I will use this post to provide ongoing commentary of late counting in doubtful seats over the coming days/weeks.
UPDATE (27/3/07): Christian Kerr points to a slow count in today’s Crikey:
The ever-protracted count for the NSW Legislative Council election is likely to be even slower this time, with the Australian Electoral Commission refusing to authorise any more overtime for the AEC staff engaged for the count. There have been unprecedented levels of cooperation between the AEC and the NSW electoral authorities this election, but after just two days of preparing for the Upper House count over the weekend, the AEC has gone into a panic about the likely level of overtime, and has literally ordered its workers to take a “rest”. Counting will now finish each day at 5pm, with no approval for overtime to complete the count. With Easter imminent, this delay is likely to push back the announcement of the Upper House results substantially. The NSW Electoral Commission is understood to have expected the AEC to finish the Legislative Council count by Wednesday. The AEC told staff that the Electoral Commissioner has been informed that he will have to adjust his timetable. No amended timeframe for the conclusion of the count was suggested. A major outcry from furious Government, opposition and minor parties about the delay in finalising the count for the Upper House count in 2003, marred by slow counting and a total meltdown in the computer software used for calculating the results, saw new procedures adopted for the 2007 election. Efficiency was supposed to have been increased by the use of AEC staff in the count.
|Roy Smith (Shooters)
|Trevor Khan (Nationals)
|Arthur Chesterfield-Evans (Democrats)
|Janey Woodger (AAFI)
|Robert Smith (Fishing)
Sunday 3pm. I’m not doing too well here – I now realise the Legislative Council Summary figures I was just getting excited about have been little changed in the past week. They tell us of 3.3 million votes out of roughly 4 million in total, including 293,240 "other" votes that include (I believe) both informals and below-the-lines. The progressive totals figures show us the destination of 13,566 out of a probable total of about 80,000 below-the-line votes; from these the Democrats have polled 5.6 per cent and the Coalition 17.2 per cent, bearing in mind that not all of these votes will stay within the party ticket. Using these figures to extrapolate the as-yet-uncounted votes, I have the Democrats with a fractional lead over the Nationals’ Trevor Khan, but the margin is far too close (and the method far too crude) for anything to be stated with confidence.
Saturday 11pm. Okay, turns out all that effort on the previous entry was wasted. Because as well as the daily PDF file update, the NSWEC also has on its main page a different count with 3,278,467 votes. This includes 293,240 "other" votes, which probably means about 200,000 informals plus yet-to-be-counted below-the-line votes. There would be about 700,000 further to come. These figures show that the Shooters Party are home, while the gap between the Coalition and the Democrats has narrowed considerably. If the Coalition’s share continues to decline at the same rate as it did between the 1.9 million count and the 3.3 million count, the outcome will be very close indeed.
Saturday 10pm. A further 765,023 votes have been added, bringing the total to 1,938,396 out of a likely 4 million. This has resulted in a significant shift in the aggregate vote from the Coalition (down from 35.4 per cent to 34.4 per cent) to Labor (up from 40.4 per cent to 41.4 per cent). If there was reason to think that trend would continue, Labor’s number 10 candidate Barry Calvert might still be out of the hunt. However, aggregate lower house figures (Labor 39.0 per cent, Coalition 37.0 per cent) suggest that won’t be the case, even when taking into account the Coalition’s traditionally lower vote in the upper house (33.0 per cent against 35.0 per cent in 2003). In the meantime, the drop in the Coalition vote has reduced their surplus over the seventh quota from 0.78 to 0.56, almost enough to return the Nationals’ Trevor Khan to twenty-first place, with the Shooters Party up from 0.53 to 0.55.
Friday 8pm. The NSWEC has published a group and candidate votes report, based on the results of 1,168,246 group votes and 5,127 below-the-lines. The totals in 2003 were 3,721,457 and a bit over 70,000. Ben Raue says the two combined suggest the Nationals’ Trevor Khan has moved up a spot from 20 to 21; if this continues, the final spot looms as a race between the Shooters Party (0.53 quotas), Unity (0.35), the Democrats (0.35) and AAFI (0.30), with the Fishing Party slowly but surely headed for the exit (don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out, Bob Smith).
