Brisbane 2020 – election-day turnout crashes

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The election results from Brisbane have been pretty messy so I haven’t tried to stay on top of all of it. At the moment it looks like Labor, the Greens and the independent have retained the 7 wards they currently hold and the LNP is leading in all 19 of their wards. There are three wards the ABC has listed as “in doubt” while we wait for some more concrete results and those are the three I’d be watching.

I wanted to look at a different angle, so I downloaded all of the voting data by booth (not as easy as I would have liked) for Brisbane and compared it to the 2016 results to get a sense of how turnout has changed.

When you look by category, it looks like only about one quarter of eligible voters would have cast a vote on election day, while the pre-poll rate tripled to more than 36% of eligible voters. With more postal and telephone votes yet to be counted, it seems possible that early votes will make up more than half of the eligible electorate, and about two thirds of total votes.

Queensland election – state of play one day later

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I was planning a deeper analysis looking at the proportion of votes which have reported, and what it tells us about how low the turnout was on election day but unfortunately I’ve had some issues with the data coming out of the ECQ, so I’m going to keep this post a bit simpler as a summary of what we know.

It looks likely that Adrian Schrinner has been elected to his own term as lord mayor, a fifth term in a row for the Liberal National Party. His primary vote has been climbing as more votes have reported, and he now sits on 47.2% of the primary vote, with Labor’s Pat Condren trailing on 31.1%. This translates into a swing of 6.3% against the LNP and 0.9% against Labor.

The Greens appear to have performed well all across this election, which was somewhat obscured by the technical difficulties in election results last night and a presumption that some results were skewed early on. The Greens lord mayoral candidate Kath Angus is currently on 15.6%, a swing of 5.4% compared to 2016.

About 60% of turnout has been counted so far in the mayoral race, and the sample is fairly even across the city (although Calamvale is very underrepresented in the sample).

We don’t have a preference count yet but it looks certain that Schrinner will win with a reduced majority.

The Greens also did well in a number of key wards. Sitting Greens councillor Jonathan Sri is sitting on 48% of the primary vote: a swing of 15%. We don’t have a preference count but he should have no trouble clearing the 50% barrier.

The Greens also gained a large swing in Paddington ward, which overlaps with the Greens state seat of Maiwar. Donna Burns gained a 10.9% swing. We will need the preference count to know who wins here – the ABC’s preference estimates predict the race is too close to call. The Greens have also moved into second place in the Central ward but will need to do well on preferences to win.

At the moment the LNP has won twelve wards, Labor has won five and others have won two. This leaves seven in play.

Apart from Paddington, there are six other contests still not decided.

The ABC has the LNP leading in Bracken Ridge, Central, Holland Park and Northgate, while Labor is leading in Calamvale and Enoggera, but it’s important to emphasise that these are all based on preference estimates: we still don’t have preference flows in any of these seats. We are also still missing most pre-poll figures and the postal votes are yet to be counted.

These early votes make up a massive part of the electorate, and we don’t know how different they will look in the current environment. It’s conceivable they could shift some of these races back to the LNP.

We also don’t know what impact the lack of how-to-votes will have on preference estimates, but there have been reports of Greens preference flows to Labor in Currumbin being weaker than you would expect in such a race.

If those seven undecided wards all go to the leading party that will result in a council with two more Labor councillors than the current council, and will leave Labor slightly closer to taking control of the council, but won’t materially impact on the LNP’s grip on power.

I will return to this topic once we have more information, later in the week.

Queensland elections – election night live

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7:07am – Overall we are seeing a trend of swings against the LNP and to the Greens, with Labor gaining in some places and losing in others. The Greens in particular appear to have strengthened their position in the inner-city wards of Coorparoo, Paddington and The Gabba, where it looks likely that Jonathan Sri will be re-elected with a much bigger vote. I should warn, however, that all these figures are very preliminary and do not include preference counts. We don’t know how the remaining postal and pre-poll votes might vary from the election day vote.

