Archive for August, 2010

USA 2010: Senate elections

Voters in 37 US states will go to the polls on November to elect members of the US Senate.

In 34 states, senators will be elected for full six-year terms, replacing those senators elected in 2004.

In three other states, special elections will be held to elect senators to serve the remainder of terms after seats previously fell vacant and were temporarily filled by appointments by each state’s governor. Seats in New York (last elected 2006) and Delaware (last elected 2008) were vacated by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden upon their appointment to positions in the Obama administration. Robert Byrd’s seat in West Virginia, last filled in 2006, was vacated in June on Byrd’s death.

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USA 2010: Introducing the midterms

The United States of America holds federal elections every two years, always in even numbered years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Every two years, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and approximately one third of the US Senate are elected. In years divisible by four (2004, 2008, 2012), these elections also coincide with presidential elections.

In every other even-numbered year, the US holds a midterm election to elect members of Congress and other offices. This year, that election will take place on November 2.

This year, I will be in the United States for the last week of the midterm elections, and will be in Washington DC for election day. I plan to blog extensively about the midterms over the next two months.

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Liberal wins going to High Court?

Another barrier has been put in front of Tony Abbott forming a minority government.

A constitutional provision prohibits anyone holding “an office of profit under the crown” from being elected to the federal Parliament.

In the 1990s, this  saw two cases where members of the House of Representatives lost their seats: Phil Cleary lost the seat of Wills after a 1992 by-election before winning it back at the 1993 election, and Jackie Kelly lost the seat of Lindsay after the 1996 election before winning it back at a by-election.

There has yet to be a case to determine whether this criteria covers local government councillors. While many councillors get elected to state parliaments, the last local councillor I can think of who was elected to federal Parliament was Mark Latham, who resigned as Mayor of Liverpool shortly after being elected to Parliament in 1994.

Last Saturday, three local councillors were elected as Coalition members of Parliament. Palmerston Deputy Mayor Natasha Griggs was elected as the Country Liberal Party’s Member for Solomon. Campbelltown councillor Russell Matheson was elected as the Liberal Member for Macarthur, and Mackay Regional Councillor George Christensen looks on track to win Dawson for the Liberal National Party.

It is entirely unclear whether such a High Court case would succeed. If it did succeed, the candidates would be very likely to win by-elections with swings towards them. Even still, it injects an element of unpredictability and instability. Without those three seats, Abbott would be unable to govern in a minority government.

Newly updated maps

I have gone through all of my Google Earth maps available for download from the blog for 2010 federal election boundaries, and updated the colours to the latest election results, assuming that seats in doubt such as Brisbane and Hasluck do not change hands.

I have also decided to colour all Liberal National seats in Queensland as blue, rather than attempting to distinguish between which party they will be representing in Canberra, due to the fact that the LNP is running under a single banner. Below I’ve posted the overall maps of seat results in the areas around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

You can download these maps and manipulate them yourself by visiting the Tally Room maps page.

Sydney and surrounds.

Melbourne and surrounds.

Brisbane and surrounds.

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I’ve had a lot of visitors in the last few days, despite the major outage suffered on the weekend.

While visiting the site, you should all consider subscribing to the Tally Room’s post feed.

While I expect things to calm down once a new government is formed and the analysis of the election is out of the way, we have a number of big elections coming up over the next few months. I will be visiting the United States in October and November this year for the mid-term elections, when a third of the US Senate, the entire House of Representatives, two thirds of US governors, and many other public officials will be up for election. In addition, there will be interesting races all over the US, including a referendum in California on legalising cannabis.

Following that, we have the Victorian state election in late November, and I plan to do profiles of some electorates, although I doubt I will have time to get all 88 seats completed. Following that, we have the New South Wales state election in March 2011, and again I will be attempting to profile many of the seats for that election.

The best way to keep in touch with all of that is to subscribe to the Tally Room RSS feed, which will give you regular updates whenever new posts are made.

