Archive for October, 2012

USA 2012: one week to go

A week from now, American voters will decide what is looking like being an extremely close presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama appeared to be on track for a comfortable victory as he gained a solid lead over Romney following the Democratic convention in September. This seemed steady until the first presidential debate in October, when Mitt Romney gained a decisive victory over President Obama.

Shortly after the debate, Romney’s poll numbers improved, and the race has been largely steady since then.

Different factors can point to different possible results, but the overall picture makes it pretty clear – this race is about as close as it can get. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Romney leading Obama by 0.9%. Five Thirty Eight’s forecast predicts an Obama win by 1.7%, and gives Obama a 74.6% chance of victory.

In the key states, this close race is played out. Romney appears to have a narrow lead in the swing state of Florida, while most of the attention appears to have focused on winning the state of Ohio. Some polls favour one candidate over another, but overall the picture is very unclear.

This election follows two elections in the last twelve years when the race was close to being a tie. George W Bush won in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Bush won the popular vote in 2004 but came close to losing thanks to a very close race in Ohio.

With these polls, it seems quite likely that this race could come down to one state, or could result in an electoral college result which doesn’t match the popular vote winner.

While this race gains all the attention, both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are closely contested. The Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives with a wave of victories in 2010. While they are likely to maintain their majority, a number of their seats are under serious threat.

Meanwhile the Democrats were at serious risk of losing their majority in the Senate. However it now appears likely that the Democrats could increase their numbers in the Senate, with a number of Republican Senate seats at risk.

Over the next week I plan to post a few more times about features of the US election, and next Wednesday, Australian time, I will be blogging as the results come in.

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Sydney results broken down

The results from Saturday’s Sydney state by-election were decisive. It was a clear victory for independent candidate Alex Greenwich, and for Clover Moore’s political machine that supported his campaign.

The result was a slap in the face to the Liberal Party, who passed legislation forcing Clover Moore out of state Parliament and who ran a serious campaign to gain the seat after coming close to winning Sydney in 2011.

The result was a modest but positive result for the Greens, who increased their vote but were pushed aside by a strong progressive independent, as they have been in Sydney in state and local elections for the last decade.

There are numerous ways to interpret these results. Alex Greenwich gained a 12.2% swing on primary votes and an 11.8% swing on two-candidate-preferred votes, compared to Clover Moore in 2011. Is this a judgement that voters preferred a new independent to Clover? Are they voting for Greenwich as a surrogate for his mentor, or is it a signal to the Liberals that voters didn’t appreciate Clover being removed mid-term and an unnecessary by-election being forced upon them? It’s likely a combination of those things.

Certainly the swings towards Greenwich and the Greens are greater than they would have been if the ALP had stood, but the absence of the ALP doesn’t explain the swing against the Liberals. Collectively the Greens and the independent gained a swing of 17.2% on primary votes, substantially more than the 11.3% vote recorded by the ALP. It’s also worth remembering that not all Labor voters would have cast a ballot for one of the other progressive candidates.

You can also compare like with like by looking at the 2CP vote, which was between a Liberal and an independent in both 2011 and 2012. After Clover Moore held on with a slim margin of 3.1% in 2011, this margin has now been expanded to 14.9%.

The real test now will be how Greenwich performs. There is a history of retiring independents successfully transferring their seat to a chosen successor for one term, but for their successors to be less capable of holding onto the seat in the long run. Now that Greenwich is the Member for Sydney he will be judged on his own agenda and his own achievements. Clover Moore isn’t going anywhere, but will Greenwich be able to win future terms in Parliament as the ‘Clover Moore party’ candidate?

After the fold I have posted some detailed breakdowns of vote by geographic areas, and maps.

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Sydney by-election results live

Results of Sydney by-election
24/24 booths reporting primary votes.
24/24 booths reporting two-candidate-preferred votes.

