South Australian council voting – back to cheap and ugly?

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South Australia is now the third state government to announce plans to tinker with the voting system for local councils this year, joining Queensland and Victoria. I’ve given cautious support for parts of the Queensland plan which would bring in proportional representation (PR) for some councils, while severely criticising Victoria’s proposal to strip back PR in most councils in favour of single-member electorates. Unfortunately the South Australian plan is in the latter category.

The South Australian government has proposed a series of reforms, but one in particular would completely change the voting system back to a simplistic and unfair voting system used in South Australia until the late 1990s, one that people worked to reform, with the main justification being to make it simpler and cheaper for local councils to run their elections.

Preference flows – dive into the map

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The Australian Electoral Commission finalised the results of the 2019 federal election last week (now available at results.aec.gov.au) and this included the publication of data showing how primary votes for each candidate flowed on a two-candidate-preferred basis, as well as two-party-preferred flows for each party at a state and national level.

At a national level, the most interesting figures are preference flows for the Greens, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. These three parties polled between 3.1% and 10.4%, and were the only minor parties to crack 1% in the House of Representatives.

82.2% of Greens preferences flowed to Labor on a two-party-preferred basis, up 0.3% percent compared to 2016. Both UAP and One Nation voters’ preferences flowed to the Coalition at a rate of about 65%. This was a big shift for both of these parties. Just over 50% of One Nation preferences flowed to the Coalition in 2016, while voters for the previous incarnation of the Palmer United Party only preferenced the Coalition over Labor 54% of the time in 2013.

There was a lot of conjecture during the previous term of government about how best to allocate these voters’ preferences in polling calculations. Typically pollsters rely on how preferences flowed at the previous election to allocate primary votes for minor parties and independents in determining the two-party-preferred figure. This is easy enough to do for Greens voters, who are reasonably consistent in their preference flows. But it’s hard when a new party like United Australia emerges. There was also reason to suspect that One Nation’s preferences would flow much more strongly to the Coalition than they did in 2016. These concerns led to some pollsters tinkering with their formulas.

In the end they were right to be concerned, as these preferences did flow more strongly in the past. I won’t try and explain it in full, but in the case of the UAP this may partly be explained by Clive Palmer’s campaign being much more right-wing in 2019 compared to his centrist positioning in 2013, which may have attracted a different kind of voter this time around. These two parties contributed to a significantly higher share of the preference flow for the Coalition than in 2016.

Below the fold I have put together a map showing the preference flow from the Greens to Labor in each seat, as well as a detailed booth map showing the preference flows for each of these three smaller parties for each booth where the data exists.

State seat swaps look set to bring House back to 150

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Once every three years, one year after the first sitting of parliament following the election, the latest population estimates are used to determine the entitlement of seats in the House of Representatives for each state.

In 2017, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory each gained an extra electorate, while South Australia lost a seat, leading to a net increase of one seat from 150 to 151.

The next entitlement is due in July 2020, and the latest population figures suggest Victoria is set to gain yet another electorate (its 39th), while Western Australia is set to lose its 16th seat, and the Northern Territory would be reduced to one seat, for a total of 150.

Victorian government vs local democracy

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In the wake of the federal election you may have missed a story about how the Victorian government is planning to change the way that Victorian local councils are elected, something which will be disastrous for local democracy and has come completely out of the blue.

The government’s proposed changes are mostly minor, but the most important will be the imposition of single-member wards for most councils in Victoria, eliminating proportional representation from local elections.

Below the fold I will run through the reasons why this is such a bad idea, but if you want to get straight to the point you should email the state government via local.government@delwp.vic.gov.au by 31 July to insist that they protect proportional representation in local elections.

Taking a break for a while

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Now that the election is over I will be taking an extended break. I won’t be doing any work on the Tally Room for the next six weeks.

After this break I will be back with regular posts. We have no more elections this year but there will be redistributions, by-elections (I assume) and deeper analysis of the recent elections. I’ll be doing full guides for the Brisbane City Council election in early 2020 and then the more populous NSW council elections, and the ACT, Northern Territory and Queensland later in 2020.

I’m also hoping to start a podcast running the history of Australian elections, starting off with the 1901-1914 period, if you want to sign up as a donor to help make this happen.

That’s it for now. I’ll see you in August.

NT redistribution – draft boundaries released

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While we’ve been focused on the federal election, redistributions have been progressing for the local Legislative Assemblies in both the ACT and the Northern Territory.

I blogged about the population numbers in the NT in April, and since then the first draft of the boundaries have been released.

