The button has been pressed on the Victorian upper house election, producing a shock result: the DLP has won TWO seats, in Northern Metropolitan as well as Western Victoria. Evan Thornley has just got over the line in Southern Metropolitan. So the final numbers are Labor 19, Liberal 15, Nationals 2, Greens 2, DLP 2. The defeated Labor hopefuls are Elaine Carbines in Western Victoria and Nazih Elasmar in Northern Metropolitan, while Thornley’s seat comes at the expense of the number three Liberal candidate, David Southwick. Hat tip to Antony Green and Andrew Landeryou.

UPDATE (6.25pm): I am informed that the ALP doesn’t think the Northern Metropolitan result looks right and have called for a recount, whatever that might entail.

UPDATE (10.02pm): Andrew Landeryou reports: "ALP strategists are convinced now that the VEC has made a serious error in the northern metropolitan count. It appears that there might be an issue with the calculation of Democrats preferences. VEC sources tell the OC they have hired hundreds of people for re-counting tomorrow".

UPDATE (13/12/06): Alternatively, Antony Green notes the apparent last-minute counting of 8000 above-the-line votes that overwhelmingly favoured the Liberals. This would have increased the quota and reduced the size of the Greens surplus flowing to Labor, leaving them just short of a third quota and allowing the DLP to mop up the remainder.

UPDATE II (13/12/06): Antony Green again, with a potential explanation for those last-minute Liberal votes: "The VEC believes up to 6,000 Liberal votes in Northern Metropolitan may have been double counted. With the integrity of the count in doubt, an entire re-count is being undertaken".

UPDATE III (13/12/06): Via Andrew Landeryou, the following memo to Northern Metropolitan candidates from electoral commissioner Steve Tully:

Following a thorough check of the count sheet for Northern Metropolitan Region, I am sufficiently concerned about the underlying integrity of the Liberal vote in that region to require a recount of all ballot papers.

It is my preliminary view that the Liberal Party vote is overstated by about 6,000 votes and that such an overstatement could have a profound effect on the result.

In order to give parties and candidates time to arrange scrutineers, this recount will commence at 6:00 pm at MECC and will probably conclude around 3 am. The result following the recount will be recalculated.

This recount is in addition to the recounts where arrangements are already in place for Western Victoria and Western Metropolitan Regions.

I have scrutinised the count sheets and ballot paper reconciliations for the other 5 Regions and consider that there are no issues to consider. These will proceed with the current declaration arrangements.

Further, it remains the intention that the recounts will be conducted in time so as not to delay the previously arranged declarations.

Steve Tully
Electoral Commissioner

UPDATE IV (13/12/06): I have heard rumours of a VEC data entry error which saw a 0 entered as a 6, explaining the mysterious late surge in the Liberal vote in Northern Metropolitan; and also of another problem with the original distribution of preferences that had no bearing on the result. However, the ABC reports that "Commissioner Tully has rejected suggestions the Northern Metropolitan result has come from a computer error". But an explanation of some sort is required for those 8000 votes, three-quarters of which went to the Liberal Party, appearing in the count on the final day. The recount is expected to be completed very late this evening, perhaps in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

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.

189 comments on “Re-Groupers”

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  1. Peter, I don’t think there will be two DLP MLCs, but even if there are, won’t make much difference to anything. The ALP and Greens will have 21 seats between them, so no DLP bill to bring back the Spanish Inquisition will get passed. The Bracks government is not to change the abortion law or legislate for assisted suicide, legal cannabis or same-sex marriage, so the DLP won’t get a chance to block these even if it could. If the DLP knock us off in West Vic and North Metro, that’s sad for the candidates concerned, but it doesn’t actually mean very much. Labor never expected to retain control of the Council at this election, and Labor governments live quite happily with upper houses they don’t control in four states already. As it happens, I don’t think the DLP will win North Metro, so we will have 20 seats, a blocking majority. On top of only losing seven Assembly seats, that’s a very good result for a government seeking a third term.

