While we were all distracted by Prahran yesterday afternoon, quite strange things were happening in the count for the South Australian state seat of Fisher following Saturday’s by-election.
We all expected Labor to win the Fisher by-election after an error on Sunday revealed that Labor was holding 52% of the vote on election-day votes.
The Electoral Commission of South Australia (ECSA) added a whole bunch of ‘declaration votes’ yesterday, and with these votes the Liberal Party took a 17-vote lead. Just before this blog post went up, another batch was added and this resulted in Labor’s Nat Cook regaining the lead by 21 votes. At the time of writing, this update hasn’t made it to the ECSA website.
When I say ‘declaration votes’, I’m referring to all votes other than those cast at a local polling place on election day. This includes, prepoll votes, postal votes, absentee votes, and a few other small categories. There are no absentee votes because this is a sole by-election, so you would expect most of that category to be postal votes and prepoll votes.
While there was a swing of about 9% away from the Liberal Party on ordinary votes, the current sample of declaration votes suggests only a slight drop in the Liberal two-party-preferred vote, down to 55.6%. That seems quite unlikely.
Sadly, ECSA does not break down declaration votes by type, so it’s hard to know whether those votes counted are all postal or prepoll, and we can’t separately compare them to similar votes from March.
It’s also unclear whether all votes have been counted. However, when you compare total votes counted, it seems that not as many votes have been counted. In March, 24,087 votes were counted in Fisher, including informal votes. So far, only 21,175 votes have been counted. It’s likely that there has been some drop in turnout, but it’s also possible that some declaration votes are yet to be counted.
On Twitter, Nine News reporter Tom Richardson reported that most declaration votes have been counted, with a small batch to come.
The Liberal Party was only winning by the slimmest of margins thanks to a very high declaration vote, considering their election day vote. If there are more votes, and they don’t favour the Liberals by the same margin, then you would expect Labor to win. Labor has already taken a slim lead.