Not the Wentworth by-election thread

Some preselection news, and a thread for discussion of political matters not directly related to the Wentworth by-election count.

For discussion focused on the count for the Wentworth by-election, which turns out not to have been as over as you thought it was last night, the live results thread is still in action. For general political discussion, I offer the following post, with my usual semi-regular updates of preselection news.

Phillip Coorey of the Australian Financial Review reports a New South Wales Liberal Senate preselection next month is a three-way contest between Jim Molan, Andrew Bragg and Hollie Hughes. Molan found a place in the Senate last December by the grace of Section 44, after securing only the unwinnable seventh position on the Coalition ticket at the 2016 double dissolution, to the chagrin of conservatives including Tony Abbott. Then followed the disqualification of Nationals Senator Fiona Nash, followed by the determination that the sixth candidate on the ticket, the aforesaid Hollie Hughes, was likewise ineligible due to a position she had taken on the Administrative Affairs Tribunal. Now it appears Molan is primed to take top spot, and since the third position is reserved for the Nationals, this leaves two and four to be fought out between Bragg, whose decision to withdraw himself from consideration for preselection in Wentworth is now looking pretty good, and Hughes, whose Section 44 complication is behind her.

• The Port Macquarie News reports three candidates have nominated to succeed retiring Luke Hartsuyker as Nationals candidate for Cowper: Patrick Conaghan, a former police officer and North Sydney councillor who now works locally as a solicitor; Chris Genders, a newsagent; and Jamie Harrison, former Port Macquarie-Hastings councillor and owner of an electrical business.

• The Burnie Advocate reports Gavin Pearce, who has been described as a “farmer and ex-defence force member”, has been preselected as Liberal candidate for Braddon ahead of “Devonport business identity Stacey Sheehan and property developer Kent Townsend”.

Wentworth by-election live

Live coverage of the count for the Wentworth by-election.

Live publication of results, updated by the minute with full booth results and swings, can be found here. Commentary of the progress of the count follows below.

Sunday evening

Today’s events as they unfolded:

• Anxieties in the pro-Phelps/anti-Liberal camp that set in as the largest pre-poll voting centres recorded their votes late last night cranked up a notch in the morning as the first and biggest batch of postals were added to the count. These broke 3356-1858 in favour of Sharma (later revised to 3346-1851), his 64.4% share being fractionally more than he would likely need to rein in what remained of Phelps’s lead. Not long after, Antony Green wrote on Twitter: “No (Phelps) is not home. The difference between on the day voting and voting in advance is wider than I’ve ever seen at an election. In conversation with very senior party people today, they have the same opinion.”

• Around 10:30am or so, Sharma got a further small boost when the two Special Hospital Team booths were added to the total, collectively breaking his way by 266-54.

• After that though, the pendulum swung back. The AEC set to work on the routine recheck of the ordinary votes, starting with those booths where the preferences flows recorded yesterday appeared to be anomalous, as was keenly observed by Kevin Bonham. This confirmed that Phelps had indeed been short-changed in the Bondi Beach and Bellevue Hill booths – because, according to Antony Green, the preferences from primary votes for the Liberal candidate had been entered the wrong way around. As a result, Phelps’ 2132-1714 lead in Bondi Beach blew out to 2427-1330, and Sharma’s purported 1305-985 lead in Bellevue Hill turned out to be only 1152-1119. About half the booths have had their votes rechecked to this point, the net effect of the others being neutral.

• Then a second batch of postals went 698-467 to Sharma, or 59.9% to 40.1% – less than he would have needed even before the rechecking raised the bar.

The main votes yet to be counted are late-arriving postals – I see no reason to doubt my earlier judgement that the final number of postals will be very close to the 9392 that were cast in 2016, since the number of applications received was almost identical. That leaves maybe 3000 postals outstanding, along with provisionals and pre-poll declaration votes, of which a high-end estimate would be about 500. This leaves Sharma with about 3500 votes outstanding with which to close a gap of 1616, meaning he will need about 73%.

That’s not going to happen, so it will take the emergence of another error in what remains of the rechecking to make a Sharma victory plausible. Precedents do exist, such as the decisive 1000 votes that showed up for Cathy McGowan as she grappled with Sophie Mirabella in Indi in 2013. But if the remainder of the count proceeds normally, Sharma only seems likely to reel his existing deficit in by around 700 votes, giving Phelps a winning margin of around 900 votes, or 0.6%.

