Council in 2000 and 2005.)  A Liberal state candidate in the distant past, Mav has more recently run as a populist-right independent who is anti-Green but doesn't consider himself closer to either major party.  However this Senate campaign has taken a much darker turn with calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty "for serious crimes like child rape", and even questions to his followers about support for public executions (as well as some other law and order stuff reminiscent of the Victorian Liberals' failed "African Gangs" campaign).  Mav has been a frequent presence by Tasmanian roadsides doing his sign-waving act, and has a large social media following.

Mav's instructions to his voters to number squares from 1-6 below the line have been attacked by some lefties as advocating an informal vote, but this is false; such a vote is valid under the savings provisions and Mav has been quite shrewd in picking that up.  However a huge problem for his tilt is that as an ungrouped candidate he cannot receive any above-the-line preferences, and therefore to win will have to get most of a quota in below-the-line votes and preferences (which is extremely unlikely.)

Other ungrouped candidates are Greg Beck (Australian Better Families, a men's rights group that alleges the Family Court system is stacked in favour of women and links this to male suicide), "master chef" Francis Flannery (independent, generally left-wing based on Votesmart responses) and Karen Street (Love Australia Or Leave, a loopy One Nation-like anti-immigration party).  These have the same preference-flow problems as Mav, and in general Ungrouped candidates were very unsuccessful in 2016.  Flannery has extra problems - despite saying no to a referendum to fix Section 44 on Votesmart, he only applied to renounce UK citizenship on April 9 and therefore appears to be ineligible.

How To Vote Cards

Here I will note the how-to-vote cards issued by parties in the Tasmanian race as I become aware of them.  How-to-vote cards are recommendations put out by parties only.  The vast majority of Tasmanian voters don't follow them, and I strongly recommend not following them.  They are noted here for interest only.

Liberal: Nationals, UAP, Australian Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Shooters
Labor: Garland, Greens, Animal Justice, Lambie, HEMP
Greens: Garland, Animal Justice, HEMP, Labor, Sustainable Australia

Australian Conservatives: (open)
Animal Justice: Green, Labor, Sustainable Australia, (5 and 6 open)
CEC: One Nation, Shooters, Lambie, UAP, Greens (will be interested to see if anybody follows this!)
FACN: Shooters, Conservatives, National, Liberal, Liberal Democrat (One Nation omitted, so no love lost between Anning and them!)
Group O (Garland/Duncan): Greens, Labor, AJP, Sustainable Australia, HEMP
HEMP: (open)
Lambie: (open) (see below)
Pauline Hanson's One Nation: LDP, Shooters, Sustainable Australia (!), Nationals, Conservatives
Sustainable Australia: (open)
Nationals: Liberal, One Nation, United Australia, Lib Dems, Conservatives
United Australia: Liberal, National, Conservatives, Labor, Lambie

Lambie's card is problematic.  It falsely states that a voter voting above the line must number at least 6 boxes or their vote won't be counted.  Voters are instructed to number at least 6 but in practice anything including a single 1 will count to some degree.  Lambie also asks BTL voters to number every box (a great idea in theory, but will be offputting to some voters.)


  1. Is there a theoretical number of squares you could number so your ballot wouldn't exhaust apart from the obvious "all of them"?

    1. If you're voting above the line, not really, though you could safely leave Citizens Electoral Council box blank without any fear of your vote exhausting.

      If you're voting below the line, for most parties you can safely omit the second candidate as there is no real chance of the second candidate being elected. So you could just number boxes (in your order of choice) for all the lead candidates, the first four Labor, all the Liberals, the top two Greens (just to be on the safe side) and maybe Mav from the ungrouped column (unless you want to put him last).

      The risk in this is if someone gets elected and then gets disqualified, your vote might then exhaust in the special count to replace that person.

  2. Thanks for that Dr Bonham, going to have to do some serious thinking in the next few weeks because there are certain parties I'd never vote for in anyway, shape or form and I always vote below the line in the Senate, always have, always will.

    1. If you think some of those "certain parties" are worse than others then it is worth it to keep going to put the bad ones ahead of the awful ones. This isn't voting for them, it's just saying there are worse things out there.

      If on the other hand there are several parties that you think are about equally bad, then by all means stop when you get to them. It may mean your vote (or part of your vote's value) exhausts if and only if just those parties are left fighting for a seat.

  3. Thanks again. Think I might print out a list of the candidates and when I get to that point drag out a two bob piece, heads that one, tails that one and so on.

