Close seats – two weeks in


It’s now been two weeks since polls opened, and we are now getting very close to a conclusion of the House of Representatives count.

There is only one conventional seat still in play, which is Herbert. There will also be news today in Melbourne Ports which may either make the seat a serious seat in play or make it a clear Labor seat.


The Liberal National Party, at the time of writing late on Friday night, led by 12 votes in Herbert.

There are 200 absent votes outstanding. Labor has won 51.5% of these votes so far. If the remaining votes break the same way, Labor will gain six votes.

There are 399 prepoll votes outstanding. The LNP has won 53.5% of these votes so far. If the remaining votes break the same way, the LNP will gain 27 votes.

There are at least 44 postal votes remaining, with yesterday being the deadline for postal votes to be received. The LNP won 56.6% of the postal votes counted so far. Assuming there are no postal votes to be processed, 56.6% of the remaining votes would give the LNP an additional five-vote lead.

There are 446 provisional votes outstanding. Many provisional votes turn out to be not valid, and thus are not counted. If there are the same number of valid votes as in 2013 (320 votes), then there would be 154 votes. Labor won 60.8% of those votes cast so far, and if this continues this would give Labor a 30-vote lead.

So that’s 36 votes gained by Labor amongst absent and provisional votes, and 32 votes gained by the LNP amongst prepoll and postal votes. That’s a change of four votes in favour of Labor, which would leave the LNP with a lead of four votes.

“This is too close to call” seems a massive understatement.

Melbourne Ports

Up until now we haven’t had any information about whether the Greens are gaining enough preferences to overtake Labor for second place, apart from vague scrutineer reports. If the Greens overtake Labor, the current Labor-Liberal two-party-preferred count would become redundant, and either Liberal or Green will win the seat off Labor.

I’ve heard that the AEC will today be conducting an indicative three-candidate-preferred count between Labor, Liberal and Greens in Melbourne Ports to identify which candidates are in the top two. If Labor does not reach the top two, presumably we will need a fresh two-party-preferred count between Liberal and Greens to determine who is leading in the race to win the seat.

I expect that we’ll know more before the end of the day.

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  1. Nationalist Edwin Kerby won Ballaarat (as it was then spelled) by a single vote in 1919. Naturally this result was overturned by the courts and at the resulting by-election Labor’s MP, Charles McGrath, was returned.

    I’m fairly sure there was an actual tie at some point at state level (Queensland maybe?), and the result was decided by drawing out of a hat. This of course was annulled as well.

  2. Ben, if it ends up as you have so thoroughly estimated, and only those few votes in it, doesnt that automatically mean a recount? Thanks for all your hard work, I really appreciate it as Im sure many others do. Fascinatingly nailbiting stuff!

  3. It seems that Werriwa 1914 (7 votes) is the closest federal seat margin to stand in vote terms while Hawker 1990 (14 votes) is the closest federal seat margin to stand in 2PP terms.

    There was an actual tie in Nunawading (Vic upper house) in 1985 but a by-election was ordered.

    This old thread on Andrew Leigh’s site has some more background on close finishes:

  4. Note again with Herbert that the margin as of Monday does not determine whether there is a recount or not. The margin at the end of the distribution of preferences, in which corrections are often made, determines whether there is an automatic recount. That said there are not normally changes of more than a few dozen in this process.

  5. A scrutineer has sent me a scan from a very official-looking 3CP by booth which has Danby surviving exclusion by 802 votes. Counting is not final but that margin will not be overturned on remaining votes.

  6. Two Questions:

    1. What is the rejection rate among the different classes of DEC votes? At the moment about 8.4% of ALL DEC envelopes have been rejected at preliminary scrutiny. In 2013, it averaged about 9.3% There is no information about what was inside these envelopes nor of what type of DEC vote they were for. Do they even open these envelopes? No previous reports on DEC voting that I can find – e.g. to the JCSM – ever give a breakdown by vote type.

    I should think that if Provisional votes have a 10% rate of rejection then the ALP would win Herbert by 95 votes.

