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Chris Davis resigns from Stafford

Stafford1-2PPLast Friday, embattled former LNP minister Chris Davis resigned his seat of Stafford in the Queensland state parliament.

Davis had served as Assistant Minister for Health for the last two years, but had come into conflict with the Premier and senior ministers over a number of issues, and was sacked as a minister two weeks ago after speaking against government policy.

Last Thursday, Davis voted with Labor, KAP and PUP members of Parliament against the Newman government’s laws demolishing restrictions on donations and election spending in Queensland, and followed that up by resigning from Parliament the following day.

Stafford was won by Davis off the ALP in 2012 with a 14% swing, and he was left with a 7.1% margin. Stafford covers parts of the northern suburbs of Brisbane. After the ALP won the Redcliffe by-election this year, Labor’s candidate Anthony Lynham would have to be favoured to win a Stafford by-election.

While there has been speculation about Campbell Newman not calling a by-election, and leaving the seat vacant for the next nine-ten months until the general election, that would be unprecedented, and it seems most likely that Newman will follow convention and call a by-election.

I’ve prepared a guide to the Stafford by-election, which you can click through at the following link.

Read the guide to the Stafford by-election

Throwing the game in Epsom

I’m well on my way to preparing the maps of New Zealand’s electorates for the guide to the September election – yesterday I finished half of the general electorates (32 out of 64, plus 7 Maori seats).

The most interesting electorate I’ve worked on is the seat of Epsom in Auckland’s inner east.

Epsom is a very conservative, wealthy electorate, covering suburbs immediately to the east of the Auckland city centre. On the party vote, the National Party overwhelmingly wins the seat, with 64.5% of the party vote in 2011. Labour came second with 15.6%, followed by the Greens with 12%. But the seat produces a very different result in the vote for the local MP.

To win ‘list seats’ in the New Zealand Parliament, you need to either poll 5% of the party vote, or win at least one electorate seat. For parties polling below 5%, or in the difficult area where it is unclear whether they will pass the 5% threshold, winning an electorate seat can be critical to winning seats in Parliament.

The right-wing ACT party, who have been in a governing alliance with the National Party since the 2008 election, have used the seat of Epsom at every election since 2005 to ensure the party stays in Parliament, despite falling well short of 5% of the national party vote.

At the last three elections, ACT candidates have argued strongly for National voters in Epsom to cast their candidate vote for the ACT candidate, in order to allow the party to win seats in Parliament, and at the last two elections the Nationals have implicitly endorsed that strategy.

There is a very clear trend in election results in Epsom of National voters switching to vote for ACT on their candidate vote, but also of centre-left Labour and Greens voters flocking to the National candidate in an attempt to stop ACT from winning the seat.

The NZ Electoral Commission releases data breaking down the relationship between the party vote and the candidate vote, and allows you to see how many voters for each party then voted for each candidate, and vice versa. This data is released on a national level and by electorate. It allows you to see, for example, that 44% of those who gave a party vote to the Green Party then gave their candidate vote to Labour.

In Epsom, there is a very strong trend where 61% of National voters voted for the ACT candidate. In contrast, 56% of Green voters voted for the National candidate, as well as 37% of Labour voters.

You can also see this trend very clearly on the map. On the party vote, the National Party vote is higher in the more conservative east of the seat, further away from the Auckland city centre. Yet on the candidate vote, the National Party vote is higher in the west of the seat, where there are more party votes for Labour and Green.

The following maps illustrate this point. The final map shows the difference in the National vote between the party vote and candidate vote. In many booths in the east of the seat the National vote dropped by over 40%. Yet in the west of the seat, the National vote increased by 11% in one booth, and only dropped by less than 10% in other booths.

In 2011, this strategy of centre-left voters casting a tactical vote for National in order to block ACT failed, with John Banks winning the seat. But the party’s prospects had fallen so low that his win didn’t bring in a single list seat for the party. The party has changed leaders and Epsom candidates again in the last year, and we’re yet to see whether ACT will be given another lifeline in Epsom in 2014.

National party vote in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

National party vote in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

ACT candidate votes in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

ACT candidate votes in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

National candidate votes in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

National candidate votes in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

Difference between National party votes and candidate votes per booth in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

Difference between National party votes and candidate votes per booth in Epsom at the 2011 general election.