New counts in Denison and Grayndler

I spent today in the AEC’s counting centre in Sydney where the AEC was conducting a new two-candidate preferred count between the ALP and Greens, due to the Greens outpolling the Liberal Party on primary votes. On the first day, the AEC completed the count in twelve of those polling booths, with another forty yet to be counted. New counts are also being held in the Melbourne seat of Batman, where the Greens also overtook the Liberal Party, and in Denison, where independent candidate Andrew Wilkie is expected to overtake the Liberal Party on Greens preferences.

In the seat of Grayndler, the Greens have won three of the twelve booths counted so far, with Labor ahead in the other nine. It’s worth noting, however, that most of these booths are in the western part of the seat, which is generally weaker for the Greens. While the AEC currently has the ALP on 55.2% of the two-candidate preferred vote, my analysis shows that the current preference flows from the Liberals and smaller parties would produce a result of around 54.5%, and this is likely to fall further as more booths in the eastern part of the seat are registered. Overall, this means that Grayndler will now be a marginal seat, with a smaller margin than Lindsay Tanner had in Melbourne after the 2007 election.

Out of the three booths that the Greens have won: two are very close to the Newtown area, with very high Greens votes. The third, Dobroyd Point, is a strongly Liberal-voting area at the northern edge of Ashfield council, close to Sydney Harbour. In that booth, the Liberals came first on primary votes, and a large majority of those votes flowed to the Greens after the Liberal was eliminated.

Polling booths in Grayndler. Red booths won by ALP, green booths won by the Greens, white booths yet to be counted.

The more interesting race is in Denison, where polling booths flowed in this afternoon, alternatively producing predictions of a Wilkie victory or a win for the ALP’s Jonathan Jackson.

When counting finished for the day, votes had been counted in 28 of 56 polling places. Those booths seemed to have been selected according to alphabetical order.

At the moment, the ALP’s Jackson is ahead in the count, with 50.64% of the two-candidate-preferred vote.

Yet it appears to me that the remaining booths are concentrated in areas where Wilkie has performed more strongly. I divided the booths in Denison into six areas, the same six areas I used to analyse the previous election’s results in my seat profile. In the northern City of Glenorchy, the ALP has polled over 62% of the two-candidate-preferred vote. Wilkie is winning the vote in City of Hobart area and those booths at the southern edge of the seat. In the northern areas, we are waiting on results from booths which cover about 9000 votes, while in the south we are waiting on booths covering about 14000 voters. This suggests that Wilkie has more votes to gain in his strong areas than Jackson does in his.

Indeed, Wilkie has won every single booth in the City of Hobart and the southern edge of the seat, and Jackson has won every booth in Glenorchy. Yet 57% of the population of Denison lives in the areas won by Wilkie, and there are more of those votes yet to be counted.

In addition, there are over 6000 votes yet to be counted in both Hobart (where Wilkie is currently at 58%) and Sandy Bay (where he is at 64%).

Bearing all of this in mind, you would expect that Wilkie will come out on top from the ordinary votes yet to be counted, although it is yet to be seen whether this will be decisive enough to give him victory, or Wilkie would still require a strong performance on postal and absentee votes.

Polling booths in Denison. Red booths won by ALP, yellow booths won by Andrew Wilkie, white booths yet to be counted.

Hung parliament scenarios

While we are clearly heading for a hung paarliament now, the exact nature of this hung parliament depend a great deal on the exact make-up of the Parliament.

It is now clear that we will see sitting rural independent MPs Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor win re-election. In addition, Adam Bandt has won the seat of Melbourne for the Greens, and the WA Nationals’ Tony Crook has won the seat of O’Connor, and has not agreed to sit with the Coalition. In addition, it is possible that former Green Andrew Wilkie will win the seat of Denison as an independent.

As it stands, the Coalition holds 72 seats (excluding O’Connor), and the ALP also holds 72 seats. The closest seat at the moment is the Perth seat of Hasluck, where the Liberal Party is leading by less than 400 votes.

