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.