WA 2021 – the impact of the redistribution

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Western Australia conducts redistributions of the state electoral boundaries every four years, so each election sees a new set of electoral boundaries.

The recent redistribution did not see any dramatic changes in seats. We did not see a rural seat abolished and replaced by a new urban seat, as has happened in previous redistributions. The six upper house regions still cover roughly the same area and cover the same number of electorates. Just one seat was changed sufficiently to require a change in name.

This map shows the electorates. You can click on each seat to see how the margin has changed.

I posted about these final margins on my blog in February 2020. You can see the full list of old and new margins there, along with links to the alternative calculations from Antony Green and William Bowe, which are mostly very similar.

The seat of Girrawheen was renamed Landsdale. 59% of voters in the new Landsdale were previously contained in Girrawheen. The neighbouring seat of Mirrabooka only contains 57% of its previous population, while West Swan only contains 61% of its previous population. Overall 8.5% of voters have been moved to a new seat.

Nine seats experienced no population change: Armadale, Belmont, Forrestfield, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Maylands, Mount Lawley, Southern River, Thornlie and Warnbro.

Overall the changes made little impact to the shape of the pendulum. Prior to the redistribution, a uniform swing of 5.8% against Labor would see Labor lose twelve seats and their majority. The uniform swing now required is 5.9%.

There are ten seats where the margin changed by more than 2%. Five Labor incumbents saw their margins strengthened: by 2.1% each in Balcatta and West Swan, by 2.7% in Willagee, by 3% in Kwinana and by 4.4% in Mirrabooka. Four Labor incumbents lost ground: by 2.2% in Cockburn, by 2.7% in Swan Hills, by 3.5% in Baldivis and by 7% in Girrawheen/Landsdale. The Liberal seat of Hillarys saw the margin cut from 4.1% to 0.1%.

Overall this was a relatively modest redistribution without massive impacts. The Commission made a decision not to eliminate any rural seats, meaning that urban seats have been drawn a bit larger than is strictly necessary. I suspect this means we will see an additional urban seat created in the next redistribution, with more significant knock-on effects.

WA 2021 – early voting opens

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Early voting will open on Wednesday in the Western Australian state election, with pre-poll voting open for the better part of three weeks.

Over the last year we have seen radical changes in the way people choose to cast their ballots amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. I have chronicled this story at the Covid-19 tag on this website.

We have experienced two federal by-elections, one state election, two territory elections and council elections in Queensland (which is traditionally attendance-based) and Victoria (where postal voting is universal).

There is no evidence that Covid-19 is currently circulating in Western Australia, and there has only been one small quarantine leak recently, but I still expect there to be some change in voter behaviour.

I’ve recently expanded my data repository to include data from the 2001, 2005 and 2008 Western Australian state elections (thanks to Armarium Interreta for help compiling the booth-level data). The datasets do not yet include the upper house results, and I am yet to add latitudes and longitudes for the booths, but there’s enough in there to calculate the share of votes cast by voting method for each of the last five elections:


It’s worth noting that ordinary election-day voting has held up better in Western Australia than in other jurisdictions. Check out similar posts I’ve done about Queensland, the ACT, the NT, New South Wales, Victoria and federal elections.

The proportion of ordinary votes in Western Australia in 2017 was similar to most other jurisdictions, although at the higher end.

I expect we’ll see a boost in pre-poll voting, and likely in postal voting too, and I’ll keep track if I can get data from the Electoral Commission over the next three weeks.

CORRECTION: This post originally said that voting opened on Monday. Apologies for that error.

Podcast #48: introduction to the WA election

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We’re back for 2021, and on this week’s podcast Ben is joined by Christine Cunningham and Martin Drum to get us up to speed on Western Australian state politics and the early stages of the campaign for March’s state election.

This podcast is supported by the Tally Room’s supporters on Patreon. If you find this podcast worthwhile please consider giving your support.

You can subscribe to this podcast using this RSS feed in your podcast app of choice, but should also be able to find this podcast by searching for “the Tally Room”. If you like the show please considering rating and reviewing us on iTunes.