On my count, if the ALP reaches 73 seats (or 74 if they win Denison), then it becomes almost impossible for Tony Abbott to form a government. Greens MP Adam Bandt has already said he will support the ALP, although that doesn’t mean that he will give up that vote without any concessions. In addition, you would have to tip Wilkie to support the ALP, although it would be more in his interest to leave open the option of doing otherwise. If Wilkie and Bandt support the ALP, it becomes impossible for Abbott to find 76 votes.

73 is also the magic number because it allows Katter, Oakeshott and Windsor to swing as a block behind one party or the other, leaving Bandt and Wilkie out in the cold (although a Labor minority government would also likely want a positive relationship with Bandt and Wilkie, especially considering that the Greens also have a solid lock on the Senate balance of power, and you cannot separate any agreement with Bandt for his support in the House of Representatives from Labor-Greens relationship in the Senate.

While you can’t count on Tony Crook to fall in line with the Coalition consistently, I can’t see him supporting the ALP. The relationship between the Liberal Party and the WA Nationals is more like the relationship between the ALP and the Greens – parties on the same side of the political divide, but with deep differences and conflict. I tend to think Crook will end up balancing out Bandt – a thorn in the Liberal Party’s side, but someone who will end up going his way. If Katter, Oakeshott and Windsor were to do a deal with the Coalition, it would likely also be able to cover Crook, who shares some common ground with the east coast independents.

Bearing all that in mind, to form a stable government with the three rural independents, the ALP needs to win 73 seats, and the Coalition needs to win 72 seats plus Tony Crook in O’Connor.

The votes of Wilkie and Bandt only come into play if a major party manages to break apart the group of three rural independents, or if the rural independents opt to go with the smaller of the two parties. If the ALP wins only 72 seats, it is plausible that the government could be supported by the rural independents and Bandt  and Wilkie, but it would be much harder to construct.

Of course, the numbers aren’t the only factor which will determine which way the rural independents jump. Despite their conservatism and rural electorates, the three independents are former Nationals for a reason. They have all had falling-outs with their former parties, and have all been deeply critical of the close Nationals relationship with the Liberal Party. Their main political opposition is the Nationals, and they have had often bitter relationships. Just last night on the 7:30 Report, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor attacked the Nationals, and personally were critical of Nationals leaders Warren Truss and Barnaby Joyce.

The ALP has been very effective at fostering relationships with independents, including Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott. The rural independents in the NSW state parliament, which included Oakeshott until 2008, have a close relationship with the ALP. Fellow independent Richard Torbay was appointed Speaker after the 2007 state election, despite the ALP winning a comfortable majority.

Windsor and Oakeshott have also been strong in pushing climate change legislation, and have worked with Greens MPs on issues such as the impact of coal mining on farming communities. Despite a large gulf between seats like Melbourne and New England, there is immense value in the rural independents having a close relationship with the Greens. While Bandt’s single vote may not be the key vote in the House of Representatives, the Greens balance of power in the Senate could make or break a government.

The ALP has already raised the prospect of a Liberal government in conflict with the Greens in the Senate as an argument for a Labor minority government. While the ALP has not always been able to get along with the Greens over the last term, the Greens have shown a willingness to compromise and on many issues the ALP has been able to work with them. While the Greens would surely try to work with an Abbott government to achieve results, there would be a huge gulf on many issues. It is also difficult for the Greens, particularly for big-state Senators like Richard di Natale and Lee Rhiannon and inner-city MP Adam Bandt, to compromise on political issues while maintaining the support of their base.

Arguments of legitimacy have also begun to be raised. Julia Gillard has pointed out that the ALP won a slight majority of the two-party preferred vote, indicating that a majority (although not a large one) prefer Labor to the Coalition. Tony Abbott has responded by arguing that the Coalition’s higher primary vote gives them more legitimacy to govern, and that the hung parliament is an indictment of the Rudd/Gillard government. Abbott’s argument conveniently ignores the 11.4% of voters who voted Greens, over 80% of whom preferenced the ALP.