  2. I think there is something wrong here. I spent mpore time looking back at the published results and all indications are rthat there is data-entry/configuration problem. Again the VEC should publihsed the below the line data as it is the only way that the results of the computeriused election can be verified.

    If in deed it does turn out to be q flaw in the VEC system then more questions will be asked about the conduct of the election.

  3. Based on the results published by the VEC The Greeens should be over quota with the distribution of the Greens below the line votes. This would meadn that the Democrats ticket vote should flow direct to the DLP which would leave the ALP just below quota and only requiring a small leakage of othert below-the-liine votes.

    I have updated my count sheet and analysis page.

  4. Further to Adams point. Regardless of the result in NMET the ALP+DLP will be 21 seats. So they will be able to not be influenced by the Brown controlled Reds in the Greens.

  5. I am pleased more and more people are beginning to wake up to what I have been saying all along. The VEC is in need of serious review. If the result in Northern Metro indeed turns out to be a computer error then a lot more questions will be asked including calling on the VEC to publish its software certification documentation.

    Any computerized counting system must be more transparent and all relevant data including the BTL preference data MUST be published. the Buck stops at Tully who has given cause on more then one occasion for serious doubt about his ability to manage the election process and to ensure that it is open and transparent.

  6. This like a reunion of ALP true believer hacks here. To answer Peter’s question, I think what I’d like to see is a full implementation of computer voting (where the voter actually votes on a touchscreen). For safety’s sake a paper printout could be made as a backup and stored in the machine which would be called the Van Der Craats 3000.

    William’s rumour about an error in the data entry is interesting. If true it confirms long-held concerns about the process.

    Clearly a system which uses paper ballots and then keying them in manually is the worst of both possible worlds.

    Local council elections I have observed have shown that many times. It makes a scrutiny of the count nearly impossible.

    This situation confirms it, either use paper and count it manually OR have it all done electronically with a paper back-up in case it’s hacked or something.

    But this neither fish nor fowl arrangement is a joke. The best of people and intentions – and I have no doubt the VEC folk mean very well and are doing their best in trying circumstances – have created an A-grade, rolled gold farce.

    BTW, I’m rarely brave enough to make predictions on the OC, so I’ll make one here. Elasmar will win northern metro and it won’t even be close.

    While I’m at it, in Western Elaine Carbines deficit is seriously narrowing, now as few as 30-40 votes apparently. THis is the lower house equivalent of 3-4 votes, so I suspect another recount might be in order.

    And in Western Metro Henry Barlow, known as Ned Flanders to his friends, appears to be reasonably safe.

    Will update with any developments as the evening’s counting progresses either here or at the OC.

  7. News at hand is that the problem definately lies with the Tully Management and the VEC computer system. Without a copy of the belwo the line data file it is impossible to verify the results of the election. I took the AEC and the City fo Melbourne to court in 1999 over this extact issue. I won my case hands down. It is fundamental that the electoral office provide this datafile. All indocation is that the VEC has stuffed up in teh configuration of the database. Millions of dollars spent on soaftware developmenrt that is seriously flawed. At first the VEC claimed that teh software could not export data. A Lie. I had to complain to the State Parliament and soon after the VEC released a export data option. An option that we were orginally told did not exist. the VEC must be held accountable and Tully must share the blame a responsibility for this momumental stuff up.

    Chances are that the VEC screwed up in the data input of the above the line votes value.

  8. Andrew so far as I know I am the only ALP true believer hack (TBH) here, and I have been blamed for everything from rotten preference deals to the Hundred Years War. Perhaps you could advertise at your website for more TBHs to come to my aid.

    As Andrew indicates, it still possible that Labor’s rotten preference deals (RPDs) will pay off and we will get 21 seats and the Party of God will get 0. I will expect some apologies if that happens.