Queensland 2020 – new data showing change in method of voting

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I spent some time over the summer compiling new datasets for some of the elections held in 2020. At the moment I have published the data for the Queensland and ACT elections as well as a dataset containing results from Queensland state by-elections from 1996 to 2020 and I’ve also updated my Tasmanian Legislative Council dataset to include 2019 and 2020. I am still planning to add datasets for the Northern Territory, Brisbane City Council and New Zealand, but they will have to wait.

This dataset is part of a bigger collection, most of which is just available to people who sign up to support the Tally Room on Patreon. I’ve now compiled data for seven straight Queensland state elections. I thought I would use this as a chance to use these datasets to show the trend in how people vote at Queensland state elections, and how pre-poll came to dominate in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was a massive drop in the number of people voting on election day in 2020. Just 28.3% of votes were cast using the ordinary method, with a further 4.2% cast as absent votes on election day outside of the voter’s electorate. The rate of postal votes more than doubled from 10.7% to 24.4%, while pre-poll increased from 26.2% to 41.5%. This means that roughly two thirds of all votes were cast before election day.

This was a massive step-change, but it wasn’t totally unprecedented. We have seen a gradual increase in pre-poll voting over the last two decades, with the trend accelerating in 2015 and 2017. The share of the vote cast as an ordinary vote declined from 83.6% to 72.3% from 2004 to 2012, and then declined to 57.1% by 2017.

Postal voting has also been increasing, but at a much slower rate.

I don’t think we will see this turnout repeated in future elections once this pandemic has come to a close, but I do expect a permanently higher baseline for pre-poll voting (and possibly postal voting) unless policy decisions are made to push people back to voting on the day.

WA 2021 – upper house preferences released

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Western Australia’s upper house still uses the discredited group voting ticket system to distribute preferences, the same system last used for the Senate in 2013. This system has encouraged a proliferation of candidates and parties running in the upper house election, breaking the record set in 2017.

Each group running in each upper house region is required to lodge a preference order of how they would distribute their voters’ preferences amongst their fellow candidates. Any voters who vote above the line will have their preferences allocated according to this ticket. It’s a system which allows a party to allocate all of its preferences with a high level of reliability to parties that no-one has heard of, or who the voter couldn’t imagine receiving their preferences, and allows some parties to win off very low votes.

The tickets were released this afternoon. Antony Green has published them in a convenient and easy-to-read format (speaking relatively), along with an explanation of the system.

The nature of this system means no-one can predict how preferences will flow, and there are a lot of different preference tickets to examine. I think there’s over 130 different tickets across the six upper house regions, and each one includes around 50 preferences. I am confident I have missed some interesting decisions, and no-one can be sure which preference decisions will prove crucial or irrelevant until the votes are cast.

(By the way, if you want to know more about the six regions, I have published guides to all six as part of my election guide.)

I’m going to run through some of the interesting trends.

WA 2021 – final candidates announced

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Nominations closed in Western Australia on Friday, with a record number of candidates nominating in both houses.

463 candidates have nominated for the Legislative Assembly, up from 415 in 2017, which was itself a substantial record. 325 candidates have nominated for the Legislative Council, up from 302 in 2017. That was the first time more than 200 candidates had nominated for an election, but the trend has continued this year.

More relevant than the raw number of candidates in the upper house is the number of groups on the ballot paper. The average number of groups is 23 per region, up from 21 in 2017, which broke the previous record of 12.8 in 2005. Antony Green has the historical data dating back to 1989 at his blog.

The continued use of group ticket voting in Western Australia five years after it was abolished in the Senate has undoubtedly fuelled this surge in nominations.

Nineteen parties have nominated for the Legislative Council, and all but two have nominated tickets in every region. The Nationals have only focused on the three non-metropolitan regions, while Socialist Alliance has only run in one region. The group voting ticket incentivises running full tickets, since that gives you the ability to swap preferences and get a good deal in your priority region.

Fourteen parties are running for the Legislative Assembly. Labor, Liberal, the Greens and the No Mandatory Vaccination Party (NMVP) are running candidates in all 59 seats. The WAxit Party is running 48 candidates, and One Nation is running 40.

I have attempted to classify the gender of each candidate but there were 25 I did not know. A number of candidates from NMVP appear to have nominated with a single initial for a first name, and in many other cases there’s no information beyond a name about a person online and their name doesn’t fit clearly with one gender. I have identified 281 male candidates, 157 female candidates and 25 unknown.

