UK election – the day before

Voters in the United Kingdom will be voting tomorrow (Thursday 7 May) to elect a new House of Commons – expected to be the second hung parliament in a row.

The first-past-the-post system used for the House of Commons, which in the past has been seen as providing stability and majority government, looks like it is failing to do that, but moreso makes it very hard to predict the result, since votes for minor parties (or even major parties) won’t translate neatly into seats.

The third major party in the UK, the Liberal Democrats, are expected to lose a large chunk of their seats. The party’s support dropped quickly after they formed a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, and has never recovered. The party won’t be wiped out, and there’s evidence that their individual MPs do better than the party’s support level would suggest, and in some places they should still benefit from tactical voting.

In the past, Labour has relied on winning a dominant share of the seats in Scotland as a path to a majority in the Commons, with the Liberal Democrats winning the second-largest number.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party has won a large number of seats in the Scottish Parliament ever since it was first elected, and formed government in 2007 and won an unprecedented majority under the proportional representation system in 2011. However they have traditionally done much more poorly in UK elections. Since the defeat of the independence referendum last year, support for the SNP has shot up, and it looks likely that they will win most seats in Scotland. This change has put the prospect of a Labour majority out of reach, and will likely make the SNP the kingmakers in the new Parliament.

The smaller UK-wide parties have also been doing well. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – a right-wing party opposed to immigration and the European Union, has shot up in the polls and won two by-elections triggered by Conservative MPs defecting to their party. The Green Party have been around for decades, but have been revitalised in the last few years, with a surge in membership and many former Liberal Democrats switching to them.

Both parties, however, are expected to suffer from their votes being distributed across the country, and are likely to win a very small number of seats.

In 2010, the hung parliament produced a logical outcome of Conservative and Liberal Democrat forming a neat coalition that commanded a solid majority of the Parliament. The outcome this time looks much more messy, with either side likely to fall just short of a majority, and relying on smaller parties to get legislation through. This could include the left-wing Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, or the various Northern Irish parties, nationalist and unionist.

The Guardian poll projection currently has Labour and the SNP four seats short of a majority, although it’s likely to be less when you exclude the Speaker and the Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take their seats. They would, however, have a majority if they included the other left-wing MPs from the Greens, Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), but it would be very fragile and could fail.

I expect results to start flowing out late morning on Friday. I’ll have a post up for results discussion, but I might be limited in my availability to post results as they come in. You’re welcome to join me here.


NSW redistribution – updated figures

Last year, I wrote up an analysis of the prospects for the current redistribution of federal electorates in NSW.

In late April, the final population data, provided to well below the suburb level, was released. In addition to updated population figures as of the end of 2014, the data also includes estimates of the population in each area as of August 2019.

When drawing the electoral boundaries, the 2019 projections are actually more critical. The law requires all seats to fall within 10% of the average as of the current day (the 2014 data), but fall within only 3.5% of the average as of the end of the projection period (2019).

Last year, I explained how the region covering the Hunter, the Central Coast and the North Coast was well under-quota, and I expected that the seat of Hunter would be broken up, effectively seeing western NSW lose half a seat and the Hunter lose half a seat.

However the latest data reveals that the proportion of the NSW population living in this northern part of the state is expected to decline even further. The four seats with the biggest drop in their quota between 2014 and 2019 are the four north coast seats of Cowper, Lyne, Page and Richmond. This doesn’t mean that these seats are shrinking – but they are growing well below the statewide average.

When you add up all of the seats in northern NSW, including New England, the Hunter, the Central Coast and the North Coast, this entire region (which currently has 12 seats) only has enough population in 2019 for 11.09 quotas. This means that, after transferring a small part of either Hunter or New England to a seat further west, this entire area would be under quota by a whole seat’s worth of population, which means a seat somewhere in the area. I expect this seat to most likely be Lyne, which is at risk of being pushed so far south by its neighbours to the north that it loses its main centre of Port Macquarie.