Friday 3pm. Props to Upperhouse.info for pointing out the following message from the NSWEC: "Legislative Council progressive totals will be provided daily in this directory from the evening of Friday 30 March 2007".
Sunday 5pm. The raw numbers at present look straightforward enough: Labor 9, Coalition 8, Greens 2, CDP 1, Shooters Party 1. However, Stephen L in comments cautiously offers that the Democrats (and perhaps also AAFI and the Fishing Party) might do well enough on below-the-lines and preferences to stay in the hunt against the Nationals’ Trevor Khan, eighth Coalition candidate and Poll Bludger fan.
Wednesday 2am. One more change of lead in the final strait has given Greg Piper a 106-vote win after the full distribution of preferences.
Monday 2.30pm. Another 940 absent votes have produced yet another change of lead, Jeff Hunter now ahead by 65 votes. Antony Green notes in comments that the closest outcome in modern times was the Liberals’ eight-vote win in Coogee in 1973; this was overturned on a legal challenge, and Labor won the ensuing by-election by 54 votes.
Monday 1.30pm. The lead changes again after the addition of 496 further absent votes, which have put Greg Piper 44 votes in front.
Friday 5pm. In an exciting late-count development, Greg Piper has done very poorly from the addition of 1,988 absent votes (23.7 per cent compared with 30.7 per cent overall), which have turned Labor incumbent Jeff Hunter’s 272-vote deficit into a 22-vote lead.
Thursday 10pm. More than 3000 postal votes and about 700 further pre-polls added; still no absent votes. Greg Piper’s lead has changed little, from 263 to 272.
Wednesday 9pm. Excellent account of today’s slow progress from Sally McEwan in comments, along with informed talk of deep Labor pessimism.
Tuesday 4.30pm. Very good call yesterday from Sally McEwan the second batch of pre-polls has been very similar to the first, barring a slightly higher primary vote for the Liberals. This boosted Greg Piper’s lead by 243 votes; however, 122 "Dec Inst" votes have reeled him in slightly, going 59-15 in Labor’s favour. Piper’s lead is now 263, but with well over 5000 postal and absent votes pending, it’s still too close to call.
Monday 11.30pm. Sally McEwan corrects my previous description of Carey Bay as a conservative area: "Carey Bay pre-poll is different from Carey Bay conservative lakeside waterfront booth … The remainder of the pre-poll votes will favour Piper in the same proportion or greater".
Monday 10pm. Partial pre-poll results have been posted, 999 votes out of what scrutineer Sally McEwan says is about 2000. These votes are "a mix of Cooranbong and Carey Bay", which is to say they include the much touted Seventh Day Adventist community, along with another conservative area. As expected, these votes have strongly favoured Greg Piper, whose 158-vote deficit has turned into a lead of 64. This sounds a little disappointing from Piper’s perspective, because the remainder of the pre-polls will presumably be strong for Labor. Next comes about 3000 absent votes and 2250 postals these differed only slightly from the polling booth results in 2003, though Labor’s vote was notably a little lower and the "others" a little higher.
Monday 2.30pm. Looks like those Dora Creek votes for Piper stayed missing – his tally there has gone from 533 to 508. No word yet on pre-polls.
Monday 4am. A scrutineer at the count, Sally McEwan, says in comments she can "confirm the expected advantage to Independent Piper from the pre-poll votes from Cooranbong". These votes "will be counted and distributed tomorrow". McEwan also reports that "24 or so Piper votes" from the Dora Creek booth are "missing", "leading to extra State Electoral officers being called from Sydney for a reconstruction of the Dora Creek booth tomorrow".
Sunday 5pm. Labor incumbent Jeff Hunter leads independent Greg Piper by 158 votes. That would normally be difficult to close, given Labor’s organisational efficiency with respect to pre-poll and postal voting. However, Lake Macquarie has the quirk of the Seventh Day Adventist community at Cooranbong, which produces a big flow of mostly conservative pre-poll votes due to its observation of the Sabbath on Saturday. In 2003, Labor polled 795 votes (34.2 per cent) to the Liberals’ 1173 (52.4 per cent) on pre-polls, compared with overall totals of 54.9 per cent and 30.7 per cent. Pre-polls accounted for 5.1 per cent of the total vote; also still to come are the less quirky absent (7.3 per cent) and postal (5.3 per cent) votes. The latter might go a little better for Labor than last time, as consciousness of their danger might have resulted in a better organised postal vote campaign.
