Pre-poll boom expected for NSW council elections

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The NSW Electoral Commission has now released it’s planned booths for both pre-poll and election day for the December 4 elections (check out “step five” on this page). It’s interesting to see which booths have changed, but also to see their estimates on how many voters they expect to visit each booth.

I haven’t tried to analyse this data in depth, but I have looked at the total number of booths used for each council (in the case of wards, I only count each venue once for each council) and the number of expected votes, compared to the actual booths and votes cast in 2016-17.

The NSWEC has not projected any expected decline in election day votes (although this may simply reflect caution about not cutting staff when it’s not clear how much numbers will drop), and the number of booths, both on the day and at pre-poll, is only increasing slightly. But the NSWEC is projecting for a 70% increase in pre-poll votes.

To make comparisons I’ve had to exclude eleven councils that either were uncontested in part or wholly in 2016-17, are not holding an election in 2021, or are using a privatised election provider.1

To sum up the totals, here are the changes from 2016-17 to 2021 in the 116 councils analysed:

# of boothsEstimated votes
Election day+3.22%+3.90%
Pre-poll+3.73%+70.06%

While the number of pre-poll booths have increased slightly, a majority of councils have seen a decline in numbers (usually just by one), and a similar pattern can be seen with election day booths. The councils experiencing growth in booth numbers, with a few exceptions, tend to be urban councils.

A majority of councils are projected to experience 0-10% growth in votes on election day, although I expect that this is caution to avoid underestimating election day turnout when it comes to electoral commission resources including staff. And the growth in pre-poll votes is everywhere, with most councils projected to increase by under 100% (less than double), with some getting close to a 350% increase.

Finally, I put together a map showing these statistics per council, although the palettes haven’t been finessed and it lacks legends.

1These councils are: uncontested in 2016-17: Carrathool, Coolamon, Lachlan, Lockhart, Murrumbidgee and Warren; election cancelled in 2021: Balranald, Central Coast and Wingecarribee; election run by private provider: Fairfield and Penrith.

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