In that post I suggested that changes did not need to be overly dramatic, particularly in the majority of seats in the Darwin-Palmerston area, but that the Alice Springs seats were well over quota and would need to lose population to the surrounding rural seats.

And that is largely what has happened. Both Alice seats shrunk, giving off surplus population to the surrounding seat of Namatjira. That seat then shrunk, triggering a cascading effect as another five seats stretching from end to end of the territory all edged south to accomodate the shrinking southern seats.

7.8% of the territory’s population has been moved into a new seat. 44% of the population of Namatjira was previously in either Araluen or Braitling. Three other rural seats (Arnhem, Barkly and Stuart/Gwoya) include over 20% who were previously in another seat.

Four seats were unchanged: Goyder, Karama, Nhulunbuy/Mulka and Port Darwin.

Two seat names have been changed Nhulunbuy in the north-eastern corner of the territory has been renamed Mulka, while the south-western seat of Stuart, which stretches from the Timor Sea to the South Australian border, has been renamed Gwoya.

I’ve included a map showing the changes below the fold, along with a link to download the file yourself.

Senate count update – week four

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We’re now halfway through the fourth week of counting for the Senate, and the count has got close to the finish line, although we only have a final result in the Northern Territory, where Labor and the Country Liberal Party each retained their one Senate seat without any need for preferences.

A few weeks ago I ran through each state and identified only one race, in Queensland, where seats were still in play. Since then the ALP has lost ground. While we will still need to wait for the distribution of preferences to know for sure, it seems likely that the last three seats will go to the LNP, the Greens and One Nation.

The current quotas for these groups are:

  • LNP – 2.74 quotas
  • ALP – 1.59
  • ON – 0.71
  • GRN – 0.70

One other point of interest from the Senate count is the informal rate. It’s not clear to me if there’s any formal votes still sitting in the informal pile – there certainly were a lot of formal votes incorrectly classified in the first counts after election day. The informal rate has dropped dramatically since those early counts, now sitting at 3.86%, down slightly from 3.94% in 2016.

State2016 informal rate2019 informal rateChange in informal rate
ACT2.212.320.11
NSW4.534.25-0.28
NT3.333.640.31
QLD3.403.22-0.18
SA3.333.510.18
TAS3.483.640.16
VIC4.204.260.06
WA3.353.500.15
Australia3.943.86-0.08

Informal voting has slightly increased in most jurisdictions, although that was cancelled out by small declines in NSW and Queensland.

I should again emphasise that this informal rate is likely to drop a little bit more as the count continues, potentially getting below the 3.75% informal rate at the 2010 election.

Mapping the Molan BTL vote

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Jim Molan grabbed a lot of attention in the election for his quixotic attempt to be re-elected from the fourth spot on the NSW Liberal/National ticket, despite New South Wales having a relatively low rate of below-the-line voting.

He never came close to winning, but has polled over 100,000 votes, equalling about 2.6% of the vote, with a small number of votes yet to be allocated to individual candidates. It’s an impressive result (although the raw numbers are helped by him running in Australia’s largest state).

His result also appears to have led to a spike in below-the-line voting generally in New South Wales while the rate of voting below-the-line appears to have declined in most other jurisdictions.

I’ve mapped out where he got his votes below the fold.

Map of the day – northern Tasmania

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I received a request earlier this week to consider making a map showing the results of the map in Bass and Braddon, the two electorates in northern Tasmania won by Labor in 2016 and lost in 2019.

The map in this post shows the two-candidate-preferred vote across Tasmania, and also shows the swing in four of the five Tasmanian seats (there’s something weird going on with the booth swings in Clark in the AEC’s dataset, so I’ve left it off).

The picture of swings in northern Tasmania is reasonably consistent, but there is a handful of booths across the region where Labor gained ground against the general trend.

When you look at the total vote (not the swing), Labor still won majorities in clusters of booths at the centre of Launceston, Burnie and Devonport, but otherwise lost most booths.

Map of the day – swings in opposite directions for Greens in Victoria

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As I’ve been putting together these maps I was particularly interested in seeing what the booth map looked like for the Victorian Greens. There wasn’t a consistent story to come out of the election when it comes to swings for the Greens. The Greens had a tough ask in retaining all six of their Senate seats up for election. At the moment they should win five and possibly six, which is a pretty good outcome.

The Greens have gained a small +0.15% swing in the House of Representatives nationally, and a bigger +1.5% swing in the Senate. Yet Victoria bucked those trends, suffering a large -1.3% swing in the House and a small -0.3% swing in the Senate.

This partly reflects the Greens going backwards in some of their inner city heartland electorates, but again there is not one consistent picture here.

So that’s what I wanted to map out. The map is below the fold.