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Fisher – Liberal takes the lead?

While we were all distracted by Prahran yesterday afternoon, quite strange things were happening in the count for the South Australian state seat of Fisher following Saturday’s by-election.

We all expected Labor to win the Fisher by-election after an error on Sunday revealed that Labor was holding 52% of the vote on election-day votes.

The Electoral Commission of South Australia (ECSA) added a whole bunch of ‘declaration votes’ yesterday, and with these votes the Liberal Party took a 17-vote lead. Just before this blog post went up, another batch was added and this resulted in Labor’s Nat Cook regaining the lead by 21 votes. At the time of writing, this update hasn’t made it to the ECSA website.

When I say ‘declaration votes’, I’m referring to all votes other than those cast at a local polling place on election day. This includes, prepoll votes, postal votes, absentee votes, and a few other small categories. There are no absentee votes because this is a sole by-election, so you would expect most of that category to be postal votes and prepoll votes.

While there was a swing of about 9% away from the Liberal Party on ordinary votes, the current sample of declaration votes suggests only a slight drop in the Liberal two-party-preferred vote, down to 55.6%. That seems quite unlikely.

Sadly, ECSA does not break down declaration votes by type, so it’s hard to know whether those votes counted are all postal or prepoll, and we can’t separately compare them to similar votes from March.

It’s also unclear whether all votes have been counted. However, when you compare total votes counted, it seems that not as many votes have been counted. In March, 24,087 votes were counted in Fisher, including informal votes. So far, only 21,175 votes have been counted. It’s likely that there has been some drop in turnout, but it’s also possible that some declaration votes are yet to be counted.

On Twitter, Nine News reporter Tom Richardson reported that most declaration votes have been counted, with a small batch to come.

The Liberal Party was only winning by the slimmest of margins thanks to a very high declaration vote, considering their election day vote. If there are more votes, and they don’t favour the Liberals by the same margin, then you would expect Labor to win. Labor has already taken a slim lead.

Prahran – what happened?

The Victorian Greens appear to have won a second seat in the Legislative Assembly after the distribution of preferences in Prahran last night. Prahran was the last seat to be decided in the lower house (although quite a lot of the races in the Legislative Council remain undecided), and pending a recount appears to have gone to the Greens.

It’s always remarkable when the Greens win a single-member electorate. By my count, the Greens have only ever won two federal electorates and four state electorates, and only four of those six seats were won at general elections.

But Prahran is all the more remarkable because the candidate in third place managed to win on preferences. This is very rare, but it has happened, mostly in cases involving both a Liberal and National running, or the DLP running. A bunch of examples were posted in comments on my previous post. The most recent examples include Blair in 1998, when the Liberal came third and defeated Pauline Hanson, and Denison in 2010, when Andrew Wilkie came third, overtook the Liberal Party on Greens preferences and then beat Labor on Liberal preferences. There was also the 2009 Frome by-election in South Australia where an independent won from third.

When the news first broke yesterday, it was reported that the Greens had overtaken Labor by a 38-vote margin, and then appeared to have beaten the Liberal Party by a 128-vote margin. When the official VEC distribution was released, these numbers were revised upwards to 41 votes and 262 votes respectively.

The Liberal-Green margin, while slim, should be solid enough to withstand a recount. A recount is beginning this morning, and Labor will be hoping to overturn that 41-vote margin at the point where Labor’s Neil Pharaoh was eliminated. That will be very tough, but not quite impossible.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the two-party-preferred vote (which in all cases is between Labor and the Coalition) still shows incumbent Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown beating Pharaoh by 25 votes. This shows that the Greens benefited from stronger preference flows than Labor. Most of these preferences would have come from the other main progressive party, but the Greens also appear to have done slightly better from minor candidates, and this could partly explain them being in a stronger position in a head-to-head contest with the Liberal.

If Labor somehow were to overturn the Greens’ 41-vote margin, this could, therefore, result in Newton-Brown winning. If Labor were to win by finding another batch of Labor votes not correctly counted, then that would result in their 2PP position improving and their party winning. But if Labor were to take the lead over the Greens by knocking out Greens votes (most of which would have flowed to Labor as preferences) then this would improve Newton-Brown’s position and give him the seat.