Labor is running 30 women and 29 men. The Greens are running 28 women and 31 men. The Nationals are running at least eight men, seven women and one I could not identify. The other big parties are more lopsided. 69.5% of Liberal candidates are men, and at least 72.5% of One Nation candidates are men.

You can view the full candidate list, including my classifications, here.

I will get all the seat profiles updated with the final candidate list tonight.

WA 2021 – candidate update

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Nominations will close later today for the Western Australian state election (12pm WA time).

I have been keeping up a list of candidates who have announced they are running for my election guide.

The list features 266 candidates for the lower house, as well as 63 different groups running across the six upper house regions.

View the candidate list here.

The list features Labor candidates in all 59 seats, along with 58 Liberals and 55 Greens. I assume all three parties will run a full ticket. The Liberal Party is missing a candidate in Baldivis, where the candidate withdrew in late January after her conspiracy theory views were exposed.

Guide to the Western Australian state election

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The summer break is over for the Tally Room, and I’m back with a big new project: the guide to the 2021 Western Australian state election is now complete.

This state election is scheduled for Saturday March 13, and will see the first-term McGowan Labor government facing re-election with a massive majority achieved in 2017.

The guide features profiles of all 59 Legislative Assembly electorates as well as the six Legislative Council regions. Each profile features maps showing results from the 2017 election, the history of the electorate, a description of the seat’s geography and how that has changed, and a list of candidates (which will continue to grow until nominations close).

You can navigate to individual electorates through the pendulum, through alphabetical lists of seats across the state or divided up between regions, or by clicking through on this map, which also appears on the front page of the guide:

Here are links to the profiles of the six Legislative Council regions:

Please let me know if you find any errors. By default pages have comments turned off. Most should be turned on, but if you find a seat with comments turned off, get in touch.

Nominations will close on Friday, and I will do a final update of candidates after that information is released. If you want to ensure that someone has a link on the candidate list, send it to me before nominations close. I will only post links to a specific individual candidate page (Facebook pages can be used). I will try to grab all the links from the bigger parties’ websites but some party websites don’t provide individual links. Once I do the final update after nominations close I won’t be making any more changes to the candidate list.

That’s it for today. I will return with more blog posts about the WA state election in the lead-up to election day, and I’m also planning some new podcast episodes.

That’s it for 2020

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Now that I’ve finished posting about all of the redistributions happening at the moment, I’ll be bringing down the shutters on this blog for the next month or so.

Be assured a lot will be going on in the background as I prepare my guide to the Western Australian state election (due in March 2021) and work on some new datasets based on the elections of 2020. I’m also making plans to cover the September 2021 local government elections in New South Wales, and getting ready for the next federal election.

I will also be planning to bring back the podcast in early 2021. Unfortunately I ran out of time to make one more episode to wrap up 2020 as the New South Wales and South Australian redistributions took up a lot more of my time than I had planned.

If you find this website useful, please consider signing up as a donor via Patreon. I can only do this website thanks to the regular and predictable support of my Patreon donors, and more donors will give me more time to do more here.

Victorian state redistribution kicks off

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Just as the South Australian redistribution finishes, and alongside a state redistribution in New South Wales and two federal redistributions, the starters pistol has been fired in the Victorian state redistribution.

The redistribution will be conducted based on the enrolment figures as of November 30, and each electorate must be drawn to be within 10% of the average based on that data. That average is 48,625 voters.

28 of the 88 electorates currently sit outside of that quota, which reflects that the boundaries were last drawn in 2013 and thus have had plenty of time to be pushed out of balance while Victoria has boomed in population. Some seats are way over quota, with Cranbourne and Bass more than 40% over the quota, while a bunch of other seats have experienced very little population growth and have fallen behind. Rowville, Forest Hill and Mount Waverley are all at least 18% below quota.

There is a clear geographic trend that can be clearly seen on the following map:

The seats in the eastern and southern suburbs of Melbourne are all well below quota, while the south-eastern fringe and most seats in the north and west of the city are above quota. Meanwhile there are a bunch of seats in regional Victoria which are relatively close to the quota, while others have fallen behind.

Another way to look at the trends is to look at the 8 Legislative Council regions, each of which includes 11 electorates.