Wednesday 2am. The margin widened to 64 votes after completion of the full preference distribution.
Friday 3pm. The notional preference count has been completed, and it points to a 19-vote Liberal victory. However, a "proper" preference count will now follow, and these can turn up anomalies. For example, the primary vote recount cut Chris Baumann’s vote by five votes and Jim Arneman’s by six (UPDATE: And more pertinently, as Geoff Lambert points out in comments, there were variations of up to five votes at individual booths).
Thursday 10pm. Absent and postal votes are now coming in at a fair clip, and while it’s still extremely close, the trend has been with the Liberals. Antony Green‘s regular updates show how Labor candidate Jim Arneman’s lead narrowed and then disappeared in late afternoon counting, with the Liberals’ Chris Baumann currently ahead by 56 votes.
Tuesday 8pm. Not much progress today: polling booth re-check completed and 213 "Dec Inst" votes added, increasing the Labor lead from 76 to 86.
Monday 10pm. Either Port Stephens has had an extraordinarily high number of section votes, or the pre-polls have been entered on the wrong line I will assume the latter. There are 1,244 of them and they have tipped the see-saw back towards the Liberals, whose deficit has narrowed from 153 votes to 76. However, the 2003 figures suggest Labor should do better on absent and postal votes. Slow progress on the polling booth re-check for some reason.
Monday 4am. The Daily Telegraph reports confident noises from a Liberal scrutineer, as "many votes were exhausting because of a decision by the Greens not to preference Labor". Conversely, the Australian Financial Review reports that "Labor strategists are sounding increasingly confident".
Sunday 5pm. Labor’s Jim Arneman was 153 votes behind the Liberals’ Chris Baumann at the close of counting last night, but is now 111 votes ahead. Pre-poll and postal figures from 2003 are probably no guide, as the seat was less fiercely contested last time.
Friday 9.30pm. Those two-candidate figures quoted in the Herald have now been posted on the NSWEC site.
Thursday 10pm. Yesterday, the Newcastle Herald told us that "an Electoral Commission notional distribution showed Ms McKay on 13,793 votes and Cr Tate on 13,430". Today it reported that "preliminary counts show that Cr Tate would gain more than 2000 votes on McKay once preferences are distributed". On present indications, that would leave him about 700 votes in arrears.
Tuesday 2am. The NSWEC reveals nothing of the two-candidate preferred count that has evidently been conducted between Jodi McKay and John Tate, but the Sydney Morning Herald reports Tate conceding he is 700 votes behind. Morris Iemma is claiming victory.
Monday 4am. Yesterday’s recheck of first preferences from polling booths has increased Tate’s tally by 18 and reduced McKay’s by 12. The aforementioned Anthony Llewellyn says: "having reviewed the results in total now, my guess is a McKay win over Tate by around 500 … Gaudry will not pull ahead of Tate (of this I am now very confident)". The Sydney Morning Herald reports Labor "has become more confident".
Sunday 5pm. Still anybody’s guess as far as I can see. There is a 2.6 per cent gap between John Tate (24.1 per cent) and Bryce Gaudry (21.5 per cent), which might be closed with preferences from the Greens (11.2 per cent), who directed to Gaudry. Last night’s NSWEC notional preference count assumed Gaudry rather than Tate would finish second; if that is so, Labor’s Jodi McKay will win quite comfortably. If not, the race between McKay and Tate will come down to unpredictable preference flows. Last night, reader Anthony Llewellyn provided a preference breakdown from a booth at which he was scrutineering: if this is applied consistently, Tate emerges ahead with 12,792 votes to 12,327 (not counting preferences from the CDP and three other independents, who collectively account for 915 votes). However, Llewellyn also spoke of better preference flows for Labor at other less conservative booths.
