South Australian state redistribution update

This is a quick blog post about a story that I’ve missed up until now.

As they do every four years, the South Australian electoral boundaries are currently in the process of being redistributed. The draft boundaries are due to be released at 11am Adelaide time this morning. This follows a round of submissions earlier this year, which largely went under the radar due to the federal election.

South Australia conducts redistributions after every election. Unlike other jurisdictions around Australia, the boundaries commission is required to ensure that the result is “fair” – ie. that a majority of the two-party-preferred vote gives a majority of seats. I’m on the record as thinking that this is an impossible task. By definition a system of single-member electorates are not fair, it can’t handle multiparty politics, and is always undone by different swings across the state.

The 2010 election saw Labor hold on to its majority despite losing a majority of the two-party-preferred vote, despite the best efforts to draw boundaries which wouldn’t produce this result. After this election, the boundaries commission decided that the boundaries were not unfair and didn’t attempt to undertake major redrawing of the boundaries to undo Labor’s new advantage.

The following map shows how much each seat diverges from the average quota as of 2016. Seats marked in red are above average, those in blue below average. Those in pale yellow are within a range of 1% either above or below. Those in a darker colour are 5% above or below average.

Seats must fall within 10% of the average. Technically only two seats fall outside this band: Port Adelaide is over 10% above average, and the remote north-western seat of Giles is over 10% below average.

In practice a lot more seats will be redrawn. On a regional basis, seats in the northern suburbs of Adelaide are above average. There are four seats north of the Adelaide city centre which are more than 5% above quota. The nine seats at the northern end of Adelaide are collectively 17.6% above quota, while the fifteen seats in central Adelaide are 7.4% above quota, and the southern Adelaide seats are mostly sitting around the quota.

The five seats in northern South Australia are collectively 22.7% below their fifth quota. This suggests that we should expect one of these rural seats to be pulled further into the northern fringe of Adelaide, to absorb the surplus population in Adelaide. We’ll find out soon enough.

I should note that I’m not planning to immediately drop everything to construct a map of the new draft SA boundaries, as I am hoping to produce a guide to some of the biggest councils up for election in New South Wales in September. I’ll return to produce this map later in the year once other elections no longer monopolise my time.


Independents surge in NT election

Nominations closed on Friday for the Northern Territory election – to be held two weeks from today.

The number of independents running in the coming election has increased dramatically, with five sitting independent MPs running for election and a former chief minister running for his old seat as an independent.

86 candidates stood for the 25 Assembly electorates in 2012. That number has increased to 115, almost entirely due to a big surge in the number of independents on the ballot.

Thirteen independents ran in 2012. This year, forty independents are running.

Gerry Wood was the only independent to win a seat in 2012, winning a fourth term in his seat of Nelson. Since that election, six other MPs have become independents: five MPs elected as Country Liberal candidates have left the party, and one Labor MP (former leader Delia Lawrie) has also moved to the crossbench. Out of these seven independents, five of them are running for re-election.

Some of these ex-CLP candidates could well have a chance of winning their seat against the official CLP candidate, in seats like Araluen, Goyder and Arnhem.

The former CLP chief minister Terry Mills has also re-emerged as an independent candidate in his old seat of Blain. Mills resigned from Parliament in 2014 after he was removed as chief minister in 2013. The by-election was won by CLP candidate Nathan Barrett, whose ministerial career came unstuck in June this year thanks to a sex scandal. Barrett has since left the CLP, and is not running for re-election. Labor would have little to no chance of winning Blain, even in a landslide, but Mills has a real shot at winning his seat.

We haven’t seen much polling in the NT, but those we have seen suggests that the CLP is on track to be easily defeated by Labor. If this election goes badly, and the CLP loses as many as four of their seats to independents, they could well be reduced to a small rump.

Apart from independents, the number of candidates running for political parties has roughly stayed the same. As in 2012, Labor and the CLP are running in all 25 seats. The Greens are running only six candidates, down from ten in 2012. Another party, ‘1 Territory’, is running thirteen candidates. The Citizens Electoral Council is running four candidates, and the Shooters and Fishers are running two.

The increase in candidate nominations will be seen in the size of most ballot papers. The median ballot paper size in 2012 was only three candidates. There was more than four candidates in only three seats. This year, there are five or more candidates running in eleven seats, with eight candidates running in the seat of Daly.


NT election August 27 – check out the guide

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 1.51.46 pmVoters in the Northern Territory go to the polls on August 27 to elect a new Legislative Assembly.

The Country Liberal Party returned to power in 2012 after eleven years of Labor government, and the last three years have been tumultuous.

There has been one change of chief minister, another attempted leadership change, and multiple scandals and ministerial resignations. At least six CLP MPs have quit the party (with one returning to the party) along with one Labor MP, reducing Adam Giles’ Country Liberal government to a minority position.

