The recent NSW state election saw a continuation of the long-term trend of less and less people casting ordinary election-day votes. In addition, in 2015 we saw the trend of increasing numbers of voters casting absentee votes or postal votes reversed, with those categories of voting becoming less popular, as pre-poll voting and iVote continue to increase in popularity.
For this analysis, I’ve been able to collect the figures on how many people voted using each different type of voting at every election since 1999.
In 1999, 84.6% of votes were cast as ordinary election-day votes. In 2015, this number dropped to 67.2%. In raw numbers, there has been a drop of 168,282 ordinary votes cast, despite the total number of votes cast increasing by 742,743.
As you can see, there was a slight decline in the proportion of ordinary votes from 84.6% in 1999 to 81.1% in 2007, although the raw numbers increased during this time. This trend has accelerated significantly since 2007, dropping to 74.2% in 2011 and 67.2% in 2015.
Below the fold, I’ll show how those people who aren’t casting ordinary votes are now voting, and how that has shifted over time. We’ve seen the acceleration of a trend that has seen large numbers of people cast absentee, postal and pre-poll votes, and how big surges in absentee and postal votes in 2011 have ebbed away while pre-poll voting continues to increase in size.
The following table shows the total number of votes in each category.
A few definitions are in order for these categories. I assume that ‘postal voting’ and ‘iVote’ are clear enough for voters, and ‘ordinary’ covers all those who vote at a polling place in their home electorate on election day and don’t need to sign a declaration.
- Pre-poll – vote cast at a polling place prior to election day.
- Absent – vote cast at a regular polling place on election day, but outside of the voter’s electorate.
- New enrolment – vote cast at a regular polling place on election day by a voter who enrolled to vote immediately before voting.
- Declared institution – vote cast at a place like a hospital or a retirement home, usually before election day.
- Provisional/silent – vote usually cast on election day, but because the voter is a silent elector, or if there is some other problem, they have to cast a vote in a separate envelope to be verified later.
The overall number of people casting a vote at a polling place since 1999 has also declined, but not quite as fast. Absent votes (cast on election day outside a voter’s home electorate) have remained roughly steady since 2015, with a big spike in 2011 disappearing in 2015. In addition, 48,000 people cast new enrolment votes in 2015 (a category that didn’t exist prior to 2011) and the number of provisional/silent voters has tripled. Overall, this suggests that the number of people voting at an election-day polling place has dropped from 93% in 1999 to 75% in 2015.
So where have these votes gone? The following chart shows how the various ‘special vote’ categories have changed since 1999.
The biggest surge has been in pre-poll votes, increasing from 3.8% in 1999 to 14.1% in 2015. iVote has also become a big category. In 2011, iVote was responsible for 1.1% of votes, and this increased to 6.2% in 2015.
Absent voting remained roughly steady around 300,000 voters from 1999 to 2007, but jumped from 7.4% in 2007 to 9.5% in 2011. In 2015, absent votes dropped back to 6.4%, the lowest figure in the period that this data covers.
Postal voting experienced a steady growth from 1999 (3.2%) to 2011 (5.7%). This time around, postal voting numbers dropped to a level lower than in 2007 or 2011.
iVote is now a larger vote category than either absent votes or postal votes.
As mentioned above, there are now 48,000 people casting new enrolment votes. This is more than twice as many as in 2011, when the service was available for the first time.
Provisional/silent voting has more than tripled from 4000 in 1999 (then called ‘section’ voting) to over 15,000 in 2015, but this is actually a drop from the almost 19000 provisional/silent voters in 2011.
Altogether, these stats suggest a growing trend of people choosing to vote away from election day, either at a pre-poll booth at home, or over the internet.