Candidate Party Prim % Swing 2PP % Swing
Robyn Peebles CDP 1.9% +0.8%
Alex Greenwich IND 48.5% +12.2% 64.9% +11.8%
Chris Harris GRN 17.7% +5.0%
Shayne Mallard LIB 29.8% -6.4% 35.1% -11.8%
Glenn Wall IND 2.1% 2.1%

8:41pm – I was planning on posting a map of who won each booth, but it’s not worth it. Below is the map produced showing the top polling candidate the 2011 state election (Clover Moore in yellow, Liberal Adrian Bartels in blue). This time around, Mallard has only managed to win a single booth – St Joseph’s, Edgecliff, at the eastern edge of the seat. He won this booth with 54.4% of the 2CP vote. Greenwich has won all others (three are yet to report, but all these should be won easily based on primary votes).

I’ll leave it there tonight, and will return tomorrow with more information.

Polling booths in Sydney at the 2011 state election. Booths are coloured according to the party that won the vote in each booth in the Legislative Assembly: Clover Moore in yellow, Liberal in blue.

8:32pm – We now have primary votes from all booths, plus a large batch of prepolls. We have a small number of prepolls and all booths barring three for two-candidate preferred votes. Greenwich is at 48.5%, far ahead of Shayne Mallard, who is just under 30%. From this position he will easily win. I’m going to leave most of the analysis until tomorrow, but I will be posting a map in a minute showing what this result looks like across the seat.

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Exploring the history of local government

Last weekend I was at the Marrickville Festival and ended up chatting with one of the members of the local heritage society. For a while I’ve been fascinated by all of the old local councils that used to exist in Sydney prior to the Labor government’s massive round of amalgamations in 1948/9.

The Marrickville council area used to be covered by Marrickville, St Peters and Petersham councils, and part of the modern LGA was also covered by Newtown municipality.

Similar stories have taken place in other areas. The City of Sydney absorbed at least eight other local councils in 1948/9, in addition to Camperdown municipality forty years earlier.

The local heritage society gave me a name for an old company of mapmakers who made maps of local government boundaries (including ward boundaries) in the 1880s.

The City of Sydney archives has a copy of most of the Higinbotham and Robinson maps available online.

They are quite fascinating for anyone interested in local government and the political and demographic evolution of Sydney over the last 150 years.

Some of these councils largely reflect modern boundaries – Kogarah, Waverley and Randwick appear to have not changed at all, and North Sydney and Mosman were created in their modern form around 1890 out of the former St Leonards council.

At some point in the future I am interested in making maps of Sydney showing the evolution of Sydney’s local government boundaries over the past 120 years. I wouldn’t try and do this for all of NSW, but it is probably achievable to do this for the Sydney area.

In the meantime, go and have a look at these maps – they are fascinating for anyone interested in the history of Sydney or political geography more generally.

Victorian council elections

In addition to the Sydney by-election, Saturday is election day for 78 councils across Victoria.

I haven’t been following the Victorian council elections closely and I probably won’t be covering them in depth or being in a position to analyse them in the same depth as I have for New South Wales.

This is an open thread to discuss Victorian council elections.

A majority of Victorian councils are conducted entirely by postal ballot so vote-counting will start taking place on Saturday morning, with the eight councils using attendance voting counting votes on Saturday evening.

Sydney by-election this Saturday

Read the Tally Room guide to the Sydney by-election.

Voters in the state electorate of Sydney will be voting on Saturday to choose a replacement for the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, who was forced to resign as a state MP due to a new state law passed by the O’Farrell state government. This law required any state MP who is elected to a local council to resign from state Parliament before they can take their council seat.

Theoretically this law would affect any of the dozens of state MPs who were serving as councillors and MPs following the 2011 state election. These included a large number of Coalition MPs, as well as three Greens, one Christian Democrat and a handful of Labor MPs.

With the exception of Clover Moore and Lake Macquarie Mayor Greg Piper, however, none of the other MPs had run for another term on council since being first elected to state Parliament, and they all had plans to step down from council.

Clover Moore has been a thorn in the side of the Coalition government – popular with inner-city residents, she has pursued an agenda that has prioritised cyclists from the inner city over outer-suburbs residents commuting to the city by car for work. She has been able to achieve a lot more than other progressive inner-city mayors thanks to the massive budget of the City of Sydney, funded by rates from businesses in the Sydney CBD.

