Victorian council elections – mapping federal results to wards

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I haven’t seriously attempted to wrap my head around who is running in the Victorian council elections, which councils are dominated by one faction or the other, and which seats are in play.This is primarily because the VEC does not publish party affiliations for candidates, and until this year Labor has been sitting out of contesting the elections.

I don’t believe the Liberal Party has ever formally contested Victorian council elections, which mostly just leaves the Greens running formally. The use of postal voting also reduces my ability to use mapping to tell the result of the elections.

Still that doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done to map out the political balance of each council.

In this post, I have matched the election results at the 2016 and 2019 federal elections to the new 2020 ward boundaries. I’ll focus in on one council (Darebin) which I think is interesting, and I’ll post a statewide map and a spreadsheet so you can do your own analysis.

You can view the dataset here. I’ve included estimates of the two-party-preferred vote and the two-candidate-preferred vote, as well as primary votes for Labor, the Greens, the Liberals, Nationals and (in 2019) United Australia.

This map is zoomed in on Melbourne but shows the two-party-preferred vote across the whole state in 2019, and can be toggled to show 2016.

Darker shades indicate a two-party-preferred vote of over 60%. You can clearly see which areas are solid for one major party or the other in federal politics.

There’s far too much data here for me to try to summarise, but feel free to dive into an area you know well and comment below with how you interpret this information.

I thought I would just pause and look at Darebin, in Melbourne’s inner north.

This council largely covers the same area as Cooper (formerly Batman), which was a very close seat between Labor and the Greens in 2016, but had swung hard to Labor in 2019 after Ged Kearney won the seat at a by-election.

It’s also a council divided between Greens councillors and those aligned with the ALP, and it’s a council which had its voting system forcibly changed from three wards of three to nine single-member wards. This table shows the two-candidate-preferred vote for Labor and the primary vote for the Greens in 2016 and 2019.

WardALP 2CP ’16ALP 2CP ’19GRN prim ’16GRN prim ’19
Central53.866.633.819.3
North Central58.168.028.417.4
North East61.467.924.315.8
North West62.169.424.914.8
South40.460.447.726.8
South Central45.363.142.823.7
South East45.863.441.823.3
South West42.561.545.625.1
West53.565.633.819.8

At the 2016 election (mapped out in my 2018 by-election guide), Batman was split down the middle along Bell Street, with the Greens dominating the south and Labor dominating the north. You can see that in these wards. The four southern wards were won by the Greens, while Labor won the other five, only winning narrowly in Central and West wards which effectively straddle the middle of the council.

This divide narrowed at the 2018 by-election, with Labor gaining big swings in the south and the Greens gaining small swings in the north. You can then see Ged Kearney’s consolidation of her vote in 2019 in the table. The Greens primary vote in their southern heartland collapsed in 2019, dropping from votes in the 40% range down to votes in the mid-20s.

So what does this tell us about 2019? Firstly, it seems very likely to me that all nine wards on Darebin will be won by either Labor or Greens. Compare that to the current council elected under proportional representation. The Greens won four seats in 2016 compared to two for Labor, along with three independents (one of whom was a former ALP member, and one was a former Greens member). It is possible some independents could be strong enough to win, but it will tend to favour a strong binary.

But the high vote for Kearney isn’t likely to translate into the vote for Labor in the local council. It seems likely to me that the Greens will retain the four wards with the word “south” in their name, with Labor winning the North East and North West wards, and likely North Central as well, and the balance of the council will be decided by what happens in the Central and West wards. It will be an interesting council to watch.

Finally, I have made this map showing the Labor vs Greens 2CP at the 2016 and 2019 elections for the wards of Darebin and Moreland councils, which are the only wards where that 2CP was used across the ward.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if this might actually be a long term strategic mistake from Labor.

    Yes they might claim control of some councils immediately and make it mathematically harder for the Greens to make gains, but does making it harder cause the Greens as a party and as a membership/volunteer base to give up or redouble efforts?

    I could describe the difference in terms of the QLD and Tasmanian Greens.

    For decades the Tasmanian Greens have elected representatives from multimember electorates in councils, state legislative assembly, and federal senate, never seriously threatening in a single member electorate save for a few mayoral or deputy mayoral races. Anecdotally I have heard that the Tasmanian Greens struggle to have effective, professionalised, large, enthusiastic campaigns and I would assert they were tranquilised by easy early success (“they” meaning every possible contributor to a campaign, every Green leaning Tassie person has more an expectation of Greens to have electoral success rather than dread that they won’t). No institution of “expansionist” campaign ever needed to take root.

