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. Wow, who would have predicted that? Thornely gets over the line, and the DLP wins 2 seats. If the numbers stay as they are currently, the ALP obviously will need the support of either the DLP or Greens to pass legislation.
    I wonder if the DLP has a chance of winning seats in next March’s N.S.W election?
    William, thanks once again for your tireless work on this site.
    All amateur and professional psephologists are eternally grateful!

  2. I’m not surprised about North metro may be re-counted. On Monday’s figures, Labor was 3,200 votes ahead on guaranteed preference tickets and there weren’t a lot of free BTL votes floating around. A DLP victory would only occur if the Green’s achievement of a quota was significantly delayed by leakage of BTL votes out of their ticket. Sounds like that counting report will be well and truly poured over.

  3. The DLP has no chance of winning election to the NSW Parliament because it is not a registered party and there are no preferences to provide a helpful leg-up. Registration of parties for the NSW election closed in March this year.

  4. That’s pored over, not poured over.

    Before everyone gets too worked up, this result has very little practical significance. Labor and the Greens have 21 seats, so the Opposition and DLP won’t be able to cause Bracks any major problems. If Bracks wants to legislate “to the left”, he will have the support of the Greens.

    The result does however reinforce my view that elections for multi-member seats with preferential voting need a 5% threshold to prevent microparties preference surfing in this way.

  5. Unbelievable. The ALP has done it again.

    First Steven Fielding and Fundamentalists First, and now two DLP nutcases.

    People! Please stop voting 1 above the line for the ALP! You never know where your vote will go…

  6. The DLP doesn’t exist in NSW, only Victoria. Likewise, Family First is practically nonexistent in NSW, comparatively, and won’t be running. But maybe it’s an encouraging sign for other far-right parties in NSW like the CDP.

    And I guess this proves wrong those people who said the ALP couldn’t be stupid enough, after electing Steven Fielding, to do it again. You set the standard for intelligence lower and lower for the ALP, and they continue to beat it. Now that is impressive!

  7. In NMET the critical point would come when the cut-up had to decide beween DLP and ALP. If all votes had been tickets, the gap here between the two would have been about 3,800, with ALP ahead. That’s the number of BTLs that must have leaked.

    There were about 23,300 BTLs all told. Of these, about 10,300 were for candidates where their party’s ticket vote placed the ALP ahead of the DLP. Of these, the ALPs BTL, principally for their #1, would be diluted from 7,200 to about 4,500 by prior election, meaning that fewer than 8,000 aberrant BTLs must have done it. Thus, the aberrany rate seems to have been rather high- near 50%. But, this is not uncompatible with what the scrutineers reported for other parties’ BTLs in other seats.

    Do we get to see the numbers soon?

    It occurred to me that this would be an ideal thing to watch live on the web- a bit like watching the BOM’s rain radars (only if it takes more than a few minutes, but).

  8. Ben, Fielding was elected because both the ALP and the Democrats chose, for perfectly sound tactical reasons, to do preference deals with Family First by which they preferenced FF ahead of the Greens. Both the ALP and the Greens polled fewer primary votes than they expected, allowing FF to get ahead and be the beneficiary of the deal.

    This is not what has happened in North Metro. The Greens have got their seat, and Labor has missed out on 3 seats, despite having 2.9 quotas, because the DLP got 0.3 of a quota in primaries, then got 0.2 from FF prefs and 0.4 from the Libs. I don’t see how this can be ascribed to ALP stupidity. What really got them up was left-to-right donkey vote.

  9. Adam, I’m sure you’re smart enough to know Ben was talking about Western Vic where the ALP cost the Greens yet another seat and gave it to a party that’s pro-nuclear weapons and anti-abortion.

    I’d also counter your suggestion that the ALP and Democrats did a preference deal with FF for perfectly sound reasons. Sure, if your ONLY goal is to get as many ALP people elected as possible, then they are perfectly sound reasons. But if you have a secondary goal which is to get as many other (like-minded) progressive people elected to parliament, then it’s certainly not perfectly sound.

