Queensland 2020 – new data showing change in method of voting

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I spent some time over the summer compiling new datasets for some of the elections held in 2020. At the moment I have published the data for the Queensland and ACT elections as well as a dataset containing results from Queensland state by-elections from 1996 to 2020 and I’ve also updated my Tasmanian Legislative Council dataset to include 2019 and 2020. I am still planning to add datasets for the Northern Territory, Brisbane City Council and New Zealand, but they will have to wait.

This dataset is part of a bigger collection, most of which is just available to people who sign up to support the Tally Room on Patreon. I’ve now compiled data for seven straight Queensland state elections. I thought I would use this as a chance to use these datasets to show the trend in how people vote at Queensland state elections, and how pre-poll came to dominate in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was a massive drop in the number of people voting on election day in 2020. Just 28.3% of votes were cast using the ordinary method, with a further 4.2% cast as absent votes on election day outside of the voter’s electorate. The rate of postal votes more than doubled from 10.7% to 24.4%, while pre-poll increased from 26.2% to 41.5%. This means that roughly two thirds of all votes were cast before election day.

This was a massive step-change, but it wasn’t totally unprecedented. We have seen a gradual increase in pre-poll voting over the last two decades, with the trend accelerating in 2015 and 2017. The share of the vote cast as an ordinary vote declined from 83.6% to 72.3% from 2004 to 2012, and then declined to 57.1% by 2017.

Postal voting has also been increasing, but at a much slower rate.

I don’t think we will see this turnout repeated in future elections once this pandemic has come to a close, but I do expect a permanently higher baseline for pre-poll voting (and possibly postal voting) unless policy decisions are made to push people back to voting on the day.

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