    The Queensland Greens have had very little electoral success. Twice electing a senator in a half senate election, twice electing a councilor and once a state MP in ~30,000 elector single member electorates. And yet in Brisbane the number of volunteers, their enthusiasm, the organisation of campaigns, etc. is through the roof. Swings towards the QLD Greens in Brisbane has become a custom since 2015 but potential contributors to Greens campaigns there know that that’s not a fact of nature, they had to work to get a swing last time and they will need to work this time.

    I would posit that without elections to “rest” on proportional representation to get them over the line the QLD Greens are compelled to run every election as a full court press. The tools of campaigning don’t get dropped, they finish a federal election and start planning for the council election which needs heavy lifting to see success, and then after that the state election that needs heavy lifting for success etc. Fewer volunteers need to learn how to doorknock because they just did it 2 months ago in a different election.

    So, what could giving the Greens a moon to shoot at in Darebin do for Cooper long term? Perhaps it actually helps them.

    [Note: none of this is an endorsement of single member systems, I think proportional representation systems are far better, I’m just commenting on this particular social effect of making seats all or nothing.]

  2. I think the combination of a level of green incumbency in the south of Darebin, Ged not being the candidate, the internal issues in the Darebin branch of the Greens being further into the past and the leadership, policy and attitude change in the Commonwealth ALP (I think negative gearing had pull in the inner-city and Albanese`s Beasley-esque insipidity as leader has push factor).

    On the other hand, the state government`s handling of the pandemic (except for the hotel quarantine issues) and the right`s get Andrews campaign may increase the ALP vote.

    https://www.tallyroom.com.au/40190#comment-747044

    The Queensland Greens also won a seat a the DD election in 2016. A second Greens Senator in Queensland, of which there is a decent chance in 2022 as Waters is not up for re-election and the Greens are not currently keeping a government in power (causing a drag on their vote), may well increase the Greens` prominence in Queensland.

  3. Postal voting packs were meant to arrive this week between Tuesday and Thursday but have not arrived in all of Port Phillip, including to my Middle Park address in Lake Ward. They will probably arrive tomorrow (Friday). I assume. Some people I know in Gateway Ward voted yesterday (Wednesday).

    Regards, Adrian Jackson. Candidate for Lake Ward.

  4. All the postal votes arrived last week and I voted in 2 council and 1 shire election were I own a house, a rental flat and vacant bush block. I did not know any of the Golden Plains Shire candidates in one big riding (ward) for the whole shire with 13 candidates nominated with 7 to be elected.

    I voted for the women first then men who lived near my bush block in this huge shire which stretches from south of Ballarat to north of Geelong. The bloke who boosted he had 6 children was put last as if elected he may want to spend my rates on childcare for his 6 children. Former Treasurer Peter Costello once said “one child for each parent and one for the country”.

    As a candidate in Port Phillip City Council I got over 40 email questionnaire and survey for individuals, groups and organizations and I answered everyone. I even did a survey in Greater Melbourne’s music and arts “Beat Magazine”.

    I am amazed at what some candidates promise. If our rate were used as they suggest then rates would double while I want lower rates by concentration on basic core functions, not duplication government functions, not acting as a promoter of events and entertainment as well as a reduction in the inflated staff numbers.

    Others rave on about more open green space but Port Phillip is an inner city municipality 5 km from the CBD. All space already has parks and infrastructure on it like houses. Councillor’s can pluck open space out of thin air. Port Phillip is well places as in addition to council parks it has a huge state park (Albert Park Reserve with a large lake) within it boundaries plus 9 km of foreshore which are both owned and managed by Parks Victoria.

  5. In my Lake Ward, Port Phillip City Council, the data says ALP was 58% 2PP in 2016 however the elected candidates last election were I Liberal, 1 Greens and 1 CAPP (a left wing “community” group) but no ALP candidates elected. CAPP (Community Alliance of Port Phillip) may be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” for the ALP in mostly affluent Port Phillip.

  6. From what I a hearing from the counts, there is a few interesting outcomes here that were not predicted here. Some for each side so could make a good analysis of where people were able to achieve unexpectedly.

  7. I only have got so far about 3 % of primary votes but why waste more money of you are never going to beat candidates from ALP, Lib, Greens and Ratepayers of Port Phillip (RoPP, a community group I am also a member of) My aim was to experience the postal vote election process as a candidate and to put my views to the ward residents in the candidate statement. My cost was only the $250 nomination fee. As we used to say in the Army don’t reinforce failure if the final outcome will still be failure.

  8. A follow up on this would be great from the Tally Room.

    Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor elected are independents.

    The final results were 3 Labor, 3 Greens and 3 Independents.
    This filters down to 4 Greens aligned, 4 Labor aligned and one center based who historically voted more on the Greens side (who had power the last 4 years) but ran on a policy of business and supporting residents in many ways more aligned with Labor.