At the other end of the spectrum, the inner-city seats of Wentworth and Sydney will continue to outpace the statewide population growth, and by 2019 between them they will be 0.18 quotas over the target. This fast growth should pull Grayndler to the east. The marginal seat of Reid is also almost 0.07 quotas over the target, and will likely be pulled east by the inner-city growth, substantially changing the make-up of the seat in ways I don’t yet understand.

The deadline for submissions is May 22, and I’d expect to see the draft boundaries from the Electoral Commission some time in July.

There are also currently redistributions pending for federal boundaries in the ACT and Western Australia. While ACT should be relatively simple, in WA they are gaining a 16th seat so there will be substantial change there too, but I haven’t been following it as closely. We’re also undergoing a state electorate redistribution in Western Australia, and we’ve already seen draft boundaries released for the new ACT Legislative Assembly electorates. When the drafts are released I will produce maps for each of these redistributions.

One other thing: What happens if a double dissolution is called before the redistribution is concluded? If a state is undergoing a redistribution but is not changing its number of seats, nothing happens. That’s the case in the ACT, and would have been last time in Victoria and South Australia.

But if a state is increasing its number of seats (as in WA) or reducing its number of seats (as in NSW), a ‘mini-redistribution’ is conducted, which will ensure each state has the right number of seats, but will also result in disproportionate seat sizes.

In New South Wales, the two contiguous seats with the lowest enrolment, which I believe are Shortland and Newcastle in the Hunter region, would be merged. Correction: Shane Easson in comments points out that the two smallest seats are actually Farrer and Riverina, which are both Nationals seats.

In Western Australia, the two contiguous seats with the highest enrolment, which I believe are Canning and Pearce on the fringe of Perth, will be split into three seats.

Since Newcastle and Shortland are both safe Labor seats and Canning and Pearce are both safe Liberal seats, this would have a net +2 effect for the Coalition without a vote being cast.


Tasmanian LC 2015 – results wrap-up

Voters on Saturday voted in three out of fifteen Tasmanian Legislative Council electorates, and in all three they re-elected their incumbent MLCs.

In the north-eastern seat of Windermere, conservative independent Ivan Dean saw off three centre-left rivals, including endorsed Labor and Greens candidates.

In the north-western seat of Mersey and in the southern seat of Derwent, centre-left independent Mike Gaffney and Labor’s Craig Farrell respectively held onto their seats against limited conservative opposition.

This post contains booth maps showing the results in each seat, as well as a breakdown of the results between each part of the three seats. As always, I broke down the booths in each seat by sub-area prior to the election, and I’ve used the same breakdowns for this analysis.

I’ll run through the booth breakdown for each seat, and then at the end will follow up with the booth maps, all below the fold.

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Tasmanian Legislative Council election results

7:38pm – Most booths have now reported in all three seats, and in Derwent and Mersey the result seems pretty clear. In Windermere, Ivan Dean is sitting on 43.9%, ahead of Labor’s Houston on 28.7%. That’s probably enough for Dean to win.

6:53pm – I haven’t had time to prepare a projection model based on previous results, but William Bowe at Poll Bludger has, and he’s predicting victory for all three incumbents. That sounds about right.

6:48pm – In Windermere, right-leaning incumbent Ivan Dean is facing opposition from three opponents, including those from Labor and the Greens. This makes it harder to predict what will happen, as there is no two-candidate-preferred count in Tasmanian Legislative Council elections.

At the moment, four small booths with 1200 votes have been counted, and Dean is on 53% of the primary vote. You’d expect that he would need to be not too far ahead of his main rival (likely to be Labor’s Jennifer Houston) to allow her to win the seat on primary votes, but it’s not surprising he is doing well on small booths – if Labor is to win it would be on big urban booths in Launceston. Results, Tally Room guide.