Parliamentary committee aiming to end group voting tickets

The federal Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters released its interim report yesterday, which covered recommendations for how to reform the Senate voting system.

The Senate voting system has come under criticism for the system of group voting tickets producing bizarre results and creating very close races, and a proliferation of political parties making hard for voters to cast a formal, informed vote.

The proposals, in short, are:

  • Abolishing group voting tickets for Senate elections, meaning that parties can’t direct preferences automatically to other parties without the voting expressing a preference.
  • Introducing optional preferential above the line voting, so that voters can number boxes for parties above the line, with a minimum of one preference for a formal vote.
  • Only requiring below-the-line voters to number as many boxes as there are vacancies (2, 6 or 12). This will make it much easier to cast a formal vote below the line.
  • Tightening party registration processes:
    • Requiring parties to have at least 1500 members (up from 500)
    • Requiring parties to go further to demonstrate membership numbers.
    • Easier processes for a party to register for just one state.
    • Giving existing parties one year to meet the stricter standards.
    • Banning the practice of a person serving as registered officer of more than one registered party.

The committee also suggested that there is a need to restrict candidates to run in the state where they live, but didn’t propose a specific solution. The committee did not support the Liberal proposal for thresholds.

Overall, it’s a very good outcome. Abolishing group voting tickets and making it easier for voters to cast their own preferences, either above or below the line, is a good move for putting power back in the hands of voters. Preferences will still matter, but only when they are genuine preferences, and parties will only be able to influence their voters by giving them a piece of material with advice that the voter can choose to follow – no more automatic flows of preferences.

While the number of candidates and parties has reached an excessive level, I tend to think that the abolition of group voting tickets will reduce the draw for small parties to enter the ‘preference lottery’. Still, the restrictions proposed should still allow a large number of minor parties to stay registered.

The next challenge will be getting the legislation through the Parliament. The Coalition, Labor and the Greens all support the proposals, but it seems likely that most of the other crossbenchers in the Senate will be opposed. While their votes won’t be critical, life may be difficult for Tony Abbott if this legislation is being fought over when the new Senate comes in, and he will be looking for support from other senators.

JSCEM seems to have decided to deal with the Senate reform issue before going on to any other issues of electoral law later this year – perhaps they are hoping to pass the necessary legislation before the new Senate takes office on July 1.

Elsewhere: Antony Green deals with the proposed changes and models how previous Senate results would have been affected by the different voting system.

Tasmania LC 2014 – results wrap

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to follow results last night for the two Tasmanian Legislative Council seats that went to the polls yesterday. Tasmania’s upper house never faces the polls all at once – its fifteen seats go to the polls over a six year cycle, with two or three seats up for a vote every May.

This year, the two seats were southern Huon, where Paul Harriss stepped down earlier this year to run (successfully) as a Liberal candidate in Franklin at the Tasmanian state election, and northern Rosevears, where centre-left independent Kerry Finch was facing a challenge from the Liberal Party.

Finch easily faced down the Liberal challenge in Rosevears, while the race in Huon will be decided on preferences.

Keep reading below for more analysis.

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JSCEM – move for Senate voting reform

The federal Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) held hearings yesterday in Canberra, where representatives from five political parties presented evidence on how to reform the Senate voting system, following previous hearings from experts and officials over the last three months.

Yesterday’s appearances, as well as late submission from the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party, saw both parties come out in support of the abolition of group voting tickets (GVTs), and the introduction of optional preferential voting (OPV) in the Senate. The Greens have supported the model for a long time, and the model is currently in use for the NSW Legislative Council.

The Nationals only supported abolishing GVTs if compulsory preferential voting was maintained, which would force voters to number a large number of boxes for their vote to count. That seems unlikely to fly.

Other proposals were made, including the Liberal Party coming out for rules requiring voters to show photo identification when voting. However it seems that JSCEM is planning to put off matters unrelated to the Senate voting system until later in the year, and is now focusing on changes that will effect the Senate.

The umbrella of changes affecting the Senate appears to include two broad approaches: changing the voting system, and changing rules around nominations and party registration.