Previous Coalition governments have undermined progressive forces in the City of Sydney by breaking the southern suburbs of the City (traditionally Labor-voting) away to form a separate South Sydney council, allowing business interests in the inner city to control the rates from the CBD. I’ve previously blogged about state governments manipulating municipal boundaries to pacify a difficult Town Hall.

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Wrapping up the NSW council elections

NSW voters elected their local councillors six weeks ago, on September 8. At the time I was working on the election campaign and thus didn’t have the time to give the proper treatment to the election on this blog. Now that the Tally Room is coming out of hibernation, I wanted to sum up what happened at the election.

Most councils in NSW are still dominated by candidates running without endorsement by political parties. However the role of political parties are growing, particularly in urban councils in Sydney, the Hunter and the Illawarra. About half of the councils in NSW didn’t have any political party run for the election in 2012, but only two of those councils are in Sydney.

Because of this, it is more useful to zoom in on the Sydney region when you are trying to get an overall picture of how parties perform. Most of the voters live in a small number of councils along the coast, in Sydney and in the regions. This means there are hundreds of councillors elected in Western NSW with a tiny number of votes.

Overall, this election was a good one for the Liberals and a bad one for Labor and the Greens. The Liberal vote has been bolstered by a decision to run for the councils of Camden, Hornsby and Sutherland. These councils are in very conservative areas and solidly vote Liberal in parliamentary elections, but until 2012 had never had official Liberal candidates stand. In all three cases the Liberal Party polled well over 40% of the primary vote and won a majority on the council.

The Liberals, however, also decided to not run officially in Penrith and Fairfield, where liberal independents stood instead. In Penrith the Liberal-aligned independents effectively won control of the council off the ALP.

Result of NSW Local Government Elections 2012 in Greater Sydney region

Party Seats +/- Votes % Swing
Liberal 151 +34 675,963 30.35 +7.19
Labor 122 -1 534,733 24.01 -4.51
The Greens 22 -26 159,707 7.17 -1.50
Unity 2 -3 15,088 0.68 -0.56
CDP 0 0 14,787 0.66 +0.47
Liberal Democrats 2 +2 11,962 0.54 +0.54
Australia First 1 +1 6,455 0.29 +0.17
Independents/Others 172 -3 808,824 36.31 -1.80

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Wrapping up the ACT results

Saturday night’s result in the ACT election wouldn’t be surprising to anyone paying attention to recent elections across Australia.

The Liberal Party gained ground, while the Greens lost ground. This being the ACT, however, the Liberals didn’t win in a landslide. They failed to outpoll the ALP on primary votes, and it seems likely they will win only one more seat, but not win a majority.

The ACT’s electoral system and political make-up makes it almost impossible for a party to win a majority of seats. The ALP only managed it once, in 2004. The Liberal Party needed to win three extra seats (one in each district) to get to the magic nine seats. While the Liberals appear to have managed to win two of these seats, they didn’t come close to winning a third seat in Ginninderra, meaning they never came close to winning a majority.

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ACT election results

10:30pm – In Brindabella, the Greens have faded and are unlikely to win a seat, producing a likely result of three Liberals and two Labor. Labor’s two seats will go to Joy Burch and Mick Gentleman. Gentleman held a seat from 2004 to 2008, when Burch defeated him in his re-election bid. The first two Liberal seats will go to Liberal leader Zed Seselja and his deputy Brendan Smyth. The third Liberal seat will be a race between Andrew Wall and Val Jeffery, and will largely depend on the surplus from Seselja.

10:27pm – In Ginninderra, there will be two Labor, two Liberals and one Green. Sitting MLAs Vicki Dunne, Alistair Coe, Meredith Hunter and Mary Porter will be re-elected. The second Labor seat is currently held by Chris Bourke, who replaced Jon Stanhope when he retired. Bourke is in a tight race with Yvette Berry for the final Labor seat.

