Update: The result today saw Scott Ludlam (GRN) and Wayne Dropulich (Sports Party) elected instead of the PUP and ALP candidates who had won in the first count. The margin at the key point is 12 votes, a net turn-around of 26 votes. The case seems set to head to the Court of Disputed Returns.
Original post: After the AEC announced on Thursday that 1375 votes were missing in the WA Senate recount, many people quickly jumped to the conclusion that a WA Senate by-election was needed to resolve the situation.
This was slightly premature, as it was still possible that the recount would be decisive enough that those votes wouldn’t make a difference.
However after examining the latest numbers on the AEC’s Virtual Tally Room, I believe that there are two alternative methods of coming to a result that produce different winners, and this probably means that a by-election will be needed.
There are four booths where votes are missing, these are:
- Bunbury East (Forrest)
- Henley Brook (Pearce)
- Mount Helena (Pearce)
- Wundowie (Pearce)
However, it is not the case that all of the votes at these booths are missing.
According to the latest figures on the AEC’s Virtual Tally Room, 3445 votes have been counted at these booths (including informal votes). This compares to 4799 before the recount started. Confusingly, this adds up to 1354 votes missing. I don’t know why this diverges from the public figure of 1375, but I’m going to set that aside for now.
There are five parties that we need to track for the purposes of determining who will win.
The critical count that is decisive was the point where the Shooters and Fishers defeated the Australian Christians by 14 votes. This produced a victory for the second Labor candidate and the Palmer United Party. If this 14-vote margin was reversed, then the last two seats would have gone to the Greens and the Australian Sports Party.
Prior to this count, three others parties had been excluded and had passed on their above-the-line preferences to either the Shooters or the Christians. The Australian Independents and the Fishing and Lifestyle Party preferenced the Shooters, and the Climate Sceptics preferenced the Christians.
For these purposes I am ignoring all other parties and only looking at the net change in votes between the Shooters/AFLP/Aus Independents grouping and the Christians/Climate Sceptics grouping.
The disappearance of the 1354 votes at those four booths produced the following net change at those booths from pre-recount to post-recount.
|Shooters and Fishers||68||54||-14|
|Fishing and Lifestyle Party||24||23||-1|
The missing votes massively disadvantage the Shooters grouping – by a net 15 votes, which is enough to flip the result.
It should be noted that this is based on the assumption that there were no changes in the 3445 votes from those four booths that were counted, but this is unlikely. So the composition of the missing votes could be slightly different to what is listed above.
In the rest of the state, despite quite a lot of votes being challenged and anecdotal reports suggesting many votes had flipped, overall the Shooters grouping has lost only one seat relative to the Christians grouping.
This table lists the vote before and after the recount for the remainder of the state, with all votes at the four key booths excluded.
|Shooters and Fishers||13,565||13,573||+8|
|Fishing and Lifestyle Party||5,703||5,706||+3|
There appears to be two possible ways to produce a result using these votes:
- Only count those votes that have been managed to be recounted, with the missing votes excluded from the count, which will likely result in a very slim victory for the Christians, and thus for the Greens and the Sports Party.
- Substitute votes cast at the four booths where votes are missing for the count from prior to the recount, which will likely result in a slim victory for the Shooters, and thus for the ALP and the Palmer United Party.
It is also possible that changes to below-the-line votes that were previously counted as informal could shift the count, but it is clear that the result remains extremely close and likely to not produce a clear outcome. In such a scenario, the case for a statewide Senate by-election becomes quite strong.