7:05am – We have some primary votes from each council ward but without preference counts and without comparing where the booths have come from it’s hard to compare. I’ll do some work on this later today. For the eight wards I’m most interested in, this is the current situation:

  • Coorparoo – With 14.53% counted, LNP is down 4.3%, Labor down 3.4%, Greens up 10.2%. Very small sample so I would want to see more.
  • Doboy – With 13.16% counted, the LNP is on 53.5% in a two-horse race.
  • Enoggera – With 23.18% counted, the LNP is down 7.2%, Labor is up 1.9%, Greens are up 0.7%.
  • Holland Park – With 21.26% counted, the LNP is down 4.5%, Labor is down 4.6%, the Greens are up 9.6%.
  • Northgate – With 24.32% counted, the LNP is down 3.3%, Labor is up 0.3%, Greens are up 2.9%.
  • Paddington – With 27.89% counted, the LNP is down 5.4%, the Greens are up 13.7%, Labor is down 8.4%.
  • The Gabba – With 38.62% counted, the Greens are up 16.2% to almost 49%, Labor is down 4.1%, the LNP is down 9.6%.
  • The Gap – With 22.09% counted, the LNP is down 2.2%, Labor is down 2.4%, the Greens are up 3.8%.

6:48am – Over 40% has been counted for lord mayor of Brisbane and there appears to have been a swing of about 8% away from the LNP, but none of that has boosted the Labor vote. The Greens are still doing quite well, polling over 15%. It’s not clear if the data is skewed to particular areas. I’ll look into that for the post later today.

6:45am – We have 56% of the vote counted in Bundamba and it looks similar to where we were last night. Labor is about 15 points clear of One Nation so should win on Greens preferences.

6:41am – We have close to 40% of the results in Currumbin now, and the LNP leads Labor by about 3%. Antony Green reports that party scrutineers have received a paper version of two-candidate-preferred results with the LNP “a handful” of votes ahead. There are a lot of postals and pre-polls to come and it seems likely they will favour the LNP, so they are favourites here, but those postals and pre-polls may not behave the same as always due to the pandemic so I’d want to wait and see.

6:35am – I’m just coming back here with a few updates on what we’ve learnt overnight. I won’t be liveblogging today but will return with a post this evening.

9:02pm – I’m going to be stopping the liveblog here. I’ll return tomorrow afternoon with an update. We now have almost 11% of the primary vote for the Brisbane lord mayor’s race and it still appears to have a very high Greens vote – I’m still assuming this is due to the selection of booths and doesn’t reflect a final result. It does look likely that Labor will retain Bundamba but we have not gained any extra data in quite some time. There appears to be a problem with the Currumbin count. Elsewhere it looks very clear that Tom Tate will be re-elected as mayor of the Gold Coast.

8:31pm – We’re really not getting very much. I’ll keep checking in, but expect more tomorrow.

8:20pm – There appears to be a problem with the Currumbin voting results so I wouldn’t take the small number of votes recorded there too seriously.

8:16pm – With almost 35% counted in Bundamba, Labor’s Lance McCallum has slightly increased his primary vote lead over One Nation: 42.3% to 27.4%. He’s looking pretty good here.

8:14pm – Almost 20,000 votes have been counted for mayor of the Gold Coast and Tom Tate is still above 50%.

8:13pm – So we now have a lot more data for the Brisbane lord mayoral race. Adrian Schrinner is currently leading on 43.4%, with Labor’s Pat Condren on 30.4%, and the Greens’ Kath Angus on 18.7%. This is off a sample of almost 6% which appears to lean towards the best Greens areas in the western suburbs, so it’s too early to say. At the moment this is a swing of about 10% away from the LNP and a small swing against Labor.

7:46pm – We won’t be getting any preference counts tonight for lord mayoral and council races in Brisbane (I assume the same is true in other councils) so we may be able to call races where the leading candidate is far out in front but close races won’t be decided. We should expect preference counts in Bundamba and Currumbin.

7:45pm – It will be quite some time before we have results that are sufficiently complete and details to know exactly how many people voted using each method in this election, but I put up a post this afternoon analysing how we should expect a massive crash in the number of people voting on election day. Since posting this I have heard from a number of people on the ground that a two-thirds drop in attendances sounds plausible.

7:42pm – Incumbent Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate is well out in front with 53.6% of the primary vote, with his main rival Mona Hecke a distant second on 24.4%, off almost 10,000 votes, or 2.8% of the total. This count is still too early but he is in a good position.

7:41pm – We do have over 1% counted for three other big city mayoralties. Teresa Harding is well out in front with 43% in Ipswich (off a sample of 1671 votes). 2345 votes have been reported in Moreton Bay and Peter Flannery is narrowly in the lead with 26%, with Adrian Raedel and Chris Thompson both over 20%.