So, how did the preference distribution work out?

The following chart allows you to click through to each stage.

On primary votes, Labor led the Greens by 408 votes.

First of all, preferences from the three independents and Family First were distributed. The Greens gained 28.6% of these preferences, Liberal 30.5%, Labor 21.55% and Animal Justice 19.3%. In raw numbers, this narrowed Labor’s lead over the Greens by 60 votes, from 408 to 348.

Then Animal Justice was excluded. 57.8% of their preferences flowed to the Greens, with 23.4% flowing to the Liberal and 18.8% to Labor. In raw numbers, the Greens gained 389 more preferences than Labor, and this overturned Labor’s 348-vote lead and gave the Greens a 41-vote lead.

Following this turnaround, Labor’s 9,950 preferences were distributed. The Greens needed about 85.7% of these preferences to win, and they gained just over 87%. The Greens won 8,659 Labor preferences and the Liberal Party won only 1,291 preferences.

And that’s how they did it.

Prahran – Greens overtake Labor

Update: We now have widespread reports that the Greens have won the distribution of preferences by a 128-vote margin over sitting Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown.

I think it’s reasonable to assume there will need to be a recount, in particular to confirm that the Greens outpolled the ALP’s Neil Pharaoh, since the 38-vote margin is very slim.

Pending that recount, it’s a historic result. Prior to this election, the Greens had only ever won two single-member seats at a general election – federal Melbourne in 2010 and 2013, and Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election. The Victorian Greens have now won two seats in their breakthrough, including one seat being won off a Liberal, and from third place.

Original post: The Victorian Electoral Commission has been distributed preferences in Prahran today to determine which of the two progressive parties will be pitted against the Liberal Party for the final seat.

The VEC has just completed distributing preferences from the fourth-placed Animal Justice Party producing the following result:

  • 17,097 – Clem Newton Brown (LIB)
  • 9,991 – Sam Hibbins (GRN)
  • 9,953 – Neil Pharaoh (ALP)

On these numbers, there will surely need to be some kind of recount, but we will also now be waiting for some kind of distribution of preferences between Hibbins and Newton-Brown to work out if the Greens can gain enough preferences to win.

Hibbins will need to gain 85.7% of Labor preferences (including votes from minor candidates that flowed to Labor) to win the seat. That’s a very high proportion, but it is possible.

Either way, it seems likely that the final Liberal-vs-Green count will be tight, and may trigger some kind of recount, as will the narrowness of the count between Hibbins and Pharoah. This race will drag on for a number of days.

Prahran – could the Greens win from third?

Prahran6-GRNswingPrahran has been the stand-out seat in terms of late counting for the Victorian state election. While every other seat has now been decided, Prahran remains too close to call – with three different candidates still in the running.

At first glance, it appears that Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown is narrowly leading Labor candidate Neil Pharoah after preferences by 41 votes. While that is extremely close, most votes have now been counted on a ‘two-party-preferred’ basis between Labor and Liberal, so this in normal circumstances would have put Newton-Brown in a strong position to win.

But Pharoah is only 426 votes ahead of the Greens’ Sam Hibbins on primary votes, and is in serious danger of falling behind the Greens based on preferences from minor parties.

In terms of primary votes counted, it appears that most votes have been counted. A Greens scrutineer told me that they expect approximately 100 more votes to be added to the count. It is worth noting that on Sunday another sixteen Greens votes were found, which will narrow the Labor lead over the Greens slightly further.

With a gap of 410 votes, there are then another batch of votes for candidates other than Labor, Liberal or Green. At the time of writing, there are 1,669 votes cast either for the Animal Justice Party, Family First or one of three independents. Almost half of these votes are for the Animal Justice Party, who preferenced the Greens.

The Greens have had a large team of scrutineers covering the count, with a more limited presence from Labor and Liberal. The Greens have tracked preferences from those minor candidates, and believe that they will gain enough preferences to overtake Labor.

If the Greens overtake Labor, there will be a lot more uncertainty about the result, since the VEC has not been undertaking an indicative Liberal-Green count in the way they have for Liberal-Labor. The Greens will need to gain about 83% of preferences from Labor and the minor candidates, which is a big ask, but evidence from scrutineers suggests that the Greens have a chance of winning.