In addition to the Senate counting system, three other major proposals were raised.

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Tasmanian upper house – nine days to go

The next Australian election will take place Saturday week, with two Tasmanian upper house electorates electing representatives for the next six years.

I’ve already written profiles of both electorates, featuring the results of the 2008 election and the history of each electorate. I’ve now updated those profiles with the list of candidates who have officially nominated.

The southern seat of Huon covers the Huon valley in southern Tasmania and other rural areas, to the south-west of Hobart. The seat was last held by Paul Harriss, who resigned earlier this year after almost eighteen years in the seat to run (successfully) as a Liberal for the seat of Franklin at the House of Assembly election.

The Liberal Party is running an official candidate in Huon: Peter Hodgman. Hodgman is the uncle of the new Premier, Will Hodgman. Peter Hodgman previously held Huon from 1974 to 1986, replacing his brother Michael, and joining his father Bill in the Parliament. He moved to the lower house seat of Franklin in 1986 and held it until an unsuccessful attempt to move to the House of Representatives in 2001.

Hodgman is opposed by six independents, but is tipped to win the seat.

The northern seat of Rosevears covers areas to the north-west of Launceston. The seat is held by independent MLC Kerry Finch. Finch is seen as being one of the more left-wing members of the Council, unlike most of his independent colleagues.

The Liberal Party in the past has supposedly had a policy of not running against sitting independents: a convenient policy considering the right-wing positioning of most independent MLCs. However the party has chosen to run against Finch, running former political staffer Don Morris, who has worked in the past for Will Hodgman, Wyatt Roy, Ted Baillieu and Denis Napthine.

No other candidates have stood, and Rosevears should be an interesting race between centre-left independent Finch and Liberal candidate Morris.

Unfortunately I won’t be in a position to cover the results live on election night, but I will follow up with analysis of the results the following day.

WA Senate 2014 – Liberal Party wins final seat

After the closeness of the 2013 election, we were all ready for a close contest in 2014, but that hasn’t eventuated. At the end of election night, the ALP’s Louise Pratt looked like she had a chance of overtaking the Liberal Party’s Linda Reynolds in the race for the final seat. After a full week of additional counting, Reynolds’ lead has grown, and she will be winning the final seat, for a total result of 3 Liberal, 1 Labor, 1 Green and 1 Palmer United Party.

Last Sunday, the day after the election, I wrote about the likely shifts in votes, which I predicted would help Reynolds win the final seat. The following day, I also outlined possible scenarios last Monday which could see Louise Pratt gain the lead. We now have a much clearer picture about how the result has gone.

According to the ABC Senate calculator, it now predicts Reynolds to win the final seat by a margin of 0.036 quota. In this post, I’ll run through some of the reasons why this has happened, and why Louise Pratt’s chances have disappeared.

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Blain by-election results live

8:09 – And that’s it for tonight. Short and sweet election night.

8:07 – One last point to raise before finishing this liveblog. If you assume that the Greens vote mainly flowed to Labor, it seems that roughly half of the AEU candidate’s vote flowed to the CLP, which is worth 4-5% of the total vote. The independent candidate was not friendly to the ALP with his preferences. If all of those votes had flowed to Labor, either as preferences or as primary votes, the ALP would’ve won. Of course we don’t know if those votes would have gone to Labor or CLP in the absence of the independent, or how much the how-to-vote card effected preference flows.

7:44 – Meanwhile, an election ten times the size of Blain is taking place to elect a new mayor of Willoughby in northern Sydney, after the death of the previous mayor. The four leading candidates have all polled primary votes between 16% and 23%.

7:39 – The swing to the ALP ranged from 8.2% in Rosebery to 11.6% in Moulden Park. The ALP won 53.4% in Moulden Park, but lost in the other two booths, with the CLP polling around 55% in both places.

7:34 – Votes from the Darwin pre-poll centre and all three election-day booths have all come in now, with the CLP leading with 53.2% of the vote. It seems very unlikely they could lose from this point.

7:17 – We now know more about those preference flows. At Palmerston pre-poll, 44 preferences flowed to the ALP and 43 preferences flowed to the CLP. Overall this gave the CLP 54.8% after preferences, a swing of 10.5%. This is nowhere near enough to see Blain won by the ALP.