  9. the ZDemocrats have a split ticket but in each case their preference go to teh ALP before the DLP. If you add the ALP vote and the Democrats ticfket vote teh ALP should be over quota. Again I refer to my count sheet and the analysis page. … Tully has an obligation to come clean and admit teh stuff uo and publish all the data. We need to put an end to this technocratic secrecy coverup. Spending thousnads of dollars in re entering the data is not the solution if teh problem is in the data-entry of above the line data. Again look at the published collated primary votes results…

    If Tully does not act responsibly and publish the data then there should be an enquiry into the VEC managment of the election. There are way too many issues that need to review. Tully should resign or be sacked.

  10. Adam as a member of the ALP (over 28 years) I fullly support the preference deals as they offered a realsitic outcome. It is also worth noting that the DLP had a higher primary vote then many members of parliament elected in the lower house. They also had a higher primary vote then the ALP third candidate. Both have a right to be elected. We have a preferential voting system and it works from above and below. It is one of the best voting systems in the world. There is room for improvement but the fundamental principle is sound even if the detailed execution is flawed.

  11. Further in response to Andrew, experience in the US so far with computer voting has been very bad. The 13th District of Florida debacle, which cost the Democrats a House seat, is the latest example. I move we stay with paper and pencil until the alternative is proved to work every time.

  12. William said: UPDATE IV (13/12/06): I have heard rumours of a VEC data entry error which saw a 0 entered as a 6,… “Commissioner Tully has rejected suggestions the Northern Metropolitan result has come from a computer error”.

    Ahhh the dreaded zero-sum error. One of the major problems with the NSW LC count in 2003, was the practice by partially-trained operators of entering zeros where an error had occurred on a ballot paper (some errors are allowed- the Saving Provisions). But the zeros caused the computer to reject the papers as exhausted. Hansen Technologies had to rewrite the software to get over the problem.

  13. I note with ongoing concern that the VEC has withdrawn the published first preference results and printed a summary of the election results. Victoria is fast becoming the laughing stock of the world eclipsing Florida USA. This whole election has been poorly managed from day one. First there was the refusal of Tully to provide postal votes statistics then there was revelations that the VEC had access the polling results of the e-voting system illegally before the close of the polls on Saturday November 25.

    This has been folled up by the VEC refusing to release the detailed data-files. (Previously the VEC said that this information would be released.)

    All this undermines public confidence in the VEC and Tully’s leadership and inability to deliver a honest open and transparent electoral system. Whilst some of the responsibility lies with middle management and technical staff the fact remains that the buck stops at the top. If the result is flawed as expected then Tully must accept responsibility and design or be sacked.

  14. Geoff, it was even more bizarre than that. NSW is the only state where if you make an error and cross out a preference and write the number next to the square, the preference will not count. Due to an strange court ruling at a by-election years ago, the number must be within the square to count. A zero was entered in for these cases as an interim measure, it hadn’t apparently been thought through before hand and mucked up when they tried to transfer the formal ballots from the data entry machine to the counting engine.

    Thankfully, that silly provision has removed from the electoral act in time for the 2007 election.

  15. IrishLad said: for BTL votes, operators enter the preference orders? Why bother, it is simple enough just to group them in batches and count the batches. You need a bit of room but not that much.

    Well, with N squares to fill, potentially there are N! permutations. If you allow any N from 5 to the maximum, it’s worse. In NVIC, the total possible number of BTLs is in excess of 5e44 (5 followed by 44 zeros). [What’s the quota for that, then?]

    In reality, it’s probably no slower to key in the numbers than it is to sort the papers by eye into batches. Imagine what it’s like under Robson rotation.

  16. Again for all those who would cry foul at the election of the DLP candidates, take note of this.

    Assuming the result is upheld on recount in NMET, the DLP achieved their quota without the help of the ALP preferences.

    In WVIC they almost got there (.94 *quota) without ALP preferences. In fact they would only have needed ~2% of the total ALP vote to achieve quota. I can’t believe that there would be any less than this at the right of the ALP who would prefer DLP over the Greens.