Later today, the VEC will be undertaking the distribution of preferences, which will determine who out of Labor or the Greens will come second and challenge the Liberal MP for the seat. It’s certainly worth watching.

If the Greens manage to win despite coming third on primary votes, it will be a rare result without many precedents. In recent years, the only examples I am aware of were the 2009 Frome by-election in South Australia and Denison at the 2010 federal election – in both cases an independent won from third place. Prahran would also be the first time in Australia that the Greens have won a seat off the Liberal Party.

In the meantime, continue reading below the fold for some analysis of the booth results in Prahran.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fisher by-election – results wrap

Update: Sunday’s recheck did indeed discover an error at the Aberfoyle Park booth which means the booth was won by Labor with 54%, not the Liberal Party with 54%. This puts the Labor two-party-preferred vote over 52%, and pretty much locks down the result.

Original post: Yesterday’s by-election in the southern Adelaide state seat of Fisher produced an unclear result, but one major party should be very happy with the result, while the other should be disappointed.

Fisher is a traditional Liberal seat – the seat was held by the Liberal Party from 1989 until Bob Such left the party in 2000. At the March 2014 general election, the Liberal Party won 57.2% of the two-party-preferred (Liberal vs Labor) vote in Fisher, which suggests that the party would have won the seat without Such’s candidacy.

In comparison, Labor won 50.9% of the two-party-preferred vote in the nine polling places used on election day. Labor won four out of nine polling places. In March, the Liberal Party won all ten polling places, with a vote ranging from 52.3% to 68%.

Independent candidate Dan Woodyatt ran explicitly as a successor to Bob Such, but polled much less than Such. Woodyatt is now polling 22.5% of the primary vote, compared to 38.4% for Bob Such in March.

While around 16% of Bob Such’s voters moved away from Woodyatt, the Liberal Party completely failed to gain those votes. The Liberal vote is currently down 0.05% compared to March, while Labor’s primary vote is up by over 10%.

I don’t have exact figures, but it appears that the number of declaration votes (which includes postal and prepoll votes) has increased compared to March. Antony Green estimates that the Liberal Party will need to do 3% better than they did on election day, which is greater than the gap in March.

If Labor holds on to their lead and wins the seat, the Labor government will regain a majority in the House of Assembly, with 24 seats as well as the support of two independents, compared to 21 seats for the Liberal Party.

For my analysis, I have split up booths into the same three areas used in the by-election guide: East, Central and West.

The ALP won 54.7% of the two-party-preferred vote in the east, and 49% of the 2PP vote in the Central area. The Liberal Party won a large 63.5% majority in the west, but the population is much smaller in that area.

Voter group LIB prim % ALP prim % IND prim % ALP 2PP % Formal % of votes
East 34.58 33.55 18.47 54.65 7,482 51.16
Central 32.98 23.35 27.67 48.89 6,065 41.47
West 50.00 14.01 21.43 36.45 1,078 7.37

One other thing worth noting: Antony Green has identified a possible error in counting that may have underestimated the Labor two-party-preferred vote.

In seven out of nine polling places, the proportion of minor party and independent preferences flowing to the Liberal Party was clustered from 30% to 35%, but the Liberal Party received 45% of preferences in Clarendon, and over 50% of preferences in Aberfoyle Park.

If you look at the following map showing the swings after preferences, you’ll also see that the swing to Labor is much lower at those two booths. Every other booth has a swing to Labor of 7-11%, but those two booths have a swing of 2-3%. This discrepancy does not exist on Labor’s primary vote – Labor gained a swing of 9.6% on primary votes in Aberfoyle Park, although the Labor primary vote swing in Clarendon was substantially lower at 4.2%.

There’ll be a recheck of votes tomorrow, so if there is a problem it should be discovered, and this would make the challenge even more serious for the Liberal candidate.

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Two-party-preferred swings at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Two-party-preferred swings at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Liberal primary votes at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Liberal primary votes at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Labor primary votes at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Labor primary votes at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Primary votes for independent candidate Dan Woodyatt at the 2014 Fisher by-election.

Primary votes for independent candidate Dan Woodyatt at the 2014 Fisher by-election.