10:24pm – In Molonglo, the result seems to be set for 3 Labor, 3 Liberal and 1 Green. Sitting MLAs Katy Gallagher, Andrew Barr and Jeremy Hanson are all set to be re-elected, along with Liberal candidate and former MLA Giulia Jones. Long-term sitting MLA Simon Corbell is trailing behind Meegan Fitzharris for the third Labor seat. Sitting Member for Brindabella Steve Doszpot is likely to win the third Liberal seat, but could be under threat from Elizabeth Lee. The two sitting Greens MPs Shane Rattenbury and Caroline le Couteur are competing for the sole Greens seat in Molonglo, with Rattenbury favourite to win.

10:23pm – At the moment it looks very likley that the result will be 8 Liberals, 7 Labor and 2 Greens.

8:49pm – Very interesting to see Attorney-General Simon Corbell coming fourth out of the Labor candidates in Molonglo. The seat will be decided by Katy Gallagher’s preferences, but Meegan Fitzharris is 0.1 quota ahead of Simon Corbell.

8:11pm – It seems that the Greens vote has clearly gone backwards, following in the trend of a number of elections over the last two years where the Greens vote has gone backwards. The Greens vote is still substantially higher than in 2004, up from about 9% to 15% and down to 11%. It’s also worth noting that the Greens have suffered a 4.6% against them, compared to a 4.1% vote for the new Bullet Train party. Not all of these votes would have come from the Greens, but a lot of them would.

8:02pm – Labor and the Greens have been improving their vote in Brindabella. The Liberals are now on 2.76 quotas and the Greens on 0.53 quotas. If the Greens get preferences from the Bullet Train party they will have a strong chance of retaining their seat.

7:01pm – Most of the electronic votes are in at the moment. If the rest of the vote follows this pattern the result will be 8 Liberal, 7 Labor, 2 Greens, which would still result in a hung parliament. The Liberals are in a strong position to gain Greens seats in Molonglo and Brindabella but not really in Ginninderra.

6:44pm – There’s a lot more of the electronic votes reported on the ACT Elections website. On these figures it looks like 7 Labor, 6 Liberals, 2 Greens with two seats (Molonglo and Brindabella) up in the air between Greens and Liberals.

6:36pm - If you assumed that figures stayed as they are now (which I’m sure they won’t be), Labor will hold seven, Liberal will hold six, the Greens will hold three and the final Greens seat in Molonglo is under threat from the Liberals.

6:34pm - On very small numbers of votes in, there are small swings but nothing particularly dramatic.

6:31pm – Remember that the ACT’s electoral system means that each electorate elects multiple MPs, and also means that different candidates from each party will be competing with each other. Early figures will largely give us a sense of how many seats each party will win, but not necessarily the individual candidates who will win.

6:25pm – About 22% of voters in the ACT had already voted in prepoll, and a large majority of those votes were cast electronically. This should mean we start getting figures through very soon.

6:16pm – I will be blogging here and tweeting as @benraue as election results come in tonight – stay touched.

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ACT election preview

Voters in Canberra go to the polls tomorrow to elect the ACT’s Legislative Assembly for the next four years.

The ACT Legislative Assembly is elected from three districts for a total of seventeen seats, using the Hare-Clark proportional representation system.

At the 2008 election, the Labor government led by Jon Stanhope lost its majority (after winning a majority for the first time in the Assembly’s history in 2004).

Labor won seven seats, the Liberals won six seats and the Greens won four. The election was a big win for the Greens, winning two seats off Labor and one off the Liberals.

Following the election, Labor and the Greens formed an agreement for the Greens to support a Labor minority government.

In 2011 Stanhope retired, and Labor chose Katy Gallagher as the new Chief Minister. Zed Seselja has served as Leader of the Opposition throughout the term, and after leading the Liberals to the 2008 election will again be contesting the next election. Meredith Hunter leads the Greens into the election as party leader.

Earlier this year I prepared a guide to the ACT election, which includes profiles of all three electorates, including history, electoral analysis and maps showing geographical variations in support.

On Saturday night I will be blogging results from this website.

Over the last few months this blog has largely been in hiatus while I have been working on a job that has prevented me from doing blogging, but over the next few days you will start to see the blog spark to life. It’s four years (last week) since I started this blog, and amongst the first elections I covered were the 2008 elections in the United States and the ACT. I plan to cover the upcoming elections as I prepare my coverage of next year’s Australian federal election.

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