    So get over it guys. The arguments about the election not reflecting the preferences of the people are wearing a bit thin.

    The DLP will support many more of Labor’s initiatives than that of the conservative opposition. They will just serve to moderate many of the nasty social excesses of the Greens.

  17. Adam Says:
    December 13th, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    Further in response to Andrew, experience in the US so far with computer voting has been very bad. The 13th District of Florida debacle, which cost the Democrats a House seat, is the latest example. I move we stay with paper and pencil until the alternative is proved to work every time.

    This was more the result of partisan interference. The Congressional race was difficult to locate on the machines in the Dem-leaning county; whereas there were no such problems Rep-leaning counties.

    So the blame shouldn’t be laid at the feet of computer voting, more the rotten political culture that prevails in the US.

    Whatever the faults of the VEC (and they have their critics in this thread!), their impartiality is not in question.

    And I’m not necessarily proponent of computer voting. But I believe it has worked just fine in the ACT.

  18. I will stand corrected on this, but the GTV system is the ONLY, repeat ONLY system in the world that is capable of delivering the fifth seat in either Western Victoria or Northern Metropolitan. The DLP’s victory would not have been possible under any other form of proportional representation, and that includes Tasmanian Hare-Clark where voters give their preferences, or even under a Hare-Clark system that had compulsory preferences and allowed how to vote cards. The victory is only possible because of GTV.

    That’s why I’m mystified you are so keen to ablish GTV Ray.

  19. Ray,


    Social excesses of the Greens? hmmm let’s see, even the AMA see sense in the Greens drugs policy (as well as several European countries and the Labor party a couple of years ago). In terms of same sex law reform… how is that an excess? Human rights an excess?

    Greens policy sounds a bit mainstream to me.

    Adam, I think it’s great that some Laborites will defend the preferences (Good news for the Greens as more people wake up to the real ALP). I know some ALP members (including former ministers) who are absolutely mortified at the result.

  20. In 1970 in NSW Jack Kane was elected to the Senate from the DLP. There was no group voting then. Voters had to mark a consecutive number for every candidate. Kane was elected for much the same reason that John Mulholland is ahead, although this may change. Kane got a fairly low percentage of the total votes, but got preferences from everybody else, including the ALP. Had the ALP directed preferences to Diana Ward from the Australia Party she would have won.

    The abolition of GVT does not mean the DLP would not have won, if they do win. John Mulholland gets preferences from everyone, including the ALP, except the Greens who don’t count as they are just over a quota and their surplus is worthless. Mulholland got above Nazih Elasmar because he got everyone’s preferences and was high enough intitially to benefit from preferences of candidates below him.

  21. Hi folks,

    I have greatly enjoyed reading all of your pre and post election posts. It has been most informative and entertaining, and also bewildering.

    I would like to take the opportunity to point out that as far as the counting of Legislative Council votes goes, here in Queensland there is never any confusion, and it literaly takes no time at all.

    Best wishes to all for a safe and happy Chritmas & New Year.

  22. “Is that a quota or a divisor? Does it matter? ”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Hare-Clark, D’Hondt and Sainte-Lague will all agree on the number of candidates elected who (in Hare-Clark) get quota in their own right. So in this sense you can start D’Hondt and Sainte-Lague counts by applying a quota initially. (Actually this quota is not exactly the same as the Hare quota, but in real examples there is a vanishingly small probability of the difference making a difference.)

    The difference comes in how you elect candidates to the non-filled quota positions. Divisor systems do this from primary votes alone; Hare-Clark of course uses preferences to fill quotas. All three can give quite different results for these final seats.

  23. John Cain has already spoken out in disgust about the possability of siding with the DLP in ANYTHING, something about he would rather lose the next election to the coalition then work with the DLP. And yes I know he is only a former premier, but apparently he still has influence.