6:44pm – In Mersey, incumbent left-leaning independent Mike Gaffney is also leading comfortably, on 74.3% of the vote. Only small booths have reported – less than 2000 votes compared to over 18,000 in 2009. Results, Tally Room guide.

6:41pm – In Derwent, Labor MLC Craig Farrell looks set to be comfortably re-elected. About half the booths (but only about 1/7 of the vote) have reported, and he’s sitting on 64% in a two-horse race. ResultsTally Room guide.

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in three elections to the Tasmanian Legislative Council, in Derwent, Mersey and Windermere.

I won’t necessarily be providing booth-by-booth commentary as the results flow in over the next few hours, but I will return later tonight or tomorrow with a results post. In the meantime, feel free to post any comments about the results here. If I have any thoughts in the meantime I will post them as updates.


iVote – the other side of the story

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post explaining the problems that have cropped up around the NSW Electoral Commission’s iVote internet voting system, and the broader questions it raises about the future of electronic and internet voting.

After discussing the issue further with various experts, I thought it was worth putting some good arguments I have heard in favour of iVote as a way of enfranchising particular groups of voting.

iVote was originally proposed as a way to help blind and low vision (BLV) voters, and it’s easy to understand how iVote would help voters who otherwise require assistance to cast a vote.

However, iVote has evolved to be much more helpful in ensuring an increased turnout amongst those who could be described as ‘geographically disadvantaged’ – those outside NSW or in a remote location.

This doesn’t mean that iVote is perfect, or that there aren’t risks involved, but there’s some groups for whom iVote makes it substantially easier to exercise their democratic rights.

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NSW 2015 – voters shift away from election day and postal voting

The recent NSW state election saw a continuation of the long-term trend of less and less people casting ordinary election-day votes. In addition, in 2015 we saw the trend of increasing numbers of voters casting absentee votes or postal votes reversed, with those categories of voting becoming less popular, as pre-poll voting and iVote continue to increase in popularity.

For this analysis, I’ve been able to collect the figures on how many people voted using each different type of voting at every election since 1999.

In 1999, 84.6% of votes were cast as ordinary election-day votes. In 2015, this number dropped to 67.2%. In raw numbers, there has been a drop of 168,282 ordinary votes cast, despite the total number of votes cast increasing by 742,743.

As you can see, there was a slight decline in the proportion of ordinary votes from 84.6% in 1999 to 81.1% in 2007, although the raw numbers increased during this time. This trend has accelerated significantly since 2007, dropping to 74.2% in 2011 and 67.2% in 2015.

Below the fold, I’ll show how those people who aren’t casting ordinary votes are now voting, and how that has shifted over time. We’ve seen the acceleration of a trend that has seen large numbers of people cast absentee, postal and pre-poll votes, and how big surges in absentee and postal votes in 2011 have ebbed away while pre-poll voting continues to increase in size.

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Post-election website update

Now that the NSW election is coming to a close, I wanted to give an update on how the website is going, and my plans for the coming months.

Yesterday I posted my guide for the Tasmanian Legislative Council elections on May 2nd. After this, there are no state or territory elections until the next Tasmanian Legislative Council elections in 2016.

In 2016 we’ll see Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory elections, followed by the federal election in late 2016.

We’ll also see council elections in Australia’s four largest states: Western Australia in October 2015, Queensland in March 2016, New South Wales in September 2016 and Victoria in October 2016.

During this time, you’ll see less from this website up front, but a lot will be going on behind the scenes. I’m going to be looking to publish a lot of election data in a clean format to be used by analysts.

I’ll also be covering the many redistributions due over the next year, including various council ward redistributions, state and federal redistributions in ACT and WA and a federal redistribution in NSW, and then I’ll be preparing guides to the various elections due in 2016.

In the lead-up to the NSW election, this website underwent a shift to a new and improved server, in order to better cope with spikes in traffic on major election nights, in particular the large spike which saw the website out of action for the Queensland state election.