7:39pm – Meanwhile just 460 votes have been reported for the Brisbane lord mayoralty.

7:38pm – The vote count is very early in the City of Brisbane. I’m following eight wards tonight (Doboy, Northgate, Coorparoo, Holland Park, The Gap, Enoggera, Paddington and The Gabba) and we only have vote counts from one of them. We only have 62 votes in Paddington so I won’t bother describing that count further. This looks likely to be a slow count.

7:30pm – The number of votes in Currumbin is much smaller – only about 3.5%. At the moment LNP candidate Laura Gerber is leading with 47.9% ahead of Labor’s Kaylee Campradt on 37.6% but the numbers are very small.

7:28pm – We have small numbers of votes reporting from the two state by-elections. In Bundamba, Labor’s Lance McCallum is well out in front with just over 25% counted, with 41.9%. One Nation’s Sharon Bell is in second place on 28.2% while the LNP and the Greens are both in the mid-teens. We don’t have any preferences, but on those numbers it’s very likely Labor would win.

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in the Queensland council elections. I’ll be live-blogging tonight, although it’s worth noting that a very high rate of pre-poll and postal voting means we will likely need to wait to know who is winning close races.

Queensland council elections – how low can election day go?

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We are still waiting for results from today’s Queensland council elections, but this election is on track to look very different to past elections, with only a small proportion of Queenslanders voting on the day.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland has estimated that about 1.2 million Queenslanders have cast pre-poll votes over the two weeks of voting. 570,000 Queenslanders also registered for a postal vote, and 40,000 people registered for telephone voting (although this does not mean all these people will cast a vote).

When you look at the vote counts from the 2016 election, you can see that these figures suggest a total transformation in how Queenslanders vote, and suggests that the proportion of the electorate turning out today would be dramatically reduced, mostly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This table shows the number of voters by method of voting at the 2016 election. I have just looked at mayoral votes, since there were less voters in uncontested electorates for their mayoral election. There were 18 small councils which only used postal voting in 2016, and 8 other councils where the mayor was elected unopposed. I have excluded them from the count.

There was turnout of 83.2% in the councils analysed in 2016.

Vote categoryVoters% of votes% of enrolled
Ordinary1,533,00163.152.5
Pre-poll487,51420.116.7
Postal & unenrolled221,6789.17.6
Absent151,1336.25.2
Telephone4660.00.0
Other35,6321.51.2
Did not vote491,35516.8
Total2,920,779

Ordinary votes made up 63% of the total vote, and over half of all enrolled.

If you group into votes cast early and votes cast on election day, election day made up 70% of the vote, and 58% of total enrolment. Early votes made up 30% of the vote and 25% of total enrolment.

Now let’s compare these figures to what we know about 2020. We know that about 3.2 million voters are enrolled.

There has been 1.2 million pre-poll votes and 570,000 postal vote applications. That translates to 37.5% and 17.8% respectively (although that’s an upper ceiling for postal votes). Plus telephone voting has jumped from less than 500 votes to as many as 40,000, or 1.25% of the total electorate.

This adds up to possibly as many as 56% of the total electorate having already voted before today.

I think you also have to assume a drop in overall turnout, with some voters simply failing to turn out due to concern about the risk to their health. So if turnout was to drop to, say, 75% of the electorate (down from 83% in 2016), you could imagine as little as one in five eligible voters may have cast their vote today. This would be barely a third as many as voted on election day in 2016.

There has been an ongoing trend of increasing numbers of voters choosing to cast their votes early (although mostly through pre-poll voting – postal voting has been largely stable). But I don’t think we would ever expect to see these kinds of trends outside of a global pandemic.

Queensland elections – election day open thread

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Polls have just opened for election day for the Queensland council elections and two state by-elections. Please feel free to use this post to discuss the election. I’ll have a liveblog at 6pm Queensland time.

The ECQ has announced that 1.2 million people have already voted. This includes 1.1 million pre-poll voters, and at least 120,000 out of 570,000 registered postal voters. More than 40,000 people have registered for a telephone vote, a method which was previously very rare. When you include those who have registered for a postal vote or telephone vote not yet received by the ECQ, it’s possible up to 1.8 million people (out of a total electorate of 3.2 million) will have voted without going to an election-day booth.

When you combine this with a likely drop in turnout, it looks likely that today’s council elections will be the lowpoint for ordinary election-day voting in modern Australian political history (excluding all-postal elections).

