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”

  1. Antony, I think I prefer the Speaker’s explanation on the whole. Just tell me – is the Netherlands an example of what you are describing?

  2. I could understand to some extent people crying foul if the preference “deals” done in this election were totally across idealogical boundaries. But they weren’t. I think everyone is forgetting that the Labor party gave birth to the DLP. They share the same “surname” and their “Christian” name is “Democratic”, which the Labor party is not when it comes to traditional family and moral values. Witness the expulsion of Brian Harridine from the party. However, they do share all of Labors hard fought social justice positions.

    As someone on this blog said. Labor needs both wing to fly. This result delivers them both in balance, and will allow the discriminating issues to be debated demactratically by the Parliament instead of by “faceless men”.

    The fact that the DLP got elected on a small primary count is evidence of the fact that the conservative leaning parties preferred the DLP to the left. Is someone going to tell me that this would not reflect the will of the majority of conservative voters. And fortunately because CPV applied to the majority of the votes through the conservative tickets, that will was expressed.

    Of all those crying foul about this result, how many voted for a conservative party?

  3. The speaker’s explanation is wrong. He is actually calculating a quota first and then allocating seats. His ’rounding to nearest number’, or the alternative ‘largest remainder’ method, cause problems in the average number of MPs each party elects given its level of vote, which is why Quota systems have generally been abandoned and divisor systems used.

  4. Ummmmm, if they gave birth, it was a pretty violent birth, and it won’t take long for others to toss in extremely colourful metaphors which I’m too tasteful to air.

  5. Antony I still don’t know what a divisor is.

    In the Netherlands there are 150 seats and they are allocated to the parties so that each party has as near as possible the same % of seats as they get % of votes. Is that a quota or a divisor? Does it matter?

  6. Adam, that’s right, but they use divisors to allocate the seats to create the proportionality, not a quota to work out the number of seats for each party. The efect of this is there is no minimum quota for election. How the seats get allocated depends on how the vote is split up between parties. There’s a whole literature on the subject almost unknown in Australia, because everyone has grown up here with ‘quota preferential’ methods to resolve the partial quota problem.

  7. “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.”
    As Mr Green said – interesting – why do we not eliminate this by printing ballot papers which evenly distribute poll position, so to speak. A statistical anomaly at 1.17%, but a considerable distortion at 5.14%?

  8. That seems a totally metaphysical distinction Antony. If there are 150 seats then the quota is 0.67% of the vote (assuming no threshold), so if you get 6.7% of the vote you get 10 seats. And looking at the recent Dutch election that’s exactly what happened. I don’t see the complexity you seem to want to drag into the explanation.

  9. If the DLP does win North Metro, does that mean that John Mulholland will finally (it’s been so long) have the cash to move out of his mum’s house?

  10. Adam, the ALP has not been even remotely left-wing since Witlam with most policies. As for the Greens being colonised by the far left, most of them left years ago. And the Greens have NEVER preferenced the Libs over the ALP. Had a split or open ticket, yes, but never directt preferences.

  11. Adam, because it’s easy with 150 seats. try it with 15 and its not hard to find examples where proportionality is distorted. As I said, that’s why divisors are used. That’s how list PR systems work in most countries.

  12. Bernice, because that would destroy the effectiveness of the how-to-vote card, and produce an informal vote of 10% or more in working-class and migrant areas, which would grossly disadvantage Labor. That doesn’t happen in the ACT or Tasmania because they don’t have wide class or ethnic disparities. But in Victoria where we have a class-and-ethnically-polarised electorate, it would have a huge political effect.

  13. Dave, you are wrong. The Greens preferenced the Libs AND the Nats in key seats in Qld in 1995, thereby electing the Borbidge Govt. Am I not right, Antony?

  14. Dave, before Adam jumps on you, you should realise the Greens haven’t preferenced the coalition in Victoria, but have in other parts of Australia (Qld 95, not sure if it was any other time, though).