  4. The rebirth of the Tasmanian Nationals has gotten me thinking - when was the last time that the Nationals/Country party have run candidates in every state? (Including QLD LNP Nats) A quick look says the Tasmanian Nationals last ran in 1996, but a quick look at SA's rural seats suggests Nats didn't run in SA that year.

    1. The then "National Country Party" ran in every state in 1975.

  5. Hi Kevin,
    Firstly, thanks for all your wonderful work.

    The thing I came here to ask about is rather subjective/speculative, but I'd be interested in knowing if you have any thoughts.

    I'm just wondering if there is any chance that the Labor party followed the following thought process when deciding to apply the order of election method to the Lambie situation:
    a) At either the 2019 or 2022 election we're going to have to defend 3 Senate seats
    b) We are confident of a strong performance in the next election
    c) The Greens vote struggles more when Labor are in opposition and running against and unpopular Liberal government
    d) Therefore we should make the most of the electoral circumstances at the 2019 Federal Election, as it gives us the best chance of holding on to all of the seats we won in 2016 (when viewed from a full Senate perspective).

    I guess I just have no idea why else they might have taken the decision they did!


    1. I believe they did it the way they did because the order-of-election method frequently favours the major parties over smaller parties and so while they have given the Liberals a freebie by using it in this case, if they keep using it they are likely to benefit in future.

      It's unlikely Labor would have got an extra 6-year term by refusing to use the order of election method. Maybe Lisa Singh would have got it if they had used the better Section 282 method but more likely Martin. However in that circumstance with a longer run up to his re-election attempt, Martin might well have remained as an independent rather than joining with the Nationals.

  6. I can't thank you enough for all the work you put in to providing this information. For the Hobart City Council elections and now this Federal election I have wanted to be very careful about my voting beyond the Labor/Liberal choice, and have relied heavily on your detailed information about the smaller parties and unaligned candidates. Most sites I found gave general statements like: 'believe in rational decision making blah blah", which tells you nothing about them. Your information at least provides the information I need about whether this means right/left leaning, conservation/development etc etc. Thanks again … I now feel like I am making the choices that I want to make with my vote.

  7. Bit of a 'got-ya' comment on Lambie's how to vote card. Do you ever ask yourself 'Does it really matter?' before critiquing someone on a technicality?

    1. Didn't need to ask because I know it could. Especially, it is very important that voters be aware that if they want to vote BTL they don't have to number all the boxes. This could be very important in the case of, for instance, a Lambie supporter who also likes Lisa Singh but is put off by the prospect of voting 1-44. If that voter was put off and voted ATL instead, their vote might end up not reflecting their true intention as concerns the Labor candidates.

  8. The AEC have published a guide to help vote counters in determining whether or not a vote is formal:

    On pdf page 9 (p.5) it lists the basic principles, inclusing:
    * Establish the intention of the voter and give effect to this intention
    * The ballot paper should be construed as a whole

    But then there are a couple of examples that completely go against these general principals, such as on page 14 of the PDF (p.10), with 8 candidates in the house of reps, seven boxes numbered 1-7 and a dot in the 8th box, they say that is informal. And of page 25 of the PDF (p.21), they say a Senate ballot numbered 1-3 then 5-8 should exhaust at the third preference, despite it being obvious how the voter intended to rank the candidates.

    1. They are constrained by the legislation. If it is clear that the voter has numbered the boxes in a way that is informal or not fully formal under the law then they cannot use the voter's apparent intention to interpret around it.

      So for the dot example, there is a savings provision that saves a vote that omits one number provided "the square opposite the name of that candidate has been left blank". Any marking in that square means this is no longer the case.

    2. Yep, that's right, I checked the legislation, and the AEC vote guide is spot-on.

      COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT 1918 - SECT 269, (1A)(b) "the following numbers written in a square printed on the ballot paper above the line are to be disregarded: ...
      (ii)if a number is missed--any numbers that are higher than the missing number...
      Example... A second ballot paper has squares above the line that are numbered consecutively from 1 to 9 and then 11, 12, 13 and 14. The vote is formal under paragraph (1)(b). However, only the squares numbered from 1 to 9 are counted for the purposes of sections 273 and 273A because the numbers 11 and upwards are disregarded under subparagraph (b)(ii) of this subsection."

      As far as I'm aware, there is no parallel rule for the House of Reps. There's a case for electoral reform on that point. As far as I'm aware, there's no rationale for having different standards for vote formality in the Senate and in the House of Reps. Simplifying the rules by making them more uniform would decrease the chances of errors by vote counters. I doubt that many vote counters read the 41 page formality guide, and I'm quite certain that the AEC supervisors wouldn't have covered everything in their oral summaries of the formality rules given to vote counters before they started work.