NSW to raise council election costs to make private providers “competitive”

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New South Wales council elections are due in September 2020, which means that local councils right now are having to decide who they will contract to run their election.

This may seem strange to people not familiar with NSW council elections. In most states, all council elections are run by the state electoral commission. Yet in New South Wales, local councils can choose to either use the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) or a private contractor.

In this post I will run through some of the history of this quirk of NSW electoral administration, why I think it’s such a bad idea, and what looks set to happen soon.

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is due to hand down a final report, as early as today, in an inquiry into what price should be set by the NSWEC for conducting local government elections.

The IPART is considering a pricing structure which would increase the average cost by 62% compared to the last round of elections in 2016 and 2017. The IPART has justified this proposal in part because of a concern that private election providers have not been able to compete with the NSWEC under the current pricing structure.

But do we really want private election providers to be “competitive” with the NSWEC? Why would that be a good thing?

NT redistribution – changes to a handful of seats in second draft

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I blogged about the draft boundaries for the Northern Territory redistribution before I took a break back in June. At the end of July, the NT Electoral Commission released a second draft (not a final map), which contained changes to the boundaries of five electorates. Because the changes between two seats were reasonably significant, this triggered another round of consultation, before a final map is released later this year.

I won’t go into depth about this map, because it’s mostly the same as the May map. There were changes in two areas.

There was a substantial exchange of population on the border of Katherine and Arnhem. The seat of Nelson also retracted slightly from the Darwin area, with this area moved into Karama and Fong Lim.

This map below shows the new draft in green, with the old boundaries in red and the first draft in blue. It’s zoomed in on Katherine by default.

This new map is now available for download as a KMZ file from the maps page.

Brisbane City – draft redistribution margins

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The Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) last Friday released the draft boundaries for the Brisbane City Council election, due in March 2020. I’ve now put together a map of the electoral boundaries, and I’ve also calculated margins in all 26 wards, as well as primary votes for the three main parties.

The changes have helped Labor in a couple of marginal LNP wards, but overall has not had a big impact on Labor’s prospects of gaining control of the council in 2020.

ACT redistribution finalised

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Along with the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Brisbane City Council, the ACT has also been redrawing its electoral boundaries for the local Legislative Assembly, with the boundaries finalised in July.

In this post I’ll share a map showing the changes to the electoral boundaries, along with my estimates of the vote percentages for the bigger parties in each electorate before and after the redistribution.

I was close to publishing the draft electoral boundaries and finalising my vote estimates back in early June right before I went on parental leave, but while I was away from the site Elections ACT announced that the final map would not feature any changes compared to the draft map, so that work can apply to the final version.

All five electorates were modified, with two seats gaining territory, two losing territory, and the seat of Murrumbidgee gaining and losing territory.

The Belconnen-area electorate of Ginninderra took in some territory from the Gungahlin-area electorate of Yerrabi, but these two seats did not exchange any territory with the remainder of the electorates.

The other three electorates all effectively shifted slightly north. The Tuggeranong-area electorate of Brindabella expanded north to take in half of the suburb of Kambah from Murrumbidgee. Murrumbidgee then shifted north to take in Yarralumla and Deakin from the central electorate of Kurrajong. This brings Murrumbidgee right up to Capital Hill and Lake Burley Griffin.

My redistribution vote estimates are my first test of a new formula I’ve used for distributing special votes in a way which reflects the different voting trends in different parts of an electorate. I might go into more detail about how this works down the track.

Labor received a boost in three out of five electorates, doing particularly well by picking up almost 1.4% in Kurrajong.

The Greens boosted their support in both of their current electorates but experienced no change in Ginninderra, their best prospect for winning another seat.

The Liberals did particularly well in Murrumbidgee, while they were knocked back badly in Kurrajong.

Pre-redistributionPost-redistribution
ElectorateLaborLiberalGreensLaborLiberalGreens
Brindabella34.0641.505.3934.5941.045.61
Ginninderra41.2432.229.7741.0032.749.77
Kurrajong38.4830.9918.7639.8528.8219.76
Murrumbidgee34.4942.8010.6432.9944.5310.73
Yerrabi43.9235.837.0944.5535.646.76

You can download the Google Earth map file for the 2020 boundaries from my maps page, along with every ACT Legislative Assembly map dating back to the first electorates in 1995.

WA redistribution – draft boundaries map

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The draft boundaries for the Western Australian state redistribution were released three weeks ago, but it has taken me some time to put together the map of the new boundaries, which are available for download now.

The commissioners implausibly managed to avoid moving an electorate from the country to the city despite a growing gap in enrolments.

Ten out of 59 seats were left with no changes. Most seats underwent small changes, with the most dramatic changes taking place in the north-east of Perth. The seats of Girrawheen and Mirrabooka were completely redrawn, with Girrawheen shifting south to take in much of Mirrabooka, and a new seat of Kingsway drawn in the northern half of Girrawheen. Kingsway is an unfortunate name for the new seat, being created right next door to the similarly-named Kingsley.

I haven’t yet done my own calculations about the new margins, but we can use William Bowe’s estimated margins, published at Poll Bludger.

William has one seat changing hands, with the Liberal seat of Hillarys, currently held by a 4.1% margin, turned into an effective dead heat with Labor just out in front. This seat was unusually close in 2017 thanks to the sitting Liberal MP running as an independent, and should be easily retained by the Liberal Party in 2021.

There are a number of marginal Labor seats where their position has been improved: from 5.8% to 8% in Balcatta, from 0.7% to 1.2% in Kingsley, from 2.5% to 4.9% in Burns Beach, from 1% to 2% in Jandakot, from 2.9% to 3.6% in Bicton, from 7.3% to 9.2% in Wanneroo, and from 1.4% to 2.3% in Murray Wellington. Labor’s margin in Joondalup has dropped from 0.6% to 0.1%.

You can toggle this map below to show the 2017 boundaries (red), the 2021 draft boundaries (green) or both.

You can download the Google Earth layers for both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council from the maps page, along with WA electoral boundaries dating back to 2008.

The final electoral boundaries are due to be published by the end of November this year.

New dataset – upper house votes from South Australia

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It may have taken about 500 days to be published, but the Electoral Commission of South Australia finally published the complete statistics report for the 2018 state election two weeks ago, on July 31. This report was the first place to include the upper house vote count broken down by seat and by polling place.

This has allowed me to finally complete my dataset for the 2018 South Australian election. The dataset includes upper house and lower house results (including two-candidate-preferred figures) at the seat and booth level, as well as candidate lists, a summary of the turnout by electorate and a list of polling places. This is all available in my data repository. ECSA has also published the upper house booth results here, but their data is much less flexible than mine, being broken into separate documents for each seat.

As a demonstration of what can be done with this data, I’ve put together the following map which shows the upper house primary vote by booth for the three biggest parties: Liberal, Labor and SA Best, as well as a colour-coded map showing which of these parties won the vote in each booth.

If you find this dataset useful, bear in mind that I also have the equivalent dataset for the 2014 election which is available to those who sign up as Patreon donors.

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.