Thursday 8pm. Paul Stephenson has conceded defeat after being buried by absent and postal votes, widening the lead to 975. This entry, and the figures above, will not be further updated.
Tuesday 2pm. A further 670 pre-polls have gone rather better for Goward than the previous two batches, increasing her lead by 10 votes. Even better for her are the 154 "Dec Inst Votes" (declaration and/or institution?), which have run 70-31 in her favour.
Monday 10pm. I was mistaken to say all the pre-polls were in – it was in fact only about half. The newly added second batch was not quite as bad for Goward as the first, but it still cost her another 40 votes or so.
Monday 2.30pm. Pre-polls are in (all of them, or almost all), and they are surprisingly poor for Goward – she has polled 35.7 per cent compared with her 39.8 per cent of ordinary votes, while Paul Stephenson has 30.6 per cent compared with 25.1 per cent. If preferences follow the same pattern, this will narrow the gap by 134 votes to a little over 300. In 2003, pre-polls were 5.6 per cent of the total – still to come are absents (8.8 per cent), postals (5.6 per cent) and a few others (0.7 per cent).
Monday 4am. Yesterday’s recheck of first preferences from polling booths appears to have unearthed 38 extra votes for Stephenson and only one for Goward. It appears that Goward is better placed than it seemed on election night due to an across-the-board increase in "plumped" voting (numbering one box and then exhausting) at this election.
Sunday 5pm. An updated count (polling booths only) has seen Pru Goward’s lead after preferences increase from 311 votes last night to a fairly handy 455. Talk of the Labor candidate beating Paul Stephenson into second place on preferences has faded.
Friday 9.30pm. The NSWEC has finally unveiled its notional Labor-versus-independent two-candidate preferred, which shows Frank Terenzini a comfortable 584 votes ahead. That wraps it up for my coverage of this seat.
Thursday 10pm. This count has stayed on ice for some reason, at least as far as the NSWEC website is concerned, but the ABC reports Labor is more than 1,000 votes ahead.
Tuesday 2pm. Very slow progress in the count, but Morris Iemma has claimed victory for Labor.
Monday 4am. The Sydney Morning Herald reports Labor "has become more confident".
Sunday 5pm. As with Newcastle, this is one that will depend on preference flows we don’t know about yet because the notional count was Labor-versus-Liberal, rather than Labor-versus-Peter Blackmore. For what it’s worth, the primary vote figures (Blackmore 27.1 per cent, Labor 39.8 per cent, Liberal 20.1 per cent) are similar to those Pru Goward faces in Goulburn (Paul Stephenson 25.0 per cent, Liberal 39.9 per cent, Labor 22.4 per cent). The difference being that Blackmore will need a strong flow of preferences from the Liberals, while Stephenson will need them from Labor. Can anyone suggest if supporters of one party or the other are more dutiful with respect to how-to-vote instructions?
Wednesday 8pm. With most postals and about 600 absent votes now in, any remaining doubt is now gone. Fardell’s lead has now widened to 680 votes, or 0.9 per cent. No further updates will be added to this entry.
Tuesday 4.30pm. Pre-poll figures are now up at the NSWEC site, and they tell a different story to the Financial Review 2318 for Dawn Fardell and 2177 for the Nationals, widening Fardell’s lead to a surely unassailable 521.
Tuesday 2am. It falls to the Australian Financial Review to inform us that "two-thirds of the pre-poll votes have been counted, according to the returning officer. The results have favoured Nationals challenger Greg Matthews, who garnered 1495 of the pre-poll votes on offer while 1453 went to incumbent independent Dawn Fardell". These results are yet to appear on the NSWEC site. However, this makes only a modest dent in what had been a 401-vote lead.
Monday 2.30pm. Re-checking of polling booth first preferences has now been completed, giving a 42-vote boost to Dawn Fardell. Most notably, 37 votes have been deducted from the Nationals at the Forbes booth.
Sunday 5pm. Independent candidate Dawn Fardell leads Nationals candidate Greg Matthews by 401 votes. The precedent of 2003, when then-independent member Tony McGrane did somewhat less well on non-ordinary than polling booth votes (from a near identical vote total to Fardell’s), suggests this could yet narrow.