The NT Electoral Commission (NTEC) has been publishing daily updates with the number of voters who have cast an early vote.
As of last night, 51,680 voters had cast an early vote, either at pre-poll centres or via mobile booths in remote communities. This is 36.6% of the total enrolment in the territory.
2020 Territory Election
Nearly 37 per cent of eligible NT electors have now cast their vote in the 2020 Territory Election.
A further 6,440 electors cast their votes today, taking the total to 51,680. In addition more than 1600 postal votes have also been returned. #NTVotes pic.twitter.com/leumqnOirC
— NTEC (@NTElecComm) August 18, 2020
This is already a slight increase in the numbers who voted in these vote categories in 2016, when there was a massive spike in pre-poll voting.
Turnout at the 2016 election was 74% of eligible voters, down from 76.9% in 2012.
The following table shows the proportion of enrolled voters who voted in each category.
There was a slight increase in postal voting and mobile voting in 2016, along with a big increase in the pre-poll vote. These were accommodated thanks to a massive drop in the ordinary vote and absent vote, ie. those votes cast at regular polling places on election day, from 56.2% of enrolled voters to just 35.9%.
From looking at the polling place lists from 2012 and 2016, it appears there was a big reduction in the polling place options which likely drove some of that shift. There has been a general trend of pre-poll voting becoming more popular, but it’s not usually so dramatic.
The latest figures suggest 36.6% of enrolled voters have voted through mobile and pre-poll booths (although there is apparently some lag in reporting figures from mobile booths, so this is a minimum) with three days of voting to go. This compares to 34.5% overall in 2016.
We’ve already had over 1600 postal votes returned, which equates to 1.1% of enrolment, compared to 2.7% and 3.2% at the last two elections. I suspect a lot of postal votes are yet to be returned and the figure will at least match the 2016 figure, but I don’t have data on trends in postal vote returns from past NT elections.
About 6000 votes have been cast early on most days. If the last three days of voting follow this pattern we’ll end up with about 70,000 mobile and pre-poll votes, which would be just under 50% of the total enrolment of 141,225. This would be a massive increase and would be comparable with the early voting figures from other elections conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other unknown question is what will happen to turnout. We are definitely headed for a reduced turnout on election day, but will some of those voters simply not turn out at all, or will other methods of voting absorb all of those unwilling to vote on the day.