Sunday morning

To cut the following long story short: this isn’t over.

Those who were still paying attention at the close of last night’s action were thrown into a spin when Dave Sharma did remarkably well out of the pre-poll voting centres, which these days account for many thousands of votes and do not report their results into well into the evening. In particular, the 6431 votes of the Rose Bay PPVC broke 4473-1958, which slashed Phelps’ lead from 4.2% to 1.9% – creating just the slightest opportunity for Sharma to pull a rabbit out of the hat on postals.

In the last of my updates in the section below, I calculated that Sharma would need 70% of postals to close the gap, but it seems this was an overestimate. The number of postal votes issued at this by-election has been almost identical to that in 2016 (12860 compared with 12796), so it’s a very safe bet the number of formal postal votes will be around the same, namely 9329. We can also expect 500 or so provisional and pre-poll declaration votes, but it’s the postal votes that are most interesting because they skew conservative. Malcolm Turnbull did around 9.5% better with postals in 2016 as compared with ordinary votes, on both the primary and two-party preferred vote.

If that bears out this time, Sharma can expect to reduce his present deficit of 2590 votes by around 1400. However, it’s not impossible that he will do significantly better than that. Given the trend of polling and the general course of political events over the past week or two, it could be surmised he would do relatively well on votes that were cast earlier in the process. Kevin Bonham points out that the Mayo by-election is particularly auspicious for the Liberals in that Rebekha Sharkie gained a 3.5% two-party swing on ordinary votes against the Liberals, but there was actually a 5.1% swing in the Liberals’ favour on postals. No doubt this was unusual, but it does demonstrate that it would not be without precedent for postals to weigh towards Sharma heavily enough to sneak him over the line.

However, some objections have been noted to the results as currently published:

• The Rose Bay PPVC is an extreme outlier in having a primary vote swing of only 1.9% against the Liberals, where in every other booth it was in double digits (not counting the 16 votes cast through the blind or low vision telephone voting service), and this is not reflected in any unusual movement in the Labor primary vote. However, this very likely reflects the fact that the Rose Bay PPVC wasn’t in use at the 2016 election, and the “historic” vote totals provided by the AEC to facilitate booth-matched swing calculations (including those featured in my own results facility) were well off the mark. Specifically, the “historic” totals only account for 1459 formal votes, of which 983 were credited to the Liberals, compared with the 6431 that actually appear to have been cast. As such, I see no reason not to think Sharma was indeed being undersold in early assessments of the count, as it was not appreciated how much of the harbourside vote was locked up in the Rose Bay PPVC, waiting to be unleashed at the very end of the night.

• Probably more substantively, Kevin Bonham has identified curiously weak preference flows for Phelps at Bondi Beach and Bellevue Hill. These would be consistent with 450 votes that properly belong to Phelps having been wrongly placed in Sharma’s pile. If the imminent rechecking of votes indeed proves this to be so, the hill would look just that little bit too high for Sharma to claim. But as Bonham also notes, there could just as easily be other inconsistencies awaiting discovery that could tip the balance the other way.

Election night

Midnight. The last pre-poll voting centres tightened things up quite a lot – not quite enough for Sharma, but there won’t be much in it in the end. Phelps ends the night with a 1.9% lead, which would leave Sharma needing a more-than-plausible 70% or so of postals.

Continue reading “Wentworth by-election live”

Wentworth by-election minus zero days

One last report of internal polling for the Liberals suggests the situation for them is bad, though maybe not quite as bad as some reports this week have suggested.

Dawn breaks, and we have arrived at the end of the campaign without a single media-commissioned opinion poll. All those results from ReachTEL (which you can find listed on the sidebar of my by-election guide) were commissioned by left-of-centre political concerns; the other source of intelligence has been the purported internal polling provided by the Liberals in the name of scaring wavering voters back into line. The last such is from today’s Daily Telegraph – make what you will of the following:

Internal party polling, obtained by The Saturday Telegraph, shows the Liberals are faring better in the contest in Sydney’s wealthiest electorate than they have admitted, with a primary vote of 39 per cent, although this is still not an outright winnable position … Earlier this week, polling conducted by the Liberal Party collapsed to as low as 41 to 59 two party-preferred. However, tracking polling has improved since then.