  24. In 1965-66, the DLP senators voted with the government 36.4 per cent of the time and with the ALP 46.4 per cent of the time; in 1967, the figures were 66.3 per cent and 21.3 per cent. (Malcolm Mackerras, The Australian Senate 1965-1967: Who Held Control?)

    If the current Democratic Labor Party’s 2 would-be MLCs survive the recount, I expect that they will vote with the Australian Labor Party more often than they will vote with the Liberals. The Victorian Liberal Party of today is far more right wing than was the Liberal Party of the 1960s. The ALP has also moved to the right over the last 40 years.

    Lionel Murphy worked with the DLP to set up the Senate committee system, something the Democrats now falsely claim credit for.

    Jacinta Collins has the No. 1 spot on the ALP Senate ticket, so I would not expect the 2007 ALP/DLP/FF preference deal to be the same as the one in 2004.

  25. With the death of communism and the embrace of the US alliance by the ALP, I would regard the two Labor parties as a ‘natural fit’. I keep in touch with five former presidents of the Victorian DLP. I would categorise four of them as Labor supporters, though to my knowledge only one actually joined the ALP, while the fifth actually joined the Liberals – and became disillusioned.

    PS Adam,

    I have been called a true believer – once – but never a hack – and I’m here – but not for much longer.

  26. The loathing which John Cain expresses for the DLP springs from a host of events,and he shares that revulsion with a multitude of Labor voters.
    Dave…You may not know much Victorian history,but in 1955 the founders of the DLP destroyed a Vic. Labor Government led by John Cain Senior,in a split which kept the Conservatives in power until Whitlam won despite the DLP in 1972.
    In all those years DLP preferences kept the Liberals in power in Canberra,and in Victoria too,and those in the present Vic. ALP whose brokered the deal with the DLP should be ashamed to spit on the memory of older Labor activists who defeated the DLP.
    Today the DLP are a politicaL wing of the Right to Life.linked as always to Right Wing Catholic groups like Opus Dei.
    So that’s way they are loathed for the bigots they are…as John Cain said tonight “they are a Sectarian snake” as they always were !

  27. Well, in 1970, the DLP got 7% in NSW, three times the Western Vic vote and 2% higher than Northern Met, and Labor polled a lower vote of 45.5%, further away from the quota than Labor’s northern met vote.

    Unfortunately, Adam Carr’s website is down for the 1970 election so I can’t check the rest of the count. I’ll take a guess and bet it had something to do with ballot order, as in those days parties used to produce how-to-vote cards with a simple left to right ordering to cut down on informal votes.

    I’ll have to leave Adam to say how that the 1970 result occuured. As I said, I’ll stand corrected, but if it is as I’m guessing the 1970 result had something to do with ballot order, I’m happy to modify my statement to say that the DLP could only have been elected based on group ticket voting, or by a system based on compulsory preferential voting where parties issue how-to-vote cards based on minimizing the informal vote rather than ideology.

  28. Martin B, no, the quota you are talking about is only an approximate of D’Hondt or Sainte-Lague. All the seats are filled by divisors. Using a quota allows you to approximate the result but only with the approximate number of seats.

  29. Thanks Andrew for the answer.

    Adam your claims at being the only ALP person here is nice but not true.

    Van der Craats 28 years, Andrew Landeryou over 20 years, myself 23 years

  30. Guess I’m one of those people who march to the sound of a different drum.
    I’m not saying anything dodgy is going on, but first the government does
    not get the result it wants in the upper house, gets a recount, surprise!, a
    better result for the government. And there seems to now be a sense of
    arrogance and contempt from people, towards those who do not agree with
    their point of view, from both sides of the spectrum, and people seem to
    forget the faults of their preferred side, whilst finding every little fault with
    the opposition. In our democracy, we’re supposed to see the good from
    all sides and ditch the bad, but alas that does not seem the case, and I guess I’ll be castigated somehow over this.