    2. If a seat is won by a small margin and that margin is less than the number of instances of multiple voting that were NOT the result of AEC errors, then the AEC is obliged to go to the Court of Disputed Returns to have the election overturned. Has this ever happened? – and where are the figures for multiple voting for 2013 in the seat of Fairfax, where the margin was 50? It seems the AFP investigation into multiple voting in 2013 didn’t go anywhere and they gave up before the statute of limitations expired (a year). Not even the person who admitted voting 15 times was prosecuted. Will there be a repeat in Herbert?

  7. In 2013 the rate of rejection for provisionals generally was very high – over 75% in seats I was following. There may have been some change as 402 Herbert provisionals are still listed as awaiting processing.

    There is a list of federal Disputed Returns cases here. Except possibly for some very early cases I don’t think multiple voting has come up:

    The AEC’s view seems to be that it “may” go to CDR and have the election overturned.

  8. Kevin said

    The AEC’s view seems to be that it “may” go to CDR and have the election overturned.

    I had a look at the Multiple Voting Electoral Backgrounder and it says:

    31. In addition to identifying cases for possible prosecution, the AEC examines all detected cases of multiple voting in each division after the election to determine whether the level of multiple voting possibly exceeded the margin by which the candidate was elected. If this is the case, the AEC will consider disputing the election result by petition to the court of disputed returns under s. 357 of the act as outlined below.

    32. it is not possible, or necessary, to remove multiple ordinary votes cast at the polling place from the count of votes, because they cannot be identified under the secret ballot system. the AEC is able to determine whether the number of multiple votes detected would have affected the margin by which the candidate was elected in the division.

    33. Since the major reforms instituted by parliament in 1983 to amend the act, the court of disputed returns has not voided any election on the grounds that fraudulent voting affected the result of the election.

    So, the AEC must compile the statistics by Division, but I have not seen them for 2013. It was probably a case of let sleeping dogs lie in Fairfax. Section 353 allows anyone to challenge on this basis. I think this is an option a candidate would consider in such a seat- especially so for a Division in a finely balanced Parliament. Herbert could well be such a seat.

  9. Melbourne Ports is effectively all over following the 3CP throw on Saturday. The margins will move around a little in late counting but Danby will retain.

  10. Kevin, it’ll be interesting to see what the 3CP looked like by polling booth, because I think Melbourne Ports probably has some of the starkest contrasts between suburbs within an electorate. I’m guessing the Greens 3CP was close to 45% in St Kilda after the minor preferences were distributed.

    What’s interesting with the St Kilda booths is that on one hand, they were the polling places that almost had Danby excluded because they boosted the Greens vote to within striking distance; but on the other hand they ended up being almost entirely responsible for him winning the seat because if you look at the rest of the electorate, it would have been a comfortable Liberal win if Danby’s 65-68% 2CPs in St Kilda (thanks to the very party that almost eliminated him) didn’t push him over the line.

  11. When is the next Vic redistribution due? (I have a feeling between now and the next HoR election): any thoughts on MP? I’d assume it will contract westward, and that that will favour the Greens; but it could be attacked more radically by, say, swapping out more of its east for East Melbourne, which might just get the Lib over the line.

  12. Yeah I think Caulfield & Elsternwick will be the first to go. With developments around Southbank & Fisherman’s Wharf, the west of the electorate is adding population alot faster than the east.

    I also think a loss of Caulfield & Elsternwick will mean Labor would most likely pre-select a new candidate as well. This scenario would have to favour the Greens in a Lib v Green 2CP.

    When you think that if the Greens passed Labor this time they would have needed about 73% of Labor preferences to win, then you would have to assume that a redistribution eliminating two Liberal leaning suburbs which have the lowest Green vote and where Labor voters are most likely to preference the Liberals over Greens (not to mention replacing a Labor candidate who hands out Liberal-preferencing HTVs), that the situation would have to lean towards a Greens win.

    Of course the demographics of the residents populating the new developments would really be the decider though. If they lean just as Liberal – or more so – than Caulfield & Elsternwick did, then that would pretty much cancel out the Greens advantage from losing those suburbs. Port Melbourne & Albert Park both had big Liberal swings this time around, but that could have been a vote against Danby more than anything else.