I’m currently compiling the council election data from the 2016 election which will allow for better comparisons – I’ll put together a post when this is ready.

Brisbane City – races to watch

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The biggest election to be held on Saturday will be for the City of Brisbane, which is Australia’s most populous and most powerful local government.

If you haven’t already checked out my guide to this election, you can read it here. The guide features profiles of all 26 wards, as well as a profile of the race for lord mayor. Each profile includes tables showing the results of the 2016 election as well as maps showing the voting patterns.

In this post I wanted to quickly run through some of the wards which could be important on Saturday night.

Queensland elections – record numbers of early votes

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We are now just three days away from the Queensland council elections (along with two state by-elections), and there is more and more evidence that record numbers of voters are casting ballots before election day.

Firstly, the final number of applications for postal votes was 570,000 (not 540,000 as I previously reported). The ECQ reports that the “vast majority” of these votes have been lodged with Australia Post, so it sounds like most will be returned. As a comparison, 75,000 applications were made for the 2016 council elections, and about 370,000 Queenslanders applied for postal votes at the 2019 federal election.

About 3.2 million Queenslanders are eligible to vote, so that’s already about one sixth of the electorate casting a vote by post.

As of Tuesday evening, 750,000 people have cast a pre-poll vote. This compares to 675,000 by the Tuesday before election day in Queensland at the 2019 federal election, and that pre-poll period had covered an extra week. With over 100,000 votes cast on Monday and Tuesday, it seems very likely that over one million pre-poll votes will be cast early.

There is also a relatively obscure method of voting via telephone which has been traditionally restricted to a group of voters with a disability, but it has now been extended to those who are required to self-isolate and thus cannot otherwise cast a vote. 19,000 people have registered for telephone voting, and at least 11,000 have cast a vote. As a comparison, only 350 voters used this method at the 2017 Queensland state election.

All up, these three methods look set to cover about 1.6 million votes, out of a total electorate of 3.2 million. You’d have to assume depressed turnout due to the relatively low profile of the election and the major health crisis, so it seems certain that voters casting a ballot on election day will be a minority of the total turnout.

Tasmanian upper house elections delayed

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We’ve now got our first case of an Australian election delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tasmania holds elections to its upper house on the first Saturday in May every year for 2-3 seats. This year those elections for Huon in the south-west of the state and Rosevears in the Launceston region were due on May 2. They have now been postponed to May 30. This will apparently give the Tasmanian Electoral Commission (TEC) time to encourage more use of postal and pre-poll voting to reduce contact between voters.

This election is probably the closest Australian election to the most likely peak of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia (judging by some reporting I have seen).

I’ll keep posting updates as other changes are announced.

Following this Saturday’s elecitons in Queensland, and the Tasmanian elections in May, no more elections are scheduled until a very busy period from August to October, which will see local government elections in Australia’s two biggest states, a state election in Queensland and elections to the territorial assemblies in the ACT and the Northern Territory.

QLD by-elections – rare polls released

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Two polls were published yesterday in the Courier Mail pointing towards possibly interesting results in the two Queensland state by-elections due for this Saturday.

In the Labor seat of Bundamba, which on paper is a safe seat, the poll found One Nation in second place, and remarkably has the Liberal National Party dropping to fourth place. The poll projects a big drop in Labor primary vote from 53% to 38%, but Labor is still far out in first place on primary votes, and the pollster projects a two-candidate-preferred result of 62% for Labor and 38% for One Nation.

The more interesting race appears to be the LNP seat of Currumbin, where the poll predicts a 50/50 tie between the LNP and Labor.

Of course we shouldn’t put too much weight on these small polls (run by uComms), but they do point towards some potentially interesting outcomes. A Labor gain in Currumbin from government would be a rare success, and One Nation overtaking the LNP in Bundamba would be a second embarrassment for the state opposition.

These should both be seats worth watching on Saturday night.

Podcast #34: COVID-19 and Queensland elections

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Ben is joined by Glenn Kefford and Chris Salisbury from the University of Queensland to discuss the Queensland state by-elections and the City of Brisbane election, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these elections.

We recorded this episode remotely from each person’s home so there is a few audio problems on one of the guests’ tracks, but it shouldn’t seriously affect the listening experience.

You can subscribe to this podcast using this RSS feed in your podcast app of choice, but should also be able to find this podcast by searching for “the Tally Room”. If you like the show please considering rating and reviewing us on iTunes.