Saturday, April 30, 2022

2022 Senate How To Vote Cards: Variants, Changes and Other Comments

This is a page where I hope to keep track of cases where parties are issuing multiple Senate How To Vote card recommendations (eg with regional differences) or else change their published Senate HTV to something different to what is showing on the ABC website.  Please notify cases in comments, on Twitter (@kevinbonham) or to my email (link via profile).   The ABC does a brilliant job of archiving Senate How To Votes but tends to only store one version for each state and not keep track of variants.  I want to try to keep track of the variants because doing so is useful in calculating the rate at which Senate cards are followed for articles like this.  Note that I am not myself keeping lists of the main HTVs, except in the case of Tasmania.

Not that many voters actually follow Senate HTVs.  As noted in the linked article, in 2019 the rate by state among voters voting above the line was in the 20-30% range for the Coalition, 15-20 for Labor, 7-15 for Greens and mostly 0-10 for other parties.  These figures were a little lower than in 2016.  In Tasmania, the follow rates are almost negligible, and approaching 30% of voters vote below the line anyway.  Unlike in the House of Representatives, where providing a single order for voters to copy is vital for trying to control the informal voting rate, in the Senate if a voter votes 1 above the line then their vote is saved and counted, provided there is only one 1.  (It counts for that party only, and once all their candidates are elected or excluded it exhausts.)  


(For those wondering re Reps, the Reps follow rate was estimated at 29% in the latest Australian Election Study, and while that might be a bit low, there's also a lot of indirect evidence that follow rates are around 40-45% for the Coalition, 30-40% for Labor and lower for minor parties.  See this excellent recent APH guide by Damon Muller and also my recent article about how overrated Reps HTV decisions are as a factor affecting outcomes.)

Also, even if a voter does follow the Senate HTV, a lot of Senate votes are either not distributed to other parties at any meaningful stage or distributed only at very reduced values.  For instance a 1 Labor above-the-line vote in a state usually has its value greatly reduced after electing a couple of Labor Senators, and might then be received by the third candidate (and flow on to other parties) at a value of, eg, 0.1 votes.  A 1 Greens vote might go nowhere if the Greens win the final seat, or might at some stage be passed on in a surplus at a low value.  The votes most likely to hang around in the count at full value are those for micro-parties that get excluded.   

Senate recommendations can trigger backlash.  For instance One Nation are displeased that the Liberals in Tasmania have recommended preferences to Jacqui Lambie Network ahead of them, although they are also included on the Liberal card, and have cited this in a decision to recommend preferences to Labor in Bass ahead of the Liberals' Bridget Archer.  It's very unlikely the Liberal HTV will have much impact, since only 8% of Liberal ATL voters in Tasmania copied it last election, and the ATL Liberal vote could well be short of two quotas because of down-ticket below-the-line voting for Eric Abetz.  Alternatively if the Liberal ATL total does exceed two quotas, the excess will land with Abetz at a very low value and Abetz's BTLs may have a far greater impact.  But One Nation may not have understood that, or may just be being grumpy.  

So why do parties bother with Senate HTVs at all and not all just issue open tickets and avoid backlash for contentious recommendations?  One use of Senate HTV cards is that Senate recommendations can be traded for the Reps.  Hardly any minor party voters follow Reps HTVs either, but even if, say, 10% do, then a minor party polling 5% in the seat can have a 0.5% impact through its HTV selection.  That might decide the odd seat here and there so a minor party that will not win Reps seats might give a major party a Reps preference recommendation in return for being included in the major party's Senate HTV.  Sometimes a major party will poll, say, 2.15 Senate quotas in a state and a minor party might outlast it and pick up some preferences that way.  

Another use of Senate HTV cards is virtue-signalling; even if the cards have relatively little impact  (not only because of low follow rates but also because many Senate preferences are never distributed or distributed at a low value only), parties may be keen to signal that they are trying to do the right thing in terms of electing like-minded parties to influence the balance of the Senate.  

A third use is that there are probably some voters who just want to be told what to do, and who might be reluctant to vote for a party that asked them to use their own initiative.

But as well as all these, I think some parties keep mucking around with Senate HTV preferences because they don't realise how ineffectual the cards are and think they can still go on playing the backroom games that we saw under Group Ticket Voting.  Despite evidence that voters will baulk at following Senate HTVs that are politically incoherent or confusing, we still see weirdness such as Labor's decision to include the more-opposite-than-not Liberal Democrats on their HTVs in most states.  Just maybe in some cases this might be a punt that the LDP could be contesting the final seat with the Coalition but it has produced such ridiculous results as the Tasmanian Labor card recommending a preference for anti-mandates activist Topher Field who doesn't even live in Tasmania.

Regional Preferencing Variation

Some parties sometimes issue regional variants of their Senate HTV card.  For instance, Labor demotes the Greens in areas of northern Queensland where the Greens are unpopular.  In general this doesn't have any actual impact on anyone's chances, it is just about Labor maintaining an appearance of not being too close to the Greens in those areas.  

This also happens, more contentiously, in the House of Representatives where Labor will often recommend preferences to Katters Australian Party and even at this election a UAP candidate above the Greens in such seats.  The problem Labor has is that having decided to issue HTV cards (in the Reps case largely to control formality) there isn't a single order that will be well received by voters everywhere in the state. Even if the orders make no difference, Labor cops flak for saying one thing in Brisbane and another thing in Gladstone.   While some Greens supporters tend to be very critical of this, their party has also issued regional variants in Queensland in the past.   The calculus for Labor is that appearing too close to the Greens in some areas could seriously damage their vote, while the mixed messages will only trigger complaints from people who are not going to change their preference over it.   (It did Labor no good in 2019, because voters in these areas saw Labor as too close to the Greens on policy anyway.)

Variant Cards

In each case this article gives:

* The ABC published how to vote card for each case where a variant or change has been detected

* The variant order

* Details of where/when the variant applies/applied, where known

1. Australian Labor Party (Queensland)

* ABC published order 2 Greens 3 Animal Justice 4 Democrats 5 Reason 6 Federal ICAC Now

Variant 1: 2 Animal Justice 3 Democrats 4 Greens 5 Reason 6 Federal ICAC Now
Variant range: Capricornia, Dawson, Flynn, Herbert, Hinkler, Kennedy
Source: ALP how to vote website

2. Australian Labor Party (New South Wales)

* ABC published order 2 Greens 3 Shooters 4 Animal Justice 5 Liberal Democrats 6 Reason

Variant 1: 2 Shooters 3 Animal Justice 4 Greens 5 Liberal Democrats 6 Reason
Variant range: Eden-Monaro, Hunter, Paterson
Source: ALP how to vote website

(more to be added when known)



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