7:13 – Antony Green is saying that if the trend at Palmerston pre-poll is reflected elsewhere, then the CLP will likely hold that seat. It sounds right to me, although we’re yet to see where the AEU candidate’s preferences flow.

7:05 – Bear in mind that there are more candidates running than in 2012. Most of that swing against the CLP didn’t go to the ALP, who only gained a swing of 4%.

7:00 – We’ve got the pre-poll votes from Palmerston, which has seen an 18.5% swing on primary votes from the Country Liberal Party. 9.3% has gone to the AEU’s candidate, who I understand to be preferencing the CLP.

6:05 - Polls have just closed in the by-election for the Northern Territory electorate of Blain, covering southern Palmerston.

Blain is on paper a safe Country Liberal seat, and the CLP needs to retain the seat to continue to hold a majority in the Legislative Assembly.

There are only three polling places plus special votes, so this by-election shouldn’t take too long to count.

In addition to Labor and the Country Liberal Party, other candidates include an independent endorsed by the NT branch of the Australian Education Union, and Greens and Citizens Electoral Council candidates.

Blain by-election – NT majority on the line

One of the smallest Australian elections will be coming up this Saturday, April 12, in the Northern Territory electorate of Blain.

Blain covers the southern suburbs of Palmerston, the major town that lays outside of Darwin. The seat was held since the 1999 by-election by Terry Mills. Mills had served as Country Liberal (CLP) leader from 2003 to 2005, and then again from 2008 until 2012, when he led the CLP back into government.

Mills lost the Chief Minister’s position to Adam Giles in March 2013, and in February 2014 he resigned from the Assembly.

In the last few weeks, the Northern Territory CLP government has suffered a crisis amongst its parliamentary ranks, one that could see the government lose its majority if it loses the Blain by-election.

Last week, three members of the CLP caucus, all indigenous members representing outback electorates, resigned from the CLP as the conclusion of a long-festering internal party conflict. At the 2012 election, a shock result saw Labor’s previously-safe outback seats almost entirely wiped out, while the ALP held on in the Darwin area.

Following the three resignations, the CLP only holds twelve seats in the 25-member Assembly. A win in Blain will protect the government’s majority, whereas a loss will force the CLP to seek an arrangement with independent Gerry Wood to stay in power.

Due to the small size of the electorate, I didn’t produce a full-sized guide to the electorate. At the 2012 election, just under 4000 formal votes were cast in Blain, and Mills won 63.2% of the two-party-preferred vote.

Antony Green recently outlined the history of swings in recent by-elections. While it is possible that Blain could fall to the ALP, it would require a substantial swing that is not unheard of, but is not that common.

Results by polling place

Polling place CLP 2PP % ALP 2PP % Formal % of votes
Moulden Park 58.20 41.80 823 20.58
Rosebery 63.75 36.25 720 18.00
Woodroffe 64.64 35.36 1,315 32.88
Other votes 64.94 35.06 1,141 28.53
Two-party-preferred votes in Blain at the 2012 Northern Territory election.

Two-party-preferred votes in Blain at the 2012 Northern Territory election.

WA Senate – how Pratt could win

Yesterday’s post predicted that the most likely outcome in the WA Senate election is that Liberal candidate Linda Reynolds will widen her lead over the ALP’s Louise Pratt, thanks to a large batch of postal votes yet to be counted.

I still think this is the most likely outcome, but since posting yesterday a number of points have been raised that I think are valid, and suggest ways that Pratt could perform better than my projection (which was very similar to William Bowe’s at Poll Bludger).

It is possible that the Liberal Party may suffer more serious leakage from party tickets, as Reynolds is relying on more preferences than Pratt. However if Pratt and Ludlam have performed strongly on below-the-line votes, more of these votes could be ruled informal in coming weeks, and this could partially cancel out any leakage benefit.

There is a scenario where a slightly higher Palmer United vote results in an earlier election, and frees up more votes to flow to the ALP. It is also possible that Friday’s story about Joe Bullock pushed down the election-day vote, which may mean our projections are too pessimistic when trying to predict Labor’s share of postal votes.

I explain these theories in more detail below the fold.

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