There hasn’t been much polling in the Northern Territory, but the polls we have seen suggest a massive swing to Labor. Labor also gained a large swing in the NT in the recent federal elections.

I have prepared a guide to the Northern Territory election, which includes an overall analysis of the situation and guides to all 25 electorates.

At the time of writing, I’ve only completed 22 of the 25 guides, with the other three coming in the next few days.

Each guide includes a list of candidates (to be updated after today’s declaration of nominations), the history of the seat, the geography, what changes were made in the redistribution, the 2012 results and a breakdown of results by booth.

Northern Territory electorates are much smaller than other electorates I have profiled – most seats only have a handful of polling places – some only have one. So instead of doing a map showing the booth results, I have included each booth’s key results in a table and then used a map to show where those booths lie.

As usual, you are welcome to comment on each seat, and you can use this post for general discussion about the election.

You can use the following map to click through to each seat’s guide – just remember that there are seven seats which don’t yet have guides. They should be up in the next few days.


Don’t like senators winning with 77 primary votes? Here’s how to fix it

There’s been a lot of attention over the last few days on the newly elected One Nation senator from Queensland, Malcolm Roberts. His election was a bit of a surprise, whereas we were confident that Pauline Hanson would win her seat, and her two other Senate colleagues were predicted as likely to win since election night.

There’s a lot to pick over about Roberts’ record, but a lot of the focus has been on the fact that he received only 77 primary votes – less than any other successful candidate.

I actually think there is a real problem with our Senate voting system which is exposed by Roberts’ tiny primary vote, but it’s not the one that most media has focused on. This problem isn’t unique to Malcolm Roberts. The reality is most senators, from major and minor parties, receive very few personal votes, and rely almost entirely on voters preferencing according to their party’s ticket to win a seat.

It is remarkable that someone won a seat off only 77 personal primary votes, but I would argue that it isn’t significantly different to the many major party candidates elected on a few thousand votes in large states.

The phenomenon of unpopular candidates winning seats with no public profile is not limited to One Nation – the major parties have a history of gifting Senate seats to party hacks who couldn’t win a seat in the House of Representatives. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In this article, I’ll explain the broader issue, and what I think can solve it.

Read the rest of this entry »


ACT 2016 – the guide

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.11.40 amVoters in the Australian Capital Territory go to the polls on October 15 to elect a new Legislative Assembly.

The current 17-member assembly will be replaced by an enlarged 25-member assembly. To achieve this, two new electorates called Murrumbidgee and Yerrabi have been added, and the central electorate of Molonglo has been shrunk and renamed Kurrajong.

I have completed a full guide for each of the five electorates.

Read the guide here

As usual, you can comment on each seat’s guide.



Senate preferences – unpacking the data

One of the exciting things about the new Senate voting system is that we are on the verge of gaining a lot of new data on how people preference. The AEC has released the full dataset of Senate preferences for the last few elections, but the vast majority of preferences followed pre-registered tickets, so the data was less interesting.

This time, everyone chooses their own preferences, and it appears that the vast majority of voters have marked their own preferences. Using this massive dataset we can do a lot of things to learn more about how voters preference, how many follow how-to-vote cards, and how they preference if they don’t. We can also see how these trends vary between seats, states and booths.

I haven’t had time to do any of this at the moment, but some others have done some cool things with the data. I just wanted to shout out to these people, and then address a possible problem with the method of deciding which senators get six-year terms.

David Barry, who does a lot of cool things with election data at his website, has put together a preference explorer. For voters who voted above the line (most of whom numbered six boxes), you can see how many people followed any particular preference flow.

Grahame Bowland has made his own software which takes the AEC preference data and runs his own count, to verify the accuracy of the AEC count. So far the Tasmanian count has passed the test. His page shows how the count progressed in a more user-friendly way than the official AEC PDF file.

Finally, there was some discussion last night around the interpretation of the section of the electoral act which deals with the special count to identify the top-six senators in each state (section 282).

Under section 282, a special count is conducted between the twelve candidates who have been elected from each state. Any votes which give a first preference for anyone other than these twelve candidates is distributed to one of them, and if there is no preference for an elected candidate, the vote is treated as informal. A new quota is struck as 1/7 of the remaining votes, and a new count is conducted. The Senate is then free to use the results of this count, if they choose, to determine who gets a six-year term and who gets a three-year term.

Grahame Bowland and Dean Ashley (who has built his own version of the counting software) both attempted to do a special recount as specified under section 282, but have discovered an ambiguity which makes it unclear who gets elected.

Dean goes into much more detail at his blog, but the short explanation is that it is unclear whether a below-the-line vote which is originally formal, and has a preference for at least one of the elected candidates, but has less than six preferences for elected candidates, is treated as formal in the recount.

It seems likely to me that any vote that was formal stays formal, as long as there is someone to receive the preference – but I can’t say the definitively from my reading of the legislation.