  10. Mullholland must be in a pickle – actually getting people elected rather than the usual “Harold Stassen”-type result.

  11. Adam, if people won’t countenance optional preferential voting, a threshold quota is what the major parties will agree on and introduce, because that advantages them and disadvantages everyone else. This result is going to push the major parties to do something like a threshold quota, which means they can continue with silly games with preferences, but secure that they cannot reverse, as occurred at the 2004 Federal election with Family First and in Western Victoria with the DLP. Northern Metro is a slightly different case, as the DLP victory is just produced by stacking party results, not through the unexpected reversal of a preference deal. Though it is still a result that could not be produced by any other system.

    So, chalk this one up as another election when the outcome doesn’t express the will of the electorate, but reflects deals done between the parties. Bring in Optional Prefential Voting I say. If parties are forced to campiagn for votes, force them to campiagn for preferences as well, and not rely on these obscure backroom deals.

    There isn’t another electoral system in the world that could have converted the DLP’s 2.6% in Western Victoria into a seat in Parliament. The DLP is elected on the preferences of Family First, National Party, Liberal Party and Labor Party, all parties that easily outpolled its vote. Odd don’t you think?

  12. Ben did not say which seat he was talking about.

    Yes, the only goal of the ALP is to get ALP candidates elected. The ALP has no interest in helping the Greens win seats. It is a matter of indifference to me which non-Labor parties win which seats. If the Greens want seats they can do the work to get the votes to win them, just as we do.

    In 2004 the deal with FF was the best tactic to win three Senate seats. It fell through because the public didn’t like our federal leader and as a result we didn’t get enough primary votes (and nor did the Greens). If in 2007 it seems that the best way for Labor to win three Senate seats is to do another deal with FF, I would support doing the deal again.

  13. And lets add, Labor may have got the DLP up in Western Victoria, but what was the other leg of the deal? Labor got a fourth seat in Western Metropolitan on DLP preferences. The Greens miss two seats, the DLP get 1, Labor gets 1.

  14. Yes, but what threshold? A quarter of a quota? Half of a quota? I’m sure the major parties will make it as high as possible.

    Then you set up dummy parties to split a minor party’s vote in the hope of pushing them below a quota.

    And another point. The DLP polled 1.17%, 1.07% and 0.89% in the three regions where they were to the right of the Labor Party on the ballot paper. In the five regions where they were to the left of Labor on the ballot, they polled 5.14% (with donkey in NMET), 2.64, 2.13, 1.55 and 1.16. Interesting.

  15. Something is a miss about Northern Metro.. Will the VEC be publishing the below-the-line preference data? If not then the conduct of the election will again be held in disrepute. I am totally opposed to the introduction of an undemocratic and just artfical quata system. You mifght as well bulid in a 25% quota and lock the greens out also. The fact ios that it is the all parties and teh voters that have decided to elect a party that comes from behind. An artifical quota barrier is discrimatory and unjust. If introduced iut would be a blight on then Australian political system and the end
    to the ideal of a fair go mate. Fix the distortions in the voting ssystenm first and foremost. Two wrongs do not make a right.


  16. I don’t know why some people refer to the DLP as a far right party. I haven’t looked at their policies lately, but growing up in the Latrobe Valley and attending a Catholic school I knew quite a few DLP people and their views were mainstream or left wing except on social issues.

    I think it’s actually a good result for Labor. They will get nearly all of their legislation through the upper house with either Greens or DLP support depending on the issue.

  17. I would support a 5% threshold as I have said several times. A party which can’t crack 5% in a multi-member seat doesn’t really deserve representation. 5% is less than a third of a quota so it can’t be said to be excluding parties with real public support.