    Labor took at seat in the deep South below Bell Street with the second highest primary vote in Darebin with Emily Dimitriadis taking the South East Ward. This was widely expected to go to the Greens however was by far the highest primary for a Labor candidate at 43.91% compared to the Green 25.07%, far higher than any in the so called Northern strong holds. Cr McCarthy, a long term Greens Councillor (widely reported as the Greens Darebin leader) and former state Nothcote candidate was the only one to get a higher primary vote at 44.77%. It seams that political party alone does not decide the result of the election but the strength of the local candidates and their community involvement.
    The only other new Councillor is Tom Hannan, a Green in the South Ward.

    Given the two retiring councillors were both elected as Greens (one left and became an independent during the last council term), this result was one less Green Councillor in Darebin when the rest of the state trended towards Greens with their best ever result including taking the majority in the neighboring council of Yarra. The Darebin Greens have had some controversy between their 2016 record result and 2020 with the Batman byelection and bulling claims against their candidate from within.

    The Greens did retain a North of Bell Street with the Labor candidate receiving the lowest primary out of the field in a seat expected to favor Labor in the chart on this page with the top 3 being 2 independents and the 1 Green who was the last Deputy Mayor (and ran but lost Mayor in 2020)

    There is an independent in the South, and Independent (former mayor) in the Center and an independent in the North (marked on the map as strong Labor).

    There was a lot of talk that moving to single member wards would wipe out the independents and maybe even wipe out the Greens. That did not happen, at least not this year. What was evident was incumbency seams to have been a major advantage this year. It would be interest to know if it was because of the single member wards, because of Covid where candidates could not talk to residents so had to rely on letterbox drops, cold calling or social media or a combination of everything.

    Congratulations to Mayor Mesina, Deputy Mayor Greco. New Councillors Cr Dimitriadis and Cr Hannan as well as the return of Cr Williams, Cr Newton, Cr Laurence and Cr McCarthy.

    Ben was right, this was an interesting council to watch.

  9. There are a lot of factors that make council election results in Victoria difficult to predict and often quite different to what happens at a state or federal election.
    1. postal voting – it’s now used in all councils, but in 2016 6 councils used attendance elections.
    2. non resident voters on the roll can also have a significant impact, and differences in turn-out can be very significant. The removal of how to vote cards being included with candidate statements in postal ballot packs in 2016 has also had an impact. Voters were already often ignoring HTVS at a council level anyway, but this is even more the case as many candidates don’t distribute their cards across a whole ward
    3. even if someone is endorsed by a party or a group, party names (or even calling yourself an independent) can’t be included on the actual ballot.
    This can result in party-endorsed candidates getting a lower vote.
    4. Local factors make a huge difference -if there’s a significant local issue, it can drastically change the outcome. We’ve got 5 new councillors on my council (Stonnington – where we have 9 total councillors), so 3 incumbent councillors who ran lost. No candidate got close to the 25% quota for a position in any of the 3 wards. I’m sure there are many examples in other councils where there have been local factors that have had a big impact on the outcome
    Finally, in this election, there were really strong restrictions on how people (particularly in metro Melbourne) could campaign because of the pandemic and the lockdowns. Letterboxing wasn’t even allowed until mid September (and was restricted to volunteers’ 2 hours of allowed exercise). Doorknocking was prohibited for the whole campaign. Installing placards on people’s fences was restricted for most of the campaign. We couldn’t even stand on street corners to hand out flyers. I personally tried to still run as balanced a campaign as possible, and so tried social media, placards and letterbox drops when allowed and tried some calls to voters. What was interesting was I got a lot of comments to my facebook page and a lot of emails from residents. Far more than when I ran in 2016. I think that was partly due to some controversial local issues, but also due to people being in lockdown and on social media more than normal.

  10. Bit late, but there’s this contrast between two neighbouring councils I find interesting- South Gippsland and Latrobe Valley. South Gippsland is experiencing population growth, projected to increase by 25% between 2016 and 2036 (https://forecast.id.com.au/south-gippsland/population-summary), while Latrobe’s population has been declining since the privatisation of coal plants in the area (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-15/figures-show-latrobe-valley-youth-population-drop/11000784). In every South Gippsland ward, there was a swing to Labor, as high as 3.08% in Coastal-Promontory ward, but in Latrobe, the trend was different- the 3 more rural wards of East and South had a swing of about 1% to Labor, but in Central which contains Morwell there was a 1% swing to the Libs, and the West ward, which contains Moe, had a 5.41% swing to the LNP. I reckon that’ll flip blue in 2022.

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