  15. The NMET result is a bit of a mystery without seeing the figures. It seems to me (based on the out VEC web site figures which are from Monday), that the DLP must have got over the line helped by the People Power GVT (despite PP being second on the ALP GVT ). I wonder how many of those PP voters really preferred the DLP candidates to the ALP ones. Similarly, in WVIC, I wonder how many ALP voters preferred DLP to Greens. There is probably good grounds to contest these results because (on the evidence available to me), it seems the VEC did not comply with Section 73A(1) of the Electoral Act 2002 – “(1) If a group voting ticket is, or group voting tickets are, registered for the purposes of a Council election, the Commission must cause the ticket or tickets to be prominently displayed at the election day voting centres in a manner determined by the Commission”. Voters had no idea who they were voting for but had this section been complied with, at least some of them would have had more idea how ATL votes translated and may well have voted BTL.

    Re: quotas: Please, no! The problem is GVTs – just get rid of them. They were introduced to reduce informal voting in the Senate, but we don’t have the crazy Senate formality rules in the Legislative Council (thank goodness). Of course the parties (and particularly the factions) love GVTs. Ironically, if we had had Hare Clark (by that I mean Quota-Preferential counting + Robson Rotation like in Tasmania and the ACT) the ALP would have most likely won instead of the DLP (or Greens) in WVIC. Their votes would have been more spread out over their candidates and three of them may well have had more votes than the Greens, leading to the Greens being excluded and 3 ALP seats. Similarly, without regimented voting for non-ALP parties, leakage would very likely have got up a third ALP candidate in NMET.

  16. Oops, too late, he got in just before me.

    Adam, I’d contend that reducing (or destroying) the effectiveness of HTV cards isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  17. BTW I am talking about Vic Greens, not the other branches, we dont influece each other. So maybe Drew did pref the Libs, I have never agreed with a lot of the things the QLD branch does.

  18. Adam,

    I can’t believe some of the things you say here… Seriously I thought you would have had a few more scruples.

    You don’t have to give up all your principles when you join the ALP… you can retain some you know.

  19. Dave, the only reason the Greens and the Libs didn’t get into bed this time was that they couldn’t agree on who was going to be on top. If the Libs had promised you prefs in Melbourne and Richmond you would’ve given them whatever they wanted, but they wouldn’t commit so the deal fell through. And let me repeat I have NO OBJECTION to that. All parties do deals that suit them, and the voters judge them accordingly. It’s this pious hypocrisy I object to.

  20. Dinesh, which principles have I given up? So far I have opposed disenfranchising working class people and defended the right of all parties to do whatever deals they like to maximise their vote.

  21. PeterP get your facts straight. Senator Fielding voted against the IR laws, and he only has the casting vote when Senator Joyce crosses the floor.

    No one complained when Senator Brown was first elected with only 26,830 votes. Senator Fielding got 56,376 primary votes. No one suggested the Greens or Tasmania was over represented back in 1996.

    The rules are the same for all parties…..get over it.

  22. I don’t know about you Antony, but I always like to know who is going to be on top. And if I was dating Julian Cheezle I’d want it all in writing first.

  23. Adam, can you tell me if above where you said “I won’t be lectured on political purity by Greens, who are quite happy to do deals with the Libs” if you made a mistake and meant the singular “deal” (i.e. Qld 95) or if there are other deals the Greens have done with the Libs that I’m not aware about (this is a distinct possibility as most people on here would know more about the Greens history than me). At least you’ve finally agreed that they didn’t actually do a deal with the Libs this time.

    Instead of disenfranchising 10% of the electorate, you’re happy to disenfranchise 40% (or whatever the ALP primary vote is REALLY up to at the moment) by helping elect FF and the DLP.

  24. Let me repeat: I have no objections to any party doing any deals with any other party to maximise their chances, provided they do it openly so voters know what they are voting for. The deal with FF in 2004 was the best way of electing three ALP Senators, which was the ONLY consideration the Vic ALP had any right to take into account. Had the federal Caucus not had a temporary fit of insanity and elected Latham as leader, the deal would have come off and there would be no criticism. It is in the nature of preference deals that they sometimes don’t come off, but political parties nevertheless have to run that risk. As I said before, if the same calculations produce suggest that the same deal will work in 2007, I am all for it. If Labor voters don’t like it, they can always vote BTL.

  25. “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”

    Have they never heard of ‘risk assessment’? We all know that hindsight is 20-20, but *everyone* knew that outright control of the senate was on the table after the 2001 half senate results and the ALP (and the Dems) adopted a tactic that could easily assist the Coalition have a practical majority. You say above that ‘the only goal of the ALP is to get ALP candidates elected’ which on the face of it is absolutely true and should be extended with the corollary ‘and if ALP candidates can’t get up, they don’t care what happens to the country.’