If all goes well, I’m hoping to take a leap forward with my election night results reporting this evening, I having finally – I hope – wrapped my head around enough Python and Javascript to offer fully automated live results, updated by the minute from the Australian Electoral Commission media feed. For a preview of how this will look (with a few imperfections), I have retroactively applied the set-up to the final results from the Super Saturday by-elections in July: go here and click on one of the five electorate tabs.

Have a look down any given page, and you will see booth results in a nice and neat tabular form, with tabs to allow you to choose whether they appear as raw votes, percentages or swings from the last election. I flatter myself that this will be the handiest way of observing booth results as they come in: the AEC doesn’t publish them at all on its site on election night (unless there’s been a recent change of policy), and navigating Antony Green’s display at the ABC requires a bit more effort.

You will also note “win probability” gauges, copying the concept the New York Times made famous on the unforgettable night/day of the 2016 presidential election. This will only get a workout if the AEC publishes a Liberal-versus-Labor notional two-party count, as this will be the only way to allow for a swing calculation. If that’s indeed what happens, it will come with the fairly substantial qualification that the result will apply only if Liberal and Labor are indeed the last two candidates in the count, and it’s not the general view that that’s what will happen. One way or another, the facility should be regarded as experimental for the time being.

Wentworth by-election minus one day

Some account of how preferences might flow between Dave Sharma and Kerryn Phelps, if that’s indeed how it pans out.

Wentworth has clearly evolved into a three-horse race, with independent Licia Heath apparently having failed to gain much traction, despite some high profile backing. Liberal candidate Dave Sharma is all but certainly to lead the primary vote, but a lot depends on who finishes second out of independent Kerryn Phelps and Labor’s Tim Murray. So far as the excitement of election night is concerned, a lot equally depends on which two candidates the Australian Electoral Commission picks for the notional two-candidate preferred count. I would assume they will play it safe, follow tradition and conduct the count between Liberal and Labor, but we won’t actually know until polls close tomorrow. If they get it wrong, we will be relying on word-of-mouth accounts from scrutineers, which are sure to be widely propagated on social media, for even a vague idea of how things are playing out. That’s assuming the result is not so close as to make it unclear who out of Phelps and Murray ends up ahead – and this too will depend in preferences, on which we will likewise have no official guide on the night.

Continue reading “Wentworth by-election minus one day”

US mid-terms minus twenty days

Poor polling for the Democrats continues in the Senate as Trump’s ratings improve. The House appears better for Democrats, but are fundraising totals deceiving the models? Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

US mid-term elections will be held on November 6. In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.4 points in the race for Congress, the same lead they had last week, but down from an 8.7 point lead for Democrats on October 14. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic House model, there has been a boost for Democrats, with their win probability up to 84%, from 79% last week. This boost reflects the impact of strong fundraising for Democrats in the “fundamentals” calculation; ninety-two Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents in the September quarter.

The big question is whether these great fundraising totals for Democrats can be converted into greater support at the polls by more advertising and field operations. The FiveThirtyEight “Lite” model, which just takes the polls into account, gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, little changed from their position last week.

Continue reading “US mid-terms minus twenty days”

BludgerTrack: 54.0-46.0 to Labor

Plenty of excitement this week from Wentworth, but none whatsoever from BludgerTrack.

New polls from Newspoll and Ipsos have made next to no difference to the BludgerTrack poll aggregate’s reading on voting intention, unless you count 54-46 as a psychological barrier, since it was 53.9-46.1 last week. There has been no change on the seat projection, and only small movements in the primary vote – the largest being a drop from 6.6% to 5.9% for One Nation, who were down from 7% to 5% in the Ipsos poll. I still don’t have a Scott Morrison net approval trend in action yet, but Bill Shorten’s reading records a slight improvement after a somewhat stronger result from Newspoll than their previous poll three weeks ago. The preferred prime minister trend has hardly moved at all, and remains very much as it was under Malcolm Turnbull.

Full results on the link below. Note also the post below this one, dealing with the rather more interesting subject of Saturday’s Wentworth by-election.