    Yes of course you are right about the left-right donkey vote. We tried in 1955 to stop the DLP using the word “Labor” but we lost in the Supeme Court and we are stuck with it. Blame Doc Evatt for that. The only solution is to have rotating ballots like they do (I believe) in Tasmania (or is it the ACT?), but of course that would push the informal vote up to 10% in working class seats so we are not going to do that.

  18. MelbCity, the question at the moment is actually about the ATL tickets and whether the counting system has an error. As of 9:30 tonight, the parties will be given CD-ROMs containing the detailed counts in each region. The full reports are huge and produced by a particularly un-web friendly report program. One thing you can be sure of, the Labor Party has its best LC people on standby to dissect North Metro.

  19. Adam you say “the ALP and the Democrats chose, for perfectly sound tactical reasons, to do preference deals with Family First by which they preferenced FF ahead of the Greens”.

    Was it perfectly sound to risk giving Howard control of the Senate via Fielding ? Howard’s subsequent IR reforms, VSU & cross media legislation are a direct result of this deal. Labor is directly responsible for the situation that let them happen.

    Now we see Labor do again – and yes, they said “it couldn’t happen”. Labor preferences elected no Green, but the Greens elected Labor at least in SM, possibly in WM too. Golly gosh, it really is a one way street, and not at all representative of voter intentions.

    The DLP get elected with 2.64% primaries and the Greens don’t with 8.58%. I think the Greens would do well to consider not dancing with devil(s) and just running split tickets across the board.

    And we need to reform the ATL system so that these sort of grubby deals can’t happen. This is a travesty of democracy.

  20. So you’re saying that the ALP is more interested in making itself bigger rather than ensuring better legislation (i.e. no VSU or Media/Comms legislation) for Victoria and Australia? By extending that, it sounds as if you’re suggesting the ALP is there to exist for itself rather than for the people. That may be the case (and if the ALP wants that as its modus operandi it’s welcome to it) but if a political party no longer exists for the people, the people may in turn may no longer exist for that political party.

    Honestly, I do struggle to think that, given the option, you’d choose another FF deal over repealing the VSU and Media/Comms legislation. If that’s the general feeling in the ALP, then it truly has become a machine.

  21. I have written to the VEC requesting a copy of all the below the line preference data files. Only with this information can the results of the election be verified. The data-file is a public document and there is no reason why this information is not published and made available for public scrutiny and review without delay.

  22. Adam, not a fixed %. Go for a part quota. 5% for a Senate contest might be OK, but at a double dissolution would be more than two-thirds of a quota.

    Mind you, one problem of a threshold in Hare-Clark style voting is at what point do you exclude all the other candidates. Say one party gets 2.95 quotas and the other gets 2.2, and all the excluded parties had directed preferences to the first party. You bulk exclude the minors, that first party gets it’s third quota, then all the minor party preferences elect the second party who they did not direct preferences to. Perverse.

    The only solution is to exclude them before anyone is elected, to effectively top up the major party votes before starting to elect people. Well, why bother with Hare-Clark and preferences if you do that. South Australia had a system like that in the 1970’s, D’Hondt with one preference. It’s the Group Ticket Votes that create the problem and the way the parties behave. Fix that, don’t change the rest of the system to avoid the problem.

  23. I believe the cause of the Australian people is best served by having one broad centre-left party, and that that party can only be Labor. Fringe parties to our left only do us harm and Labor has no interest (in either sense of the word) in helping them.

    I also believe that the environmental movement has made a fundamental mistake in turning themselves from an effective mass movement and lobbying force into an ineffective fringe political party, which has been colonised by all the leftovers of the 1970s far left and serves mainly to discredit environmentalism.

  24. Antony, OK, it could be expressed as a % of a quota. Say a quarter of a quota.

    I’m not nearly as across the technicalities of this as you are. My assumption is that you would declare those with a quota on the first count elected, then distribute their surpluses, then declare those elected by that surplus elected, and so on, until no-one has a quota. THEN you would exclude all lists that didn’t have a quarter-quota and distribute their votes. What’s wrong with that?