    As for the history you learned form ‘being there’ (is it unkind of me to be thinking of a certain movie when I write that?) there’s a couple of things you’ve perhaps forgotten about 1995, not least of which is just how hard the Goss government worked to destroy the support it enjoyed in post-Fitzgerald Qld.

    The defining issue in SEQ in that election was the Goss government’s determination to build a second southern freeway through a bunch of marginal seats they *had* to win and through the most significant koala habitat in SEQ. They were absolutely bloody-minded in their refusal to respond to the views of local residents or environmental groups – which rarely goes down well.

    On the day, there was a primary vote swing of 5.8% against the ALP leaving them with 42.9%. The Greens polled 2.9% state-wide and directed preferences against Labor in 5(?) out of 89 seats. A proverbial drop in the bucket, but when a government is as on the nose as Goss was, every drop counts I guess. Labor’s 2pp result was 46.7% (-7.8%) and a majority of one which was lost on a re-election, and the government fell when the sole independent supported the Coalition, which after all had won 53.3% of the 2pp. In hindsight, I think an argument could be made that it was (to borrow a phrase) ‘a sound strategic decision’ by the Greens.

    As for Hutton in Mt Cootha, he got over 24% of the primary vote which remains to this day the best result for a Green in a Qld election.


  26. The Greens never even considered preferencing Lib in Inner Melb no matter what was offered. Just because the ALP will sell its vote to the highest bidder doesn’t mean everyone else will. At least with the Libs you know where your prefs will probably go.

    Oh and Familyman, Bob Brown actually got a decent percentage of the vote, at least 10% I think, and people did complain, (and still do). As thhey also did about Brian Harridene. And Christine Milne. Try checking your facts first.

  27. Sorry to get all non-empirical etc. on this blog, but I’d also ask if you think the ALP’s goal at each election is to get as many people elected at that election only, or if they should also take future elections into account? Some people would argue that the ALP will lose voters at the next federal election because of the FF deal (I’m not saying whether they will or not) even if it did maximise their chances at the previous election.

  28. The correct spelling for his name is Julian Sheezel. You will find it on the “A vote for the Greens” leaflet attacking (and misrepresenting) Greens policies that he authorised, if you look very carefully.

    I find it interesting that both Labor (with their lies about “Greens preferencing the Liberals”) AND the Liberals (with their leaflets) both attacked the Greens for doing deals with “the other party”.

    It just goes to show they are both taking the Greens seriously and doing everything they can to reduce their primary vote. But in spite of this, the primary vote held up. What will they try next? More of the same I suspect.

    94% of the electorate did not vote for either Family First or the DLP. Labor is disenfranchising a clear majority of voters with their preference deals electing right wing parties. Not unexpected for the Liberals, but a bit harder to understand from Labor. What deals will Labor be prepared to do with the DLP? Maybe they will line up on not decriminalising abortion?

    Tomorrow’s newspapers will be interesting reading, as will the public reaction over the coming days.

  29. I’m all for OPV, on the grounds that a well-down-the-list preference that has to be coerced by the threat of informality of an otherwise formal vote isn’t likely to be a deeply considered or informed preference and the vote exhausting at that point is probably a more accurate reflection of the voter’s real intention. I also think people should have the right to not allocate their preferences when they get to the point where they cannot stand any of the candidates. (Though for me, going all the way through and deciding who to put dead last is the most enjoyable bit!)

    I rather like it how it is here in Tassie’s lower house – rotated ballots, optional preferencing once you’ve filled out the number of positions to be elected, no threshhold for election, no backroom preference deals, no how to vote cards. The only thing I would add is very large signs in every polling booth (or on the top of every ballot paper): “NUMBERING ALL THE SQUARES MAKES YOUR VOTE MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE”, or something of that kind.

