I’ve got a piece prepared for the Guardian today which discusses the Tasmanian Senate result but I had some thoughts that didn’t fit in to include here.
Firstly, the challenge in winning a seat from below the line isn’t just in gaining enough primary votes to be a contender. On primary votes, Richard Colbeck looked like he was in a strong position to win a seat. He was actually on track to win the tenth seat at the point where there were 24 candidates still racing for the last four seats.
Neither Colbeck or Singh received a single above the line vote. Not one. Colbeck was knocked out before Bushby was elected, so he wasn’t able to receive any. Singh was elected just before Bilyk, on preferences from Colbeck.
Colbeck was successively overtaken by Bushby, then Bilyk, then McKim, then finally McCulloch. Singh only survived because she was close enough to a quota to stay ahead of the pack, and to limp across the line with below-the-line preferences.
As long as we have above-the-line voting, this will remain a significant hurdle for any insurgent candidate. Ideally, they need the candidates ahead of them to drop out of the race early to open up room for them to gain preferences, because it’s hard to see any candidate getting close to the much higher half-Senate quota on their own steam. Singh wouldn’t have won a seat if this was a half-Senate election.
The second thing to note is that preferences are critical. Before this election we relied on tremendous speculation about how an election might work under this new voting system. Some suggested that all votes would exhaust, and it would become a “first past the post” race. That has well-and-truly proven to be wrong. I’m personally surprised by how few votes exhausted in Tasmania, and how close the final seat was to a full quota.
Less than 2.8% of votes exhausted. The last seat went to a candidate on more than 80% of a quota. Over 85% of above-the-line votes were numbered 1-6. It appears that a similar phenomenon is taking place in other states, although you’d expect that more votes will end up in the exhaust pile in states with bigger ballots.
Considering this information we have, we need to assume that a lot of preferences will decide the last seats in every state.
Gee wouldn’t it be nice to have daily interim distributions of preferences, as they do in ACT territory elections!