  25. My example above has some inaccuracies but explains how much of problem it is to fit a threshold onto Hare-Clark.

    Remember this, all of the European PR systems that have a threshold use D’Hondt, Saint-Lauge or some variant. None of those PR systems use a quota. They are divisor based systems, so depending on how the vote divides up, a party can get elected on a very low vote. That’s why a threshold is used, to cut out this vagarie that can elect parties on very low votes.

    But a threshold on a quota based system? I’ll stand corrected but not sure I can immediately think of one.

  26. And furthermore I won’t be lectured on political purity by Greens, who are quite happy to do deals with the Libs when it suits them. That is of course their prerogative, but please spare us the blushing-virgin acts.

  27. Antony your example assumes that the introduction of a quota would have no effect on the behaviour of parties or voters, but of course it would. It would force minor parties to merge or rejoin the larger parties, thus prevention the scenario you set out. And people would know that by voting for microparties they were wasting their votes, so many fewer would do so.

  28. PeterP … Please get your facts right. Fielding voted against Howards IR reforms and has voted with Labour on most impoetant legislation.

  29. If we’d used a divisor based system similar to Europe the result would have been:

    ALP 17, Liberal 14, Greens 4, Nationals 2, Family First 2 and DLP 1

    This is a very close fit with the views of the electorate and there is little room for complaint.

  30. “I also believe that the environmental movement has made a fundamental mistake in turning themselves from an effective mass movement and lobbying force into an ineffective fringe political party, which has been colonised by all the leftovers of the 1970s far left and serves mainly to discredit environmentalism.”

    Right on the money mate – didn’t Garret leave the NDP ’cause Marxists had decided to colonise?

  31. Ah yes Adam. I appeared before the JSCEM arguing the case for a minimum quota, along the lines you suggest. When I suggested that in states like WA, if the system worked against the Democrats and the Greens because they split a similar vote base, they didn’t like that.

    I’ll repeat the biggest problem with a threshold quota. If it wasn’t for group ticket voting, you wouldn’t need it, because without group ticket voting, the odd results that have elected two DLP members would hardly ever occur. Get rid of the group ticket voting or modify it in a way that causes parties to be more circumspect in who they give preferences to.

    Best case for me is abolish GTV, but allow optional preferential voting above the line. Force parties to encourage voters to direct preferences by filling in the boxes above the line, as occurs with the new NSW Legislative Council system.

  32. # Antony Green Says:
    As of 9:30 tonight, the parties will be given CD-ROMs containing the detailed counts in each region. The full reports are huge and produced by a particularly un-web friendly report program.

    Would this be the same format as for the Senate?- 1 “page” per “count”, with all votes carried by a candidate lumped together in the tables, followed by the number received at a cut-up and the number resulting? (and other things, incl. TV) The ones I have seen don’t have any dissection of the antecedents of the votes being transferred at any one stage, so it’s very hard to tell whose votes are on the move.

  33. Adam, unfortunately the Australian people currently have zero broad centre-left parties. Possibly why the environmental movement HAS gone from a mass movement to a political party.

    Additionally, if you’d learned you history from lectures rather than ALP spin, you’d know that historically the Liberals have preferenced the Greens in the inner city because it made the ALP work harder for the seat. You’d also know that the Greens have historically had a penchant for running open/split tickets regardless of any *deal*.

  34. Perhaps you could remind me what a divisor based system is.

    As I said the other night, my preference would be for statewide party-list PR with a 5% threshold. That would have produced the following result:

    ALP 19, Lib 15, Green 4, Nat 2

    (I have allowed the Nats to sneak up from 4.8 to 5.0, as I think they would in a statewide vote).