  31. Col Dicker,

    I don’t do castigation, but I do think you have misread the situation.

    The government has not done better as a result of the recount. It still has 19 seats. They are just a different 19. The government is in fact worse off because before the recount, with two DLP MLCs, it could get legislation passed by the combined votes of both Labor parties. Now it cannot. The DLP’s single MLC can join with the ALP to defeat any Opposition move, but for the government to get legislation passed it will need the support of the Greens. However, this will turn out to be only a minor problem, and life will, as ever, go on.

    The main point is that the current Legislative Council is the most representative we have had since the modern multi-party system developed. That the government cannot automatically have its proposed laws passed is no bad thing. It is to the everlasting credit of the Bracks Government that it reformed the Upper House, knowing that it would put its own majority at risk. It is to the everlasting shame of the Liberals that they stopped this reform in 1973 (by breaking a election promise they themselves had given), 1985 and c2001 because they wanted a system that almost guaranteed their side of politics a majority forever.

  32. Further to Andrew’s, Adam’s and Peter Mitchell’s posts, I had better come clean also. The Victorian Branch of the ALP have sentenced me to life (41 years and counting). However I’ve never held a job with the Party or any MP, so I’m not sure if that disqualifies me from the honorary title, TBH.
    I’m not particularly happy with the DLP getting a leg up from Labor preferences, but I think it’s a least worst outcome of the “deal”. Deals can rarely be completely one-sided, so it’s hard to envisage how the ALP could have turned 42-44% of the vote in particular regions into three quotas, or 58-59% in Western Met into four quotas, without deals. So, on balance, I think Stephen Newnham- if he’s the one to be praised or blamed – has done pretty well with his dealing.
    I understand why John Cain would feel particularly aggrieved about the DLP’s revival – even though I think this incarnation of it is only vaguely connected (if at all) to the McManus-Little-Chris Curtis party.
    I also think it’s quite erroneous of Joan Kirner to conflate the deplorable factional games which shafted Elaine Carbines with the deals with the DLP. I can’t see how Elaine was further disadvantaged by dealing with the DLP, nor how she would have been advantaged by refusing to deal with them, and preferencing the Greens, given her precarious spot on the Labor ticket.

  33. I am curious. Where exactly did the VEC make this monumental error of stupidity? The age newspaper reports that the mistake was in a data entry error instead of 40666 they recorded 46666 votes to the Liberal Party. Limited information published by the VEC shows that the Liberal Party received an above-the-line vote of 81000 + votes. Where exactly was the requirement for the VEC to enter in 40666 votes?

    Again without access to detailed election results there is no way to independently verify or analysis the election result. What is clear is that the information published by the VEC just does not add up.

  34. In viewing the various counts sheet I fail to see where in the count the VEC was required to enter in a 406666 let alone 466666 as we were told by the Vic. There is much more wrong with the count then that. It looks as thought the VEC did not undertake what is normal practice a check that the total number of votes recorded tallied with the number of ballot papers issued. without polling place breakdowns and the statistical information we had requested from the VEC but was refused by Steve Tully its impossible to properly scrutinise the count. may question and very few answers. Steve tolland the ten operations of the VEC will come under review when the Parliamentary Elections committee meets next year.

  35. In viewing the summary count sheet related to the provisional and red count the data-entry problem was with Giby Mathews (Liberal) and not the democrats as previously reported. The stupidity of it all is that if the VEC did basic check, which is normally done, to ensure that the number of votes recorded match the number of votes received then they would have known in advance, before pressing Go that there was a major mistake in the count. A quick tally check with the VEC published XML file would have even shown that.. Incompetent management and poor designed software. the VEc spent millions of dollars duplicating software that the AEC had in place. sure the AEc software needs an upgrade uop the duplication of costs can not be justified or explained unless someone connected to the VEC is getting a kickback., Another reason or explanation as to why the VEC may have withheld public information on the details of the results of the election .

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