  13. According to the AEC website the last Victorian redistribution was finalised on 24 Dec 2010. That means the next one won’t kick off until early 2018.

    Federal redistributions tend to be a long and lengthy process. With an election due in early 2019, it would be touch-and-go for it to be finalised in time.

  14. How on earth can the abc be calling herbert when the ALP are only 8 votes up and there seems yo still be hundreds of votes left still to be processed? I think there ought to be a penalty for this (like a jug skull or eating a dozen raw eggs!) Nobody will know until all the votes have been counted and recounted.

  15. Fluffhead of St Kilda: The highest 3CP in Melbourne Ports for the Greens was St Kilda Beach 46.7 followed by Ripponlea North 43.9 and St Kilda 43.8. The other St Kilda booths were around 40 but St Kilda PPVC was only 28.7. Worst booth of any size was Sandridge at 14.9 and most of the Caulfield booths were sub-20.

  16. Thanks Kevin! The PPVC (which is actually the ‘Argyle’ location) I believe was the only pre-polling centre within the boundaries of the electorate this time, so I expected its results to be more like the overall Ports figures, whereas Argyle itself on election day would be more like the other St Kilda booths.

    I voted at St Kilda Beach myself and it seemed like almost everybody was only holding a Greens HTV, so I’m not surprised about the strong result there, nor am I surprised that Caulfield and Sandridge had the lowest Greens results.

  17. Fuffhead – Melbourne Ports is -4.43% below quota, it will either gain voters or more likely be left untouched in the 2018 redistribution.

  18. paul there are no votes left to count. The Aec figures of votes outstanding is in correct.
    there needs to now be a formal distribution of preferences…. then probably a recount

  19. The AEC site says the next Victorian redistribution is required to commence within 30 days of 24 December 2017.

  20. Not surprised to Sandridge as one of the worst booths for the Greens considering it is a housing commission booth.
    Interesting to see what happens in the next redistribution, last time around the proposal suggested removing Caulfield, and placing South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor from Higgins, whilst also crossing the Yarra in moving Docklands from Melbourne. Thankfully those things didn’t happen but I wouldn’t rule of the latter, by moving Docklands to Melbourne Ports.
    If these changes did take place that would have out the Greens in quite a good place.

  21. Absolutely L96. Prahran & especially Windsor in particular are Greens strongholds. Looking at the Higgins results the Greens got the highest primary vote in both Prahran and Prahran East at 36%, and Windsor with a massive 47%.

    Demographically, I think Caulfield would better suit Higgins alongside neighbouring Malvern, Armadale & Carnegie, while the areas west of Chapel Street in Windsor, Prahran & South Yarra would be more at home in Melbourne Ports. I would actually like to see that happen, although I doubt it will.

  22. Although that being said, if that was to happen Melbourne Ports would be pretty much wholly an inner city seat, and Higgins would be a suburban seat.
    I was and still am against moving everything west of Williams Rd into Melbourne Ports. Punt Rd and Queens Way/Dandenong Rd is clear and distinguishable boundary, henceforth I doubt that would change.
    If Caulfield was to be shed from Melbourne Ports I would hope that it would be transferred into Goldstein so that all of Caulfield, Elsternwick, Glenhuntly and Bentleigh could be united.

  23. Warringah

    I have just come back from the Warringah Declaration, where Tony took first place (of course). However, the second rung on the TCP ladder was taken by Clara Williams Rolden of The Greens, when the ALP was excluded at the final cut-up. The Greens are now the TCP contestants at both a State (Manly 2015 – Clara again) and Federal level. Thus Warringah becomes a non-classic seat. The DRO would not release the numbers until a revised Notional TCP is counted on Monday. According to the DRO, Warringah is unique in this regard in this election. My take on this is that GRN received about 80% of the preferences of Mathison, an Independent. If so, this would bring the published TPP for Coalition back to a TCP of about 55-56%.
    As a side note, it was said at the Declaration that a large proportion of the NXT vote (they ran an open ticket) were informal, the punters just writing the numbers 1 to 6, as per the Senate instructions.

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