  35. Geoff, the reports published after an election are always an abbreviated version of the detailed count. I’ve seen the various versions of the detailed count and they extend to many hundreds of pages and break down each individual count, not the aggregated distributions published as part of the official return.

  36. jh, i learn my history from being there. I was in Qld in 1995 when Drew Hutton did a preference deal with the Libs in the hope of winning Mt Coot-tha. He didn’t win because the good folk of Mt Coot-tha wouldn’t wear him (and who can blame them?), but his rotten deal did bring down the Goss government and put those well known tree-huggers the Qld Nats back in power.

  37. Adam: The PR System we use (STV) is very rare. I think Australia, Malta and the powerless Irish Upper House use it ?

    Simple Divisor System (no threshold):
    – 100/40 Seats = 2.5% per seat.
    – Get party percentage, divide by 2.5%.
    – Round to nearest whole number.

    Many, many, countries use variants of this technique – and this is for forming government!

  38. Well let’s get this right.

    Labor destroyed an entirely sensible, rational way of electing the Legislative Council and turned the process binto an electoral lucky dip.

    This lucky dip delivered two DLP acolytes (and loyal Australian citizens) rather than another two ALP pot plants of the likes of Elaine Carbines.

    ALP citizens now whine like rogue hounds at a result (and essentially a system) that has delivered two people that, whatever their merits, don’t deserve to have the letters MLC after their names.

    Well I say too bad. The ALP rammed this absurd, fundamentally flawed sstem down the throats of victorian electors. Let the charming fool Evan Thornley earn an honest quid for once in his miserable life and let him negotiate Labor’s agenda with the DLP.

    The ALP deserves this ridiculous result. They destroyed the State’s elctoral system, now they should enjoy the fruits of their labour.

  39. 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. What a mess!" Could it be that the VEC has failed to take the Democrats’ split ticket into account?

  40. Instead of a quota for election, a system of divisors is used. The idea is to have a system where based on the number of votes each party receives, the party elects enough MPs so that each MP represents roughly the same number of voters. Quota based systems have the problem that it is easy to elect MPs for the full quotas, but how do you resolve the partial quotas.

    You put all the votes for each party in a table, and say I am using divisors 1,2,3,4,… (which I think is D’Hondt). Set up one line for each divisor, and the elements in each line are filled by dividing the total votes for each party by the divisor. Once this table is filled, you allocate the seats in order of the largest values in this table. Sounds hideously complex, but it effectively is an iterative process that works out the allocation of MPs so each MP ends up representing roughly the same number of voters, whatever their party.

    For technical reasons, the divisors (1,3,5,7, …) are more commonly used, as it is better at averaging votes. (I think this is Saint-Lague) For technical reasons, the D’Hondt method favours minor parties slightly over larger parties, and so Saint-Lague is used.

    Even more common is Modified Saint-Lague, which uses the first divisor 1.4 to make it slightly harder for a party to elect its first MP.

    This alls sounds hideously complex, but is in fact considerably easier than a Hare-Clark or Senate count, and is much much more widely used. It is the system used in New Zealand, Germany, Europe and nearly everywhjere that uses PR.

    These divisors mean there is no quota. The D’Hondt system that labor tried to implement in the ACT was in fact a complete hybrid, bastardised in the Senate. Both preferences and a quota were grafted onto thew system, which was why it took several months to count.

    Sorry, all confusing I know, but I’ve had to do that off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ve spelt Saint-Lague wrong.

  41. Andrew: I also hear it may be to do with the Democrat split ticket. The computer has allocated it to the DLP when the Liberal was excluded. Software bug. But that’s why party’s scrutineer counts, to find errors.

  42. I don’t recall any ALP whining, Isabella. I am the ALP member here and on the whole (as I have said several times), I am reasonably happy with the result, although it may well be that the North Metro count is flawed. The government has won a third term with a slightly reduced majority, and has an upper house that won’t cause us any real problems. You’re the one that’s doing all the complaining as far as I can see.

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