While both parties make arguments as to why it is more legitimate for them to form government, it is unlikely to make a big difference in determining who forms government, although whoever loses is bound to argue strongly that whatever deal is done is illegitimate, anti-democratic, and involves all parties to the deal selling out.

The State of the Senate

Remarkably, the result in the Senate is much more clear-cut than the result in the House of Representatives.

The Greens are on track to win a Senate seat in all six states, giving them a total of nine seats. This clean sweep is a feat never achieved by the Democratic Labor Party or the Democrats, the only ever minor parties to ever win substantial numbers of Senate seats.

The Democrats achieved their best ever Senate result in 1996, when they won five Senate seats, electing a Senator in all mainland states, but losing to Bob Brown in Tasmania. The Democrats also reached their peak number of senators after the 1998 election, when they elected four senators to join the five elected in 1996, giving them a total of nine. The Greens have now matched that total.

The Greens polled over a quota in both Tasmania and Victoria. In Victoria, the Greens polled just over a quota, but in Tasmania the Greens polled over 20%, and the second Green reaches almost half a quota before being excluded.

In terms of other minor parties, it is less clear. In South Australia, Family First candidate Bob Day trails the Liberal Party by 0.45% at the key exclusion point, and earlier in the night was in a position to win the seat. If Family First can gain ground, they will likely win the final seat on Liberal preferences, but it seems most likely the Liberal Party will win the seat.

In Victoria, Antony Green’s Senate calculator is currently giving the final seat to John Madigan of the Democratic Labor Party. The DLP polled over 2% of the primary vote, and gathers preferences until, at the key point, the DLP overtakes sitting Liberal Senator Julian McGauran and wins the seat on Liberal preferences.

Having said that, at an earlier point, Madigan only outpolls Family First Senator Steve Fielding by 0.07% of the vote, and if Family First was to overtake Madigan at that point, Fielding would likely be re-elected. At the point where Madigan overtakes McGauran, he only does so by 0.66%. It is possible McGauran could win the seat.

In the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, the result was the same: three Coalition, two Labor, and one Green. In Tasmania, the ALP has managed to win three seats, to two for the Liberal Party and one for the Greens. In Victoria, the ALP has gained two seats, the Liberals one, the Nationals one and the Greens one, with the final spot going to the DLP, Family First or the Liberals.

Overall this produces a result of 34-35 Coalition, 31 Labor, 9 Greens, as well as Nick Xenophon and possibly Steve Fielding or the DLP’s John Madigan. Regardless of who wins the final seat, the Greens will have sole balance of power, with Xenophon and any other minor party senators unable to influence legislation.

The State of the House

At the moment, it appears that the Coalition parties have won or are ahead in 73 seats, Labor in 72, Independents in four, and the Greens in one.

It appears that five seats are yet to be decided. In the Hobart seat of Denison, former Greens member and independent candidate Andrew Wilkie can be expected to get a strong preference flow from the Greens and Liberals, but this is still unclear, and Possum believes that he will not be able to win the seat.

In the seats of Corangamite, Lindsay, Brisbane, Boothby and Hasluck, the result will not be known for several days:

  • Corangamite – Western Victorian seat, sitting ALP member Darren Cheeseman is leading by 1189 votes.
  • Lindsay – Western Sydney seat, sitting ALP member David Bradbury is leading by 1017 votes.
  • Brisbane – Inner Brisbane seat, sitting ALP member Arch Bevis is trailing Liberal National candidate Teresa Gambaro by 858 votes.
  • Hasluck – Eastern Perth seat, sitting ALP member Sharryn Jackson is trailing Liberal candidate Ken Wyatt by 363 votes.
  • Boothby- Adelaide seat, sitting Liberal member Andrew Southcott is leading over Labor candidate Annabel Digance by 814 votes.

If all five of these seats go to the Coalition, it will produce a result of 75/70/4/1 in their favour. Alternatively, if all five go to Labor, it will produce a result of 75/70/4/1, or possibly 76/70/3/1 if Andrew Wilkie is defeated in Denison.