Tasmanian Senate button-push – summary

I’ve got a piece prepared for the Guardian today which discusses the Tasmanian Senate result but I had some thoughts that didn’t fit in to include here.

Firstly, the challenge in winning a seat from below the line isn’t just in gaining enough primary votes to be a contender. On primary votes, Richard Colbeck looked like he was in a strong position to win a seat. He was actually on track to win the tenth seat at the point where there were 24 candidates still racing for the last four seats.

Neither Colbeck or Singh received a single above the line vote. Not one. Colbeck was knocked out before Bushby was elected, so he wasn’t able to receive any. Singh was elected just before Bilyk, on preferences from Colbeck.

Colbeck was successively overtaken by Bushby, then Bilyk, then McKim, then finally McCulloch. Singh only survived because she was close enough to a quota to stay ahead of the pack, and to limp across the line with below-the-line preferences.

As long as we have above-the-line voting, this will remain a significant hurdle for any insurgent candidate. Ideally, they need the candidates ahead of them to drop out of the race early to open up room for them to gain preferences, because it’s hard to see any candidate getting close to the much higher half-Senate quota on their own steam. Singh wouldn’t have won a seat if this was a half-Senate election.

The second thing to note is that preferences are critical. Before this election we relied on tremendous speculation about how an election might work under this new voting system. Some suggested that all votes would exhaust, and it would become a “first past the post” race. That has well-and-truly proven to be wrong. I’m personally surprised by how few votes exhausted in Tasmania, and how close the final seat was to a full quota.

Less than 2.8% of votes exhausted. The last seat went to a candidate on more than 80% of a quota. Over 85% of above-the-line votes were numbered 1-6. It appears that a similar phenomenon is taking place in other states, although you’d expect that more votes will end up in the exhaust pile in states with bigger ballots.

Considering this information we have, we need to assume that a lot of preferences will decide the last seats in every state.

Gee wouldn’t it be nice to have daily interim distributions of preferences, as they do in ACT territory elections!


Double NSW elections – the guide

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There are two New South Wales state seats which are due to hold by-elections this year, after the incumbent MPs resigned to run (successfully) in the federal election.

Labor MP Linda Burney resigned from the inner-west Sydney seat of Canterbury to run for Barton, and Nationals MP Andrew Gee resigned from the central west NSW seat of Orange to run for Calare.

I don’t know when these elections will be due, but it will be some time this year.

I’ve completed guides for both seats.

Click here for Canterbury

Click here for Orange


QLD redistribution – the numbers

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 4.44.44 pmQueensland is about to dive into a redistribution of state electorates, to update the existing electoral map which was created in the lead up to the 2009 election.

Queensland currently has 89 electorates, but will be adding four additional seats for the next election, thanks to legislation passed earlier this year. For this reason, most existing electorates are above the required average for the new electoral map.

The electorates are required to be roughly in line with the average enrolment as of 2016, and the average projected enrolment as of 2022. The following table shows the quotas in each region of the state.

Seat Seats 2016 quotas 2022 quotas
Brisbane North 16 16.56 16.42
Brisbane South 20 20.12 19.53
Central QLD 11 11.32 11.09
Gold Coast 10 11.00 11.31
North QLD 11 11.42 11.38
SE QLD 10 10.84 11.60
Sunshine Coast 8 8.80 8.94
Western QLD 3 2.94 2.73

It appears that three of the four new seats will be added in the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, and in those parts of South-East Queensland outside of Brisbane (such as Ipswich, which is growing fast).

Below the fold I’ve posted a map and run through the likely impact on each region. Read the rest of this entry »


Map update – ward maps for NSW and Victoria

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As we get close to the conclusion of the federal election, I’ve started work on some upcoming elections.

There will be council elections in New South Wales in September this year, and in Victoria in October. These elections will cover the whole of Victoria, and roughly half of all NSW councils. Those NSW councils up for election in 2016 are those unaffected by the council amalgamations. Those which have been amalgamated (or who escape amalgamation) are due to have elections in September next year.

I’ve now completed my ward map of Victoria.

I’ve also completed a local government area map of NSW showing the amalgamated councils and, where no decision has yet been taken, the proposed new council.

I’ve also completed a ward map of NSW for all of those councils with confirmed wards. This map includes wards for all of those councils which have elections in 2016, as well as wards for all of those new councils which have been formally created.

For those new councils already formally created, the NSW state government announced new ward boundaries at the same time as the amalgamations were announced. There is a series of councils where the state government has indicated in-principle support for amalgamation pending court challenges, or where no decision has yet been taken, so no wards have yet been announced for these councils.

The Hills Shire is a special case. It won’t be amalgamated, but has lost its southern edge to Parramatta, which means it will require new wards. Those wards have not yet been decided.

I will keep updating the local government area and ward maps of New South Wales as council amalgamations are finalised in the lead-up to the 2017 elections.

I will return with more analysis of these 2016 council elections as we get closer to election day.