  30. The position on the ballot paper was of double importance in Western Victoria. The ballot paper had a fold between rows F & G. With the DLP at row D and ALP at row I. Whilst all issuing clerks were instructed (at ALP insistence) to unfold ballot papers when they were issued, it can be reasonably assumed that busy clerks did not always do so, and that papers refolded themselves when being carried to the booth. Seeing as the result is so close, a reasonable dispute could be made that the fold caused voter confusion. People looking at only the front of a folded paper would only see “Labor” once, and that would be the DLP, not the ALP. Whilst the ballot draw does have an effect, it is something everyone has learned to live with, a decision at the printer which hides one party on the back of the ballot however, is a different story, and not foreshadowed in the legislation.
    Would this case win at Disputed returns?

  31. “As I said before, if the same calculations produce suggest that the same deal will work in 2007, I am all for it. ”

    Doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result. There’s a word for that isn’t there? :^)

  32. Speaking of Tully, I suspect when our friend MelbCity wakes up he’s going to have many words to say about him if there has been a mix-up in North Metro.

    Anyway since it seems only Queenslanders are still online (ie Me and Darryl Rosin – Greens candidate for my local electorate) I might go to bed and dream of elections and preferences.

  33. The ALP falsely claimed that the Greens had preferenced the Liberals, when of course they did not. No Liberal got elected because of any Greens preference decisions. On the other hand, Greens preferences to the ALP helped elect at least 13 ALP members. ALP preferences helped elect one DLP member, two Nationals members, and no Greens Both Greens won without any assistance whatsoever from ALP or Liberal preferences.

    Neither the ALP, Liberals or Nats gave the Greens any assistance at all. The Greens don’t seem to sell their souls entering into machiavellian preference deals like the ALP and DLP do.

  34. 1. People are responsible for their own votes. If they do not take the trouble to vote below the line or to find out what a No. 1 above the line means, they just have to live with the result – as does everyone else who doesn’t like it. All you had to do in 2004 to know that the ALP was preferencing Family First was to read a newspaper.

    2. List systems give too much power to party machines. Under STV, the voter has the power to choose between individual candidates in any order. If the voter does not exercise that power, see 1. Even though above the line voters hand this power to the party machines, it is better to keep the power available rather than make it impossible for the voter to choose. I believe that Tasmanian voters have long had the independence of mind to choose which individual candidates they want from their parties.

    3. List systems do not have preferences, so those who vote for small parties can be excluded from any say in the result, surely an unacceptable result in these days of inclusiveness.

    4. Setting a threshold seems to my non-technical mind to devalue the order of preferences of voters in that candidates with low initial scores would be excluded even though they are, overall, more highly preferred than others whose initial score is higher than theirs.

    5. There is a case for a smaller number of regions with a larger numbers of MLCs each to lower the quota and improve the representativeness of the system. The Liberals blew their chance to do this in 1973, 1985 and (I think) 2001. How possible this is now given the entrenched nature of PR reform I do not know. Given the Tasmanian experience in which both major parties ganged up on the Greens to lower the size of the House, I am certain self-interest will come into play.

    6. The system basically works to the extent that voters want it to work.

    7. Don’t forget the DLP is a Labor Party. I had a conversation with a past president of the DLP yesterday whose recollection is that the DLP MLCs voted with the ALP more often than with the Liberals from 1955 to 1958. I am sure that the ALP would prefer a majority in its own right, though there are advantages to a government in not controlling the Upper House in that it can moderate the demands of its own more uncompromising supporters. The ALP can negotiate with the Greens or the DLP, and life will go on.

    8. The DLP will have to prove itself. It held the balance of power in the Senate for much of the 1960s and early 1970s. After 1972, it failed to properly differentiate itself from the Opposition parties and thus lost all its seats in 1974.

  35. Am intrigued by Adam’s apparently simultaneous concern over disenfranchisement caused by rotating ballots and his defence of the most cynical of preference deals. Surely in an electorate where 10% of the voters require a map to find the box with their party’s name next to it, the fact that preference deals are public isn’t going to prevent a lot of voters inadvertently contributing to the election of candidates whose views are the opposite of the party they attempted to vote for.

    I like the optional-preferential above-the-line option system as a means of allowing voters to distribute preferences without going BTL.

    Am wondering if ballots rotated on a booth-by-booth basis might work to reduce the donkey issue wthout disenfranchising? I figure the parties should be able to handle the logistics of multiple versions of their how-to-votes if the booth-by-booth ballot orders were determined at the same time as the single order is currently drawn…

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