So while it is a possibility that either party could win half the seats in the House, there is no possibility of a party winning the 76 which guarantees a majority, short of an extremely good performance by Labor in Brisbane, Hasluck and Boothby, which would be very unlikely.

In two other seats apart from Denison, we’ve seen major parties lose seats to smaller parties:

  • Melbourne – Greens candidate Adam Bandt has won with 36.1% of the primary vote and 55.7% of the two-party preferred vote.
  • O’Connor – This seat has been radically redrawn to cover a massive area in Western Australia. Sitting Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey has been defeated by Nationals candidate Tony Crook. Crook polled 29.7% of the primary vote to Tuckey’s 37.6%, and he won 54.2% of the two-party preferred vote on Labor and Greens preferences.

It’s worth noting that the Western Australian branch of the Nationals currently holds no federal seats, and has a tradition of independence from the Liberal Party. They have previously said that they would not sit in the joint party room, and Crook cannot necessarily be counted as another Coalition seat, even though he is counted amongst the 73 Coalition seats.

The ALP won two seats off the Coalition last night, both in Victoria:

  • La Trobe – Eastern outskirts of Melbourne. Sitting Liberal MP Jason Wood has been defeated by Labor candidate Laura Smyth, who is on 50.8%.
  • McEwen – Northern Victoria. After narrowly losing the seat in 2007, Labor candidate Rob Mitchell has won the seat with 55.3% of the two-party preferred vote.

The Coalition has retained all five seats that were made notionally Labor in the redistribution, namely Gilmore, Macarthur, Dickson, Herbert and Swan.

They also gained nine seats won by the ALP in 2007:

  • Solomon – Darwin. Sitting Labor MP Damian Hale has lost to Country Liberal Party candidate Natasha Griggs, who is on 53.2%.
  • Bennelong – Northwestern Sydney. Sitting Labor MP Maxine McKew has lost to Liberal candidate John Alexander, who is on 53.8%.
  • Macquarie – Outer Western Sydney. This seat was redrawn to include the Hawkesbury area. Sitting Liberal Member for Greenway has gained the seat, defeating Labor candidate Susan Templeman and winning 51.1% of the two-party preferred vote.
  • Bonner – Brisbane. Sitting Labor MP Kerry Rea has lost to Liberal National candidate (and former Member for Bonner) Ross Vasta, with Vasta polling 53.1% of the two-party preferred vote.
  • Dawson – Central Queensland. Labor candidate Mike Brunker defeated by Liberal National candidate George Christensen, who is on 52.2%.
  • Flynn – Central Queensland. Sitting Labor MP Chris Trevor has lost to Liberal National candidate Ken O’Dowd, who is on 53%.
  • Forde – Southern fringe of Brisbane. Sitting Labor MP Brett Raguse has lost to Liberal National candidate Bert Van Manen, who is on 51.6%.
  • Leichhardt – Far North Queensland. Sitting Labor MP Jim Turnour has lost to Liberal National candidate Warren Entsch, who held the seat from 1996 until his retirement in 2007, and is on 54.5%.
  • Longman – Sunshine Coast and Caboolture. Sitting Labor MP Jon Sullivan has lost to 20-year-old Liberal National candidate Wyatt Roy, who is on 52.4%.

Six of these nine seats were in Queensland, along with two in New South Wales and one in the Northern Territory.

Moving forward

So after over 24 hours of my blog being out of action, we have returned. It appears that there was a major problem with the server used by my hosting company, and it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the immense amount of interest created by the election. Luckily all I have lost were the open thread from election morning and the first half hour of commentary last night, neither of which was that important.

Obviously I’m very annoyed to not have my blog accessible on the night of a federal election, and such a unpredictable and interesting one to boot. But I figure for now I’m just going to move on to the immense amount of post-election analysis that I can do.

Of course, I have a lot to say about where we are in the campaign, and I’ve already written a couple of posts in anticipation for the blog being restored, so they will be going up over the next day.