Correct weight

Nominations for the Queensland election closed today, and a list of candidates in ballot paper order is now available from the Electoral Commission of Queensland. The Poll Bludger election guide entries have been updated accordingly. The ballot paper draw is always an eagerly anticipated event as it determines the destination of the donkey vote, reckoned to be up to 1 per cent of the total. However, Queensland’s system of optional preferential voting has a major bearing on the operation of the donkey vote, which has no doubt been the subject of a study that has escaped my attention.

The motive behind most donkey voting is presumably to fulfil the ballot paper’s instructions with the least mental effort possible: in Queensland, the relevant instruction is "place the number one in the square opposite the candidate of your choice", whereas voters in the House of Representatives are advised to "number the boxes from 1 to X in the order of your choice". Therefore, while a federal election will usually deliver a benefit to whichever of the two major party candidates appears ahead of the other, the donkey vote at a Queensland election will only benefit a candidate at the top of the ballot paper. Accordingly, today’s draw can be said to have provided a fillip for Labor in the marginal seats of Aspley, Burleigh, Hervey Bay, Kawana, Redcliffe and Redlands; for the Nationals in Bundaberg, Burnett, Gaven, Keppel, Mulgrave and Nicklin; and for the Liberals in Broadwater, Cairns, Chatsworth, Mundingburra and Townsville. The non-major party sitting member whose re-election appears to be most in doubt, Elisa Roberts in Gympie, has also drawn top position.

Meanwhile, the following electorate entries have now been expanded as part of the progressive reupholstering of the Poll Bludger election guide: Gaven, Townsville, Pumicestone, Mundingburra, Redcliffe, Chatsworth and Gympie.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

16 comments on “Correct weight”

  1. Gympie is an interesting one isn’t it? Any predictions on how this seat will go? The Nationals thought it was a sure thing when Elisa Roberts decided to retire. But now she’s back from the dead will she have a chance. She’s certainly messed around with her indecisiveness and surely lost support for that. She’s also received lots of press (mostly negative) from her ‘hissy fits’ and the death of Popsicle. Will the Gymponians give her another chance? She’s the most fragile of the Qld independents but her margin remains a healthy 10%. What sort of local member is she? Popular? Tenacious? Respected? Not being from Qld I have no idea.

    Intersting to note that Family First were talking up their chances in Gympie this morning in the Oz.

    Your thoughts?

  2. If my net is working – I finally might get a comment in after trying numerous times in the past couple of days… call me obsessed. lol

    It was interesting to note in an ABC Article that the Opposition has promised $1billion in Water Infrastructure to rural areas over the next 6 years. Mind you… Lib/Nat Opposition’s have a thing for water and the tag “$1billion”. Anyone Remember Colin Barnett? Thought not. The then WA Liberal leader proposed a $1 billion water canal in WA to rural areas… and look what happened to him. Let’s hope that Team Borg’s ‘$1billion’ crusade doesn’t turn out like Colin Barnett’s Canal… non-existant. Then again – one might hope Peter Beattie’s Dam doesn’t turn into the Franklin Dam. It shall be interesting to watch this election further on to see how water unfolds as a key election issue and who truly prevails.
    ^ that’s the link if you feel like some light reading 😛

  3. Dave, I would not presume to know the mind of Gymponians and I’m not looking forward to making a call on this one. It is, as you say, interesting. Last time around, the score at the second last count was Roberts 40.16%, Labor 30.16% and Nationals 29.7%. There seems little doubt that the Mary River Dam and various other factors will cost Labor enough votes to prevent them taking second place this time.

    A study of 2004 ballot papers conducted by the ECQ indicated that 62.7 per cent of all voters in Gympie just voted one and 23.6 per cent numbered every box. Labor voters, particularly those in the ECQ’s “provincial seats” category, were the most likely of all to just vote 1 – 74.7 per cent compared with 65.8 per cent of all provincial voters. Furthermore, the rate was higher the more candidates there were in a given electorate, and there are plenty in Gympie this time. So if the Labor vote drops from 25.7 per cent to 20 per cent, only 5 per cent of the total vote will be passed on as Labor preferences. How will those votes split between Roberts and the Nats? Beats me, but let’s say 3 per cent and 2 per cent.

