Early voting trends in Tasmanian elections


As has become a regular story, there was an uptick in voters choosing to vote using other methods than turning up at a regular polling place to vote at the last Tasmanian state election.

Tasmania’s voters have been less likely to switch away from election day voting than in most other jurisdictions, but the direction of travel is the same.

Just under two thirds of voters in 2021 cast their votes at a polling place in their electorate. There was a slight uptick in postal voting, but pre-poll voting almost doubled.

It’s also worth looking at the relative strengths of the parties in each vote type.

This chart shows the Liberal and Labor votes for the four main vote types.

The Labor primary vote has tended to converge to the same point over the last three elections. The Labor primary vote in the ordinary vote was 7.4% than the pre-poll vote in 2006, but it had narrowed to just 3% in 2014, and 1.1% in 2021.

The Liberal vote has widened, but this is primarily due to the poor Liberal performance with the absent or Out of Division category. The Liberal pre-poll vote was 3.8% higher than the Liberal ordinary vote in 2006, but it had narrowed to a 3.4% gap in 2021.

Generally the Labor vote is higher in the ordinary and absent votes, and Liberal vote is higher on pre-poll and postal votes.

The Greens vote used to do better on the pre-poll vote, but as the pre-poll vote has grown it has become less positive for the Greens. Postal voting has consistently been the worst vote type for the Greens.

So what do we know about the voting trends in 2024? We don’t have daily figures, but Kevin Bonham tweeted the figures as of Tuesday night.

That would translate to 9.1% of enrolment in pre-poll votes, and 3.2% of enrolment in postal votes. In comparison, 17.7% of enrolment voted at pre-poll in 2021 along with 6.8% voting via postal votes. Based on those numbers, I suspect we’re on track for similar numbers of pre-poll and postal votes to 2021.

This looks like more evidence that the changes in voting trends at the first post-COVID elections in each jurisdiction aren’t reversing. Like in Brisbane, the big increases in early voting seem to largely be holding steady.

Finally, this chart shows the proportion of voters who cast their vote via the ordiinary method of voting for the six states and federal elections since 2005. In the 2005-2007 period, they were all very closely clustered together, between 77.8% and 83.9% using the ordinary method.

The states gradually diverged from each other, but all in a downward trend, right up to the 2017-2019 period.

In the 2020-23 period, every state had its first post-COVID election, and every state saw an accelerated decline. Victoria had consistently had the worst rates of ordinary voting, but Queensland (the first state to hold a COVID election) passed Victoria.

Through it all, Tasmania has been the state that has seen the least change in voting trends.

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  1. Any reasons as to why Tasmanians are more likely than those in mainland states to vote the old-fashioned way – in person on election day?

    I have wild guesses:
    – its smaller size means it’s easier to travel to polling booths;
    – smaller settlements and decentralisation so there is a sense of community or gathering like a sausage sizzle at polling booths;
    – prepoll centres are very dispersed and few and far between;
    – older-than-median population and less migrants and so most voters vote as ‘they always have’.

  2. This made me wonder how things looked at the federal level if you break it down by state.

    In 2022, Tasmania was 58.8% ordinary, SA 52.3%, NSW 48.7%, ACT 48.1%, WA 45.6%, VIC 41.9%, QLD 39.1%, NT 29.6%. Kind of fits with Tas, SA and NSW having more ordinary votes than the other states. But still that’s a lower ordinary vote than any Tasmanian state election.

    You’ve also got to consider that there may be differences in state commission procedures that either may effect how people actually vote, or how they’re counted. For SA state elections they only break up votes into ordinary and declaration with no further detail, so I don’t know where absent votes go, for example.

  3. Here is the other question. Why is Tasmania the only state or territory to still use the old fashioned Tally Room on election night? Are they using it at this election still?

  4. @Ben Raue to answer your question about “ordinary votes”, what does that mean? Is that votes at a normal polling place?

    If so, I can answer why Tasmania has a high rate of that. Because what I’ve noticed is that people in major cities are more likely to vote early than people in regional and rural areas, and people in remote areas usually vote at mobile polling places. What I define as a major city though doesn’t just mean state capitals, it also means many other large cities (e.g in 2023 the state seat of Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast was decided on prepolls and postals, with the Liberals retaining it, while in 2020 over 40% of people in the Queensland state seat of Barron River in Cairns voted early, with the LNP ahead on first preferences on prepolls and almost winning prepolls but Labor still retained the seat).

    Tasmania is Australia’s most decentralised state, with only about 45% of the state’s total population residing in Hobart. The only other state like this is Queensland where about 49% of the population lives in Brisbane. In every other state and territory, the majority of people live in the capital city.

  5. But that 49% in Brisbane forms of the roughly 60% that live in South East Queensland (with the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Ipswich), then plus people in other major cities like Townsville, Cairns and Toowoomba. Then there’s remote mobile voting up in Indigenous communities, which is why the Northern Territory’s is so low.

  6. Hmm, I did a blog post after the federal election which included a map showing what proportion of votes were cast early in each seat and I don’t see much of an urban/rural divide, although it might be masked by the major differences between the states.

    In Tasmania in 2022, it was true that Bass and then Clark had the lowest election day vote share, but not by very much. It was 59% in Bass and 63% in Lyons.

  7. Interesting.

    Another question, Ben. Can you access the overseas polling place results for the election? I would be interested to see how they vote.

  8. They don’t get published separately, either as a group of all overseas booths or individually. I assume they’re contained within the Absent votes category.

  9. @Ben Raue I found a spreadsheet that has the number of votes from each overseas polling place but no actual results unfortunately. The AEC should publish the actual results at the next election overseas. Plenty of other countries release the results of their elections overseas.

  10. As someone in Tasmania – it is really, really, really easy to vote on voting day. The local school allows voting easily. The pre-polls however, are in hubs – so near large populations. Easy for those close to them, harder to get to for those in more remote locations, which is a large portion of Tasmania. No one who is not traveling thinks to do postal, as that requires people being engaged enough and educated enough to know that exists. You might factor in adult illiteracy rates at 50% of the population. A lot of people got o the polls not having a clue about politics (but that is the same everywhere I guess).


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