Tasmanian ballot papers hit record size


Nominations were announced today for the Tasmanian state election, as well as the Dunstan by-election in South Australia.

I will get the full candidate lists up later tonight, but for now I wanted to dwell on some overall numbers showing how much bigger the ballot papers are than in previous elections.

The Tasmanian House of Assembly is expanding from 25 members to 35, and this has understandably produced a big increase in candidate numbers, with the three biggest parties each running a full ticket of 35 candidates. That’s an extra 30 candidates before we consider other contenders, but is not of the most interest here (although it could have some interesting intra-party dynamics).

What is more interesting is how the width of the ballot paper will grow, with more columns on ballot papers than we’ve seen before, with a big jump in independent nominations.

While there has been a slight increase in the number of parties running in each of the electorates, there has been an enormous increase in the number of independent candidates.

There are two different ways to nominate as an independent in Tasmania. It is much easier to nominate as an ungrouped independent, but those who achieve a larger number of signatures can achieve their own column on the ballot, even if there is only one independent.

While there have been plenty of ungrouped independents before, grouped independents are much rarer. A grouped independent is evidence of a more serious campaign, and gives them more prominence on the ballot.

This chart shows that the number of ungrouped independents has slightly broken the previous record from 1992, but the number of independent groups has shot way out in front of anything we’ve seen in recent decades.

Seven groups ran in 1998, but this compares to fourteen in 2024. This includes four current members of parliament, two former MPs and a number of councillors.

With each of these independents achieving their own ballot column, this will significantly widen the ballot.

This next chart shows the average per electorate (the total divided by five). Since ungrouped independents all share a column, I’ve just included one column for each electorate with ungrouped independents. Ungrouped independents have run in all five electorates only at times of peak independent contestation: 1992, 1996, 2021 and 2024.

The previous record was 36 columns (7.2 per electorate) in 1996, closely followed by 35 columns (7 per electorate) in 2014.

This year there will be 49 columns, or 9.8 per electorate.

The five electorates will have between eight and eleven columns. The 2014 Denison ballot paper previously held the record, with ten columns, but has been beaten this year by both Bass and Clark, with Franklin tying the previous record. Indeed of the ten ballot papers with eight or more columns, five are being used this year.

It isn’t surprising that the raw number of candidates would increase, but it’s also not a huge surprise that we would see the number of separate political campaigns also go up. Political science suggests that the magnitude and the total size of the assembly have an effect on the number of contenders who contest elections, win votes and win seats.

This has also happened in a moment of fracturing major parties, with numerous independents sitting in the Assembly now. Whether that is due to the expanded parliament or simply an extra factor alongside the expanded parliament, I can’t say.

I suspect many of these independents will poll poorly, but a few could do quite well, and some may well win. All the same, I suspect we will see slightly more compact ballot papers next time around.

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  1. Some independents have their own column (a column of one) and some are ungrouped. How is it determined that an independent of one have their own column?


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