    As for minor party and independent preferences, the candidates eliminated up to the second last count in 2004 split 24.0 per cent for Roberts, 16.8 per cent for the Nationals and 14.3 per cent for Labor with 44.9 per cent exhausting. We’re talking 10.4 per cent of the total vote here: with Rae Gate and Family First in the field, I would expect it to be nearer 20 per cent. Of that I would guess that roughly 30 per cent will go to Roberts and 20 per cent will go to the Nationals with the rest exhausting.

    Add it all together and I suggest that Roberts will get a lift of 3 per cent or more relative to the Nationals after preferences. So the Nats will need to turn the Nationals’ 8.5 deficit on the primary vote from 2004 into at least a 3 per cent surplus this time, perhaps 5 per cent to be safe. How likely is that? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m inclined to think that it’s a big ask and would probably put my money on Roberts if you held a gun to my head.

  4. P_O, your internet’s working fine – I just keep having to delete your comments because they say a certain person has been found to have been corrupt who hasn’t been. I sent you emails about this on both occasions.

  5. William, who is JBP in your Gympie explanation? I keep thinking you’re referring to the ominously-spawned Nationals candidate in Nanango…

  6. That’s the second time in three days I’ve confused Gympie with Nanango – the other day I said Elisa Roberts was the “last survivor of One Nation’s class of 1998”. That of course would be Dolly Pratt. Thanks for pointing that out Edward, it is now corrected.

  7. Well, I was going to say that the areas are as bad as each other, but as I used to live in the similarly-demographic-ed Glass House, I won’t throw stones.

  8. ahh thanks for the explaination will… it’s probably my junk mail filter- just tell me what address you use and ill add it to always allow…..

    me corrupt? lol im not a politician yet so im not corrupt 🙂 haha

  9. Why assume the ‘donkey’ vote is upwards of 2%? Ballot labelling is likely responsible for a large drop in the old donkey vote. From memory Andrew Leigh’s recent study put it at half that figure.

    Even that may be an overstatement. You can find plenty of examples (eg when the Natural Law Party stood candidates) where the first placed candidate has attracted around 0.5% of the vote. Those examples suggest to me that the donkey vote is miniscule – or at least donkeys are not blind markers of ballots, but look for the first party label that doesn’t offend them.

  10. the family first candidate in gympie is the president of the gympie chamber of commerce and has been on tv quite a bit campaigning against the dam

  11. With optional preferential voting, a voter can place a donkey vote in any box. I doubt too many DVs could be bothered filling out all of the boxes. Better still: let your enrollment lapse and then don’t turn up at all. The DV died when it became illegal to change your name to ‘Informal’.

  12. Surely the value of the donkey vote is directly related to the number of candidates, and whether filling out the entire ballot is required. Donkey votes are easy to complete, therefore as it becomes more difficult to cast a formal vote (switching from the Qld system to the Federal system) they would be the least affected, thus would increase.

    Also, seeing a ballot with a large number of candidates or seeing that you are required to number all boxes would probably lead voters to take the easy way out by numbering from top to bottom. Look at Werriwa 2005, where AAFI managed to poll over 4% from the top position on the ballot, beating many candidates with much much larger presences in the campaign.

  13. I posted a piece about the Donkey vote a little while ago which seems to be have become lost in cyberspace. I won’t repeat myself in case it turns up, but will respond to Ben – the Donkey vote always blows out dramatically at by-elections where one major party is not running a candidate.

    It seems that many major party voters simply can’t be bothered finding the independent or small party that is closest to them, so they go for a donkey vote instead. I think this had more to do with the high AAFI vote in Weriwa than the sheer number of candidates.

  14. The donkey vote can be overstated. I was a candidate in the Victoria Park by-election in WA (March 2006) and my scrutineers reported the donkey vote was about 0.2% – however the turnout was 63% of enrolled voters, suggesting that those voters confused by the 11-candidate ballot paper exercised an even easier option. I would note that such a low turnout seems to be particular to byelections.

  15. Almost forgot – from that election also, there’s another type of donkey voting that occurs that seems to be particular to major party voters. The idea is to number the major party 1 (or someone like the Greens or One Nation 1 and major party 2) and donkey vote the rest. The reason for this would seem to be the (normally correct) presumption that the contest will be one between two major parties and so once one has voted one or the other, the rest of the preferences don’t matter too much. This would be *very* interesting if a major party got ruled out and a high-profile independent was near the top of the paper under a full-preferential system.

Comments are closed.