Big jump in postals as Eden-Monaro votes in a pandemic


We’ve entered the last week of early voting before this Saturday’s by-election in the south-east NSW seat of Eden-Monaro. We have quite a bit of data about who is casting an early vote, and it tells us that there has been a big increase in postal votes, but it looks like the increase in pre-poll votes will only be slight.

The AEC publishes daily statistics on the number of postal vote applications received per day (not the number of actual postal votes which have been returned: many of these votes won’t arrive until after the election, and voters are not obliged to use a postal vote after making an application). They also publish statistics on the number of votes cast at each pre-poll centre per day. These statistics cover up to the end of Friday 25 June.

By this point in the 2019 election, most postal vote applications (PVAs) had been received, and so far in this by-election more than twice as many PVAs have been received.

15,448 PVAs have been received in 2020, compared to 7181 at this point in 2019, and a final total of 7428. A total of 5969 postal votes were actually cast in Eden-Monaro in 2019.

If the current trajectory continues, you’d expect about 500 more PVAs to be received by Wednesday.

The AEC also breaks down the PVA data by how the application was received. Political parties are permitted to conduct their own postal vote campaigns and receive forms to their campaigns. They then pass on those forms to the AEC. They are able to then communicate directly with those postal voters who made an application through their campaign.

In 2019, just over 1800 PVAs came from the Liberal Party, compared to just 41 from the ALP. In 2020, the Liberal Party has submitted over 2666 PVAs, but Labor has submitted 4168. This suggests a big change in Labor strategy, possibly due to the seat being a pivotal by-election, but also likely as a response to COVID-19 and a greater demand for postal votes. This may mean more Labor voters will be casting postal votes, but it also may simply mean that Labor will have a much better sense of who is using postal voting and can campaign directly to them in the dying days.

There is a less dramatic but still interesting story in the pre-poll data. It’s worth noting that the pre-poll data does not tell us which electorate someone is entitled to vote in: it just tells us which centre they voted at. Some voters at Eden-Monaro pre-poll centres would be enrolled elsewhere, and some Eden-Monaro voters would have cast a pre-poll vote elsewhere. That isn’t a factor in the by-election.

Overall, 41,355 pre-poll votes were cast within Eden-Monaro in 2019, and 37,808 of those votes were for Eden-Monaro. Once you factor in absentee pre-poll votes, the total pre-poll vote in 2019 was 44,015.

There was much greater opportunity to vote pre-poll in the first week of voting in 2020 than there was in 2019. In 2019, you could only vote in week one at Queanbeyan. There was no voting in Tumut, Yass, Bega, Cooma, Merimbula, Narooma or Jindabyne. In 2020, Bega and Jerrabombera (a new Queanbeyan-era booth) were open from day one, and nearly every pre-poll booth opened on Thursday. Only Yass and Jindabyne waited for week two.

You can see how the availability of voting options affected the day-by-day vote count.

The pre-poll vote in 2020 jumped significantly on day 4 (Thursday of week one) when most pre-poll centres opened. 2019 had an even bigger spike on day 6 (Monday of week two). Ever since Tuesday of week two, the two numbers have moved together very closely.

This means that the 2020 pre-poll total has remained consistently about 3,000 votes ahead of the 2019 total for most of week two. But you need to bear in mind that 3,000 more votes were cast in pre-poll votes in 2019 than were included in the day-by-day count.

So at the moment it seems most likely that the pre-poll vote will end up in roughly the same place as 2019. The lack of absent pre-poll votes will likely cancel out the spike in in-area pre-poll votes in the first week of voting.

Finally, let’s take this information and factor in the breakdown of the total vote by category from the 2019 election:


Eden-Monaro was already one of the seats with the largest proportion of votes cast at pre-poll in 2019, so even without an increase in pre-poll voting it will still make up a very large part of the total.

Absent votes won’t be cast at a by-election. At the moment it looks like pre-poll will be about the same share, while postal votes may end up being around twice as big (say 11% of the total).

If pre-poll holds on to 41% of the vote and postal voting jumps to 11%, that would mean a majority of votes would be cast before election day.

That’s all for now. I will keep an eye on these numbers and will post an update later in the week. We may well see a big spike in pre-poll voting above the 2019 numbers.

Finally, you can also read Antony Green’s blog post about these statistics.

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  1. The interesting point in Ben’s analysis is the ALP’s increased effectiveness in postal vote harvesting. Who in ALP is managing this and where are workers?

    Why are we no longer getting on ground reports of what is going on?After all this site should be full of local experts who should be seeing far more than journalists see.

  2. Andrew Jackson June 29, 2020 at 9:45 am
    Mate no one knows !!. And they know that they know not. Only a (complete) fool would say they do !. The only prediction i will make is that IF Labor win they will lose in 2022 to Barra. No one will be happy with the recovery measures.

    If i had to call it i’d give Kotvojs a 3-4 in 10 chance here with the seat being decided by 300, -3000 votes. Just gut feel with no real evidence.
    cheers WD

  3. The whole by-election should have been postal voting with ballot papers and candidates statements sent to all enrolled voters. 14 candidates registered too.