The upgrade seems to have worked very well – let me know in comments if you noticed an improvement, or if you noticed any of the problems experienced at other recent elections.

The new server is costing me a bit more money, and while I have made enough during the recent busy period to cover the server’s costs for the next few months, the (much appreciated) regular donations I’m currently receiving are only covering about 2/3s of the monthly cost of the new server, so if you’d like to help cover the costs of the website’s functioning, please consider donating.


The next election – Tasmanian Legislative Council guide launched

At this point, we are largely finished with the NSW state election, although I have a few more blog posts to come later this week.

The next election coming up, and the only remaining state election for 2015, is the Legislative Council election in Tasmania.

Tasmania’s Legislative Council holds elections every year for two or three of its fifteen electorates, with MLCs serving overlapping six-year terms.

Read the Legislative Council guide.

This year, there are three seats up for election.

Labor MLC Craig Farrell (the only Labor member of the upper house) is likely to win re-election in the southern seat of Derwent, while left-wing independent Mike Gaffney is tipped to win re-election in the north-western seat of Mersey.

The most interesting race is in Windermere, which covers north-eastern Launceston and George Town, and has been held by conservative independent Ivan Dean for the last twelve years. At the last two elections, Dean has defeated Labor-turned-independent rivals in close races, and this time is facing formally-endorsed Labor and Greens candidates in one of the most marginal seats in the Tasmanian upper house.

You can join the conversation by commenting on any of the three seat guides, and I’ll be covering the results on election night, May 2nd.


NSW 2015 – Legislative Council count finalised

Earlier today the NSW Electoral Commission “pushed the button” for the Legislative Council election, and approximately half an hour we had a result in the Legislative Council.

As expected, the Coalition won nine seats, Labor won seven, the Greens won two and the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers each won one seat. But the last seat was not clear before the button was pushed, and ultimately the Animal Justice Party’s Mark Pearson, ahead of No Land Tax’s Peter Jones and Liberal Hollie Hughes.

At the beginning of the count, on primary votes, No Land Tax led Animal Justice by 5235 votes, and Animal Justice led the Liberal candidate by 3212 votes (adding up all Coalition votes and subtracting nine quotas for the first nine elected).

The following graph shows what happened in the last ten counts. The graph does not include Labor, the CDP or the Shooters, who were polling higher but still below quota.

In both the graph and the table below, I show the primary vote for each group at the beginning of the count (excluding full quotas for Labor, Coalition and Greens), and then the final ten counts at the end of the distribution of preferences as the key candidates were excluded and distributed preferences.

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NSW 2015 – Greens vote concentrated

One of the stories on election night was the mixed news for the Greens. On the one hand, the party had a tremendous result in the lower house, retaining Balmain and notionally retaining the new seat of Newtown, and surprising most pundits (including myself) by winning Ballina and coming close in Lismore. On the other hand, the Greens vote appeared to have dropped slightly in both houses.

Since election day, the picture has cleared up. The Greens have fallen out of contention to win three seats in the Legislative Council (which they achieved in 2011), and missed out on winning in Lismore. On the latest figures in the Legislative Council, the Greens vote appears to have dropped by 1.2% to 9.9%, and we’ll get the final figures later this morning when the button is pushed.

In the Legislative Assembly (the focus of most of this post), the Greens primary vote overall stayed steady, dropping by a miniscule 0.0002% of the statewide vote (approximately seven votes!), staying roughly on 10.29%.

In addition to increasing their vote in Balmain, Newtown, Ballina and Lismore, the Greens also gained votes in the neighbouring inner-city seats of Summer Hill and Heffron, possibly strengthening their launching pad for future gains in the inner city of Sydney.

So how did the Greens manage to triple their Legislative Assembly representation, and increase their vote in their next best prospects? In this post, I’ll run through where the Greens gained positive swings and suffered negative swings, and where the Greens vote is becoming more concentrated. This post includes two interactive maps showing the shape of the Greens vote.

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