The group voting tickets were released on Sunday, showing how each party will direct its preferences for votes cast above-the-line in each region for the Victorian Legislative Council.
For those still catching up, this is basically the same system used for the Senate up to 2013 (although it is easier to cast a formal below-the-line vote if you wish to opt out). The upper house consists of forty members, with five elected for each of the eight regions.
There are eighteen parties running in every region, with only a handful of candidates standing outside of these groups.
Of these eighteen parties, it appears that fourteen are participating in some way in a preference arrangement to deny close races to the major parties or the Greens. There isn’t perfect discipline amongst these fourteen parties, but in each region there is at least one party which is getting very favourable preferences from pretty much every other party in the group, which will give them a good chance to win if they can stay in the race long enough to start accumulating preferences. In this post I’ll run through which parties appear to be the preferred winners in each region.
The preference cabal follows an approach where particular parties are prioritised in a particular region, in exchange for preferences elsewhere. This is why we’ve seen these parties run in every region: it gives them something to swap.
Nick Casmirri has helpfully done some research today identifying which parties appear to be best-placed to benefit from these preferences in each region:
- East Metro – Rod Barton of the Transport Matters Party
- East Vic – Vern Hughes of the Aussie Battler Party
- North Metro – Multiple strong minors, but Carmel Dagiandis of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
- North Vic – Tim Quilty of the Liberal Democrats
- South East Metro – Ali Khan of the Transport Matters Party
- South Metro – Clifford Hayes of Sustainable Australia
- West Metro – Stuart O’Nell of the Aussie Battler Party
- West Vic – Stuart Grimley of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
Of course, this doesn’t mean these eight people will get elected. They will need to reach a certain threshold where they can start benefiting from preferences, but this can be quite low. Antony Green found that his upper house calculator could elect Transport Matters in East Metro off 0.31%.
If these candidates don’t perform well enough to get ahead of candidates who are preferencing them, it’s still quite possible others will do well and win seats off tiny votes.
While most of the micro-parties are working as a cabal, the major parties are not doing so.
Labor is preferencing the Greens quite highly, but in every region they are preferencing the candidate listed above ahead of the Greens, which means if they end up in a head-to-head race with the Greens at the end of the count, Labor’s preferences would help elect the little-known micro-party candidate.
It is quite likely this will happen in at least one region: the Greens are defending five upper house seats and are unlikely to win quotas in most of these regions. The Greens have retaliated by putting those same candidates ahead of Labor in five regions, but that won’t likely have an impact since Greens preferences are unlikely to be distributed: they’ll either win the last seat or be one of the last to be knocked out.
We don’t know exactly how these preference flows will play out, but it seems likely we will have multiple people with practically no profile elected on small votes, with preferences flowing in directions voters don’t understand. This is a perfect example of why it’s so crucial that the Senate voting system was changed when it was in 2016. With a crossbench of micro-party MLCs it will be difficult to get this system changed in the next term: opportunities for this kind of reform are rare.
Luckily the Victorian voting system does make it easier to vote below-the-line than the pre-2016 Senate system: you only need to number 1-5 to make your vote count. So it might be worth considering numbering your own preferences this time?
If you want to dive into the group voting tickets yourself, I recommend the more user-friendly versions published by Antony Green. And if you find any interesting preference decisions, please post them in the comments!