  4. Adrian
    Your proposal is as likely to occur as you or I being elected to Parliament. Major Parties are absolutely united in their determination to make sure that only they have power.
    The last thing they want is a hung Parliament with minor parties having any say in Government.

  5. Andrew Jackson (no relation) I am talking about postal voting which is increasingly used by more and more votes every election who fill in the application form to get the ballot sent to them over the last decade or so. I am not talking about the make up of MP’s in parliament. Who is “we” you are talking about? Applying for a postal vote takes a little bit of effort but having one mailed out to voters automatically requires not voter effort at all to get one other than making sure your voter enrolled address is up to date. Yes the major parties still have a born to rule mentality but it is slowly slipping with more people voting for other candidates in the No 1 spot.

  6. Adrian
    I can not see “we” in my last post.

    The Mc “we” in post 0945 on 29 June refers to all reading including you. I was trying to encourage those with real knowledge of on the ground activity to comment. I recognise that those of us living in different states have less info than those actually in Eden-Monaro.
    My prediction still Lib slight victory reinforced by Today’s Newspoll that must be seen as a compliment
    To way all governments in Australia have handled COVID.

  7. The 51-49 TPP in the latest Newspoll is actually a slight swing towards Labor since the last election. Considering Eden-Monaro tends to follow the national swing, that indicates Labor will win (although that said, it’s very possible the national polls are inaccurate or that Eden-Monaro won’t follow the swing this time)

    Suggest you read the OZ today. 2 articles. One by Nikki Savva who hates the PM. She is inoculating herself against what she says, or sees as a likely Lib win. She is so duplicitous this could mean anything !.Possibly the complete opposite. Nikki IS a greek tragedy!!. Not someone you would want behind you.

    The other was by Rosie Lewis detailing some messy Nat plot to put labor ahead of liberal on a secret How to Vote card. The implication is that senior Nats want Labor to WIN. Then IN 2022 the seat will be open for Barilaro to contest for the Nats. The “Smoke” is that there are ALWAYS some NATs that hate the LIBs, & vis-a versa. They are stupid people. After all where would the Nats be without a stake in govt ?. Maybe they should try it, & see what happens !?


  9. This poster from the OZ is on the money. Not necessarily specifically but in his suspicions of something underhand in play.

    Barilaro has been as frank as Abbott was about his rejection of the climate scam, and that makes him a special target of the Left and even some climate-botherers that have found their way into the Libs. I wouldn’t be surprised if this might turn out to be another hoax by them. There’s a special place in the hatred of lefties for people who don’t bend the knee to their religion.

    Not sure if Barilaro said it or not – could have been Labor telling porkies to cause division – they have a talent for it. There is no other conclusion to be drawn here – Fiona must be first choice. Best of luck Fiona!
    Jacques’ wife

  11. and AGAIN
    1 HOUR AGO
    If this allegation is not true, Barilaro must deny it today. Because, if it is not true, it is a cunning ruse by Labor to suggest it would be to his advantage to have no Liberal sitting member at the next election enabling him to be a candidate. Sensible Nats voters will not fall for this.

    1 HOUR AGO
    Despite my comments, that thought crossed my mind too. Barilaro must deny this

  12. and AGAIN
    This seems absolutely senseless. The NSW Nationals are still on the nose because of their actions with respect to Greyhound racing and their related treatment of Katrina Hodgkinson. Neither Barilarodo nor any other Nationals candidate has a hope of winning the seat. The photograph of a completed vote showing Nationals first and Labour second is a bit strange. Did someone doing a postal vote contact Rosie Lewis and say “look, I’m a Nationals supporter and this is my vote”? More like a Labour supporter figuring that a single vote was a small price to pay to get an article with potential to disrupt the Coalition. After all the Mediscare lie worked and this article will potentially leave some National voters confused.

  13. Andrew Jackson – My mistake I misread a comment when referring to the “we” comment.

  14. WD
    “Where would Nats be without a stake in Government?”
    Well they would be in a position to walk down Main Street with their heads held high. Nats have been able to bring down every Coalition Government since Federation butbnever have they placed interests of their electorate ahead of snout in trough.
    Nats should be making annual demands that result in benefits for their electorate. Nats should be making these demands on both Liberals and Labor and they should be prepared to cross the floor to change the Government. Demands should include:
    ♦️Farm Gate Pricing of milk, vegetables, fruit and domestic meat
    ♦️Centralised Marketing of export Agricultural product
    ♦️Reinstatement of Public Abattoirs
    ♦️Fuel Price standardisation Australia wide or alternative fuel price fixation
    ♦️Break up of Retail Duopoly
    ♦️Equalisation of Hospital facilities nation wide
    ♦️Road improvements
    ♦️Dam Construction
    ♦️Bounty on vermin including crocodiles
    Nationals have been totally gutless in representing the interests of electorates.

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