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.

Podcast #33: Council elections in South-East Queensland

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Ben is joined again by Alexis Pink from 4ZZZ to discuss elections for the councils surrounding the City of Brisbane: Gold Coast, Ipswich, Moreton Bay, Logan and Sunshine Coast.

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.

How do you vote in a pandemic?

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Applications for postal voting close at 7pm on Monday night. Click here to apply for a vote.

Elections are due in Queensland in less than two weeks. Every council in Queensland goes to the polls on Saturday, March 28, along with two state by-elections for the seats of Bundamba and Currumbin.

I’m not an expert on public health and I won’t try and speculate about what the COVID-19 situation might look like in Queensland in two weeks time, but there’s widespread expectation that the disease will be spread further.

With people being encouraged to work from home and large gatherings being shut down, what is the impact of bringing everyone together at their local polling place to cast a vote. This often involves people in queues and could potentially cause some problems.

Presumably there is some things that could be done, such as encouraging spacing in queues, providing hand sanitiser in the booths and spreading out the voting stations (often they take up only part of a large school hall) – I haven’t seen any reporting about whether any of these tactics will be used.

The other option is to find another way to vote. If you want to cast a postal vote you will need to make an application by 7pm on Monday, March 16.

Pre-poll voting will open on Monday and will be open until the day before election day. While you may still come into contact with other voters using this method it does allow the voting volumes to be spread out. I encourage Queenslanders, particularly those at a heightened risk, to use one of these methods to reduce any danger to their health.

But what happens if you find yourself ordered into self-isolation after postal voting closes? Do you just miss out on casting a vote?

Victorian council wards – how they have changed

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I blogged the other day about Victoria’s system of independent reviews of each council’s electoral structure (the number of wards and the number of councillors elected per ward).

This system has existed for at least two decades, and over that time it has caused a transformation in terms of how Victoria’s council wards are structured. I’ve pulled together a dataset of every review under this system since 2003 (those published on the VEC website) and have identified trends in this data.

You can look at this data yourself here.

Through this data you can see how this system has gradually, through local independent processes, revealed a preference for multi-member wards that voters are generally more happy with, and tends to not be reversible. It can help you understand why forces opposed to proportional representation have needed to change the process to get their way.

Victoria’s ward review system: what has been lost

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One of the truly sad things about the new local government legislation passed on Thursday night by the Victorian upper house is how it will send a wrecking ball through the independent and transparent system Victoria has used to not just determine ward boundaries, but more broadly determine the electoral structure for each council – ie. how many members each ward will elect.

The existing system sees each council subject to a “representation review” at least once every twelve years, where the structure is considered. Single-member wards can be drawn, but multi-member wards are also possible, and a mix of wards of different numbers of councillors can be used. Each review considers the local demographics and the communities covered by the council, and also receives submissions from members of the local community. A number of boundary options are drawn up, and a final decision is taken.

Such a process echoes the processes we use all over Australia to draw state and federal electoral boundaries, which are out of the hands of politicians and are made after a transparent and consultative process of drawing draft maps. But it goes further by also considering what district magnitude (the number of members elected in each ward) is best for each community. Federal redistributions cannot consider drawing multi-member districts: these powers are tightly controlled by the politicians.

Of course politicians, be they local councillors or state MPs, have vested interests in how the electoral map is drawn. We can only avoid partisan gerrymandering by taking this power out of the hands of politicians.