Photo finish: McEwen

2007 2004
Booths 37,572
Pre-Poll 3,242
Absent 4,335
Postal 3197
Provisional 70
Total 48,416
ALP (adjusted) 50.0
LIB (adjusted) 50.0

Saturday evening. This post will be used to follow the final stages of the count in McEwen, where at the close of election night counting the ABC computer has Liberal incumbent Fran Bailey 0.2 per cent ahead of Labor candidate Rob Mitchell. On raw figures from the AEC Mitchell is 0.4 per cent ahead, but the Liberals had a relatively stronger performance on absent, pre-poll and postal votes in 2004.

Sunday evening. About 70 per cent of pre-polls have been counted, showing basically the same swing as the booth results. So Fran Bailey’s adjusted lead remains on 0.2 per cent.

Monday 10pm. As in neighbouring La Trobe, counting of postal votes (3,309 out of perhaps 8000) has delivered a huge boost to the Liberals. So far 2063 Liberal votes have been counted compared with 1246 for Labor, a swing to Liberal of 1.62 per cent from 2004. On raw figures this has turned Fran Bailey’s 315 deficit into a 502 vote surplus, and boosted her adjusted lead from 0.2 per cent to a formidable 0.6 per cent.

Tuesday 4pm. No new figures added so far today, but The Australian reports Labor has been “buoyed by the discovery of about 3000 votes wrongly sent to neighbouring Scullin. The ALP believes the votes may be from the working-class urban end of the electorate and may strengthen challenger Rob Mitchell’s position”.

Tuesday 11pm. No sign in the count of any undiscovered votes saving Labor’s bacon here. Instead we have 2688 newly added postal votes breaking 1527-1161 Fran McEwen’s way, giving her an 862 vote lead that might be deemed decisive if it weren’t for the lingering promise of those undiscovered votes.

Friday 3pm. Not sure if this has anything to do with those legendary missing Scullin votes, but Labor has done amazingly well from the counting of 2070 absent votes, slashing McEwen’s lead from 862 votes to 396.

Saturday 6pm. Another coup for Labor with a further 1007 postals going 640-367 their way, slashing the lead to just 111. It seems those absent votes from the previous entry were indeed the Scullin 2000 of legend, having been lodged as absentee votes at a booth near the boundary in Epping and sent to the wrong centre. About 4000 more absent votes remain to be counted, but these will presumably not behave the same way as those from the Epping booth, which come from a Labor-friendly area. It cannot thus be assumed that the strong trend to Labor will be maintained (although comments thread chat suggests the bulk of remaining absent votes were in fact lodged in neighbouring Labor electorates). If anyone’s interested, I’ve corrected a spreadsheet error that was inflating the Liberals’ “adjusted” two-party score.

Saturday 11pm. Another 2823 pre-polls have boosted Bailey’s lead by 39 votes.

Tuesday 11pm. A long-delayed addition of 4820 votes has gone against the much smaller earlier batch to break slightly in Bailey’s favour, increasing her lead by 34 votes. Still more bad news for Labor from booth vote re-checking, which has cost Mitchell 61 votes and Bailey only 32.

Wednesday 8pm. A further 1020 pre-poll votes have split almost evenly, increasing Bailey’s lead from 190 to 194.

Thursday 8pm. The contest has again come to life with 1034 absent votes breaking 569-465 Mitchell’s way, with a further 800 still unaccounted for. With re-checking also costing Bailey 23 and Mitchell breaking even, there are now just 82 votes in it.

Friday 8pm. Mitchell continues to barnstorm home, with a new batch of postals going 113-67 his way and pre-polls going 212-202. Re-checking has turned up eight votes for Bailey and five for Mitchell. Bailey now leads by 32. Still unaccounted for: 423 absent votes, 59 pre-polls and 78 postals. Samantha Maiden of The Australian reports that “an estimated 300 votes” remain to be counted.

Saturday 9pm. Good Lord. The final votes are in, pending a recount, and the last few absent votes have broken 100-93 in favour of Rob Mitchell, postals have gone 37-21 his way, pre-polls have favoured him to the tune of 33-23, and further rechecking of booth votes have cost Bailey 14 and Mitchell eight. The results: Mitchell by seven votes in the closest federal election result in modern memory. This post will now be shutting up shop – commenters might like to take their business to the new post.

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.

113 comments on “Photo finish: McEwen”

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  1. Big issue in McEwen over the how to vote card for Bailey The last number on the Bailey card was a 7 printed in italics. Nearly 300 Bailey voters couldn’t decide whether this was a 1 or a 7. The result was that nearly 300 votes for Bailey were classed as informal. Sheezel approved the how to vote card and now has egg on his face. Believe me the returning officer used a magnifying glass to determine whether many of the Bailey votes were a 1 or a 7. Watch this space.

  2. The HTV would clearly be the party’s fault, it’s their own responsibility to ensure their voters know how to vote correctly for their candidate

  3. The problem the returning officer has to decide whether its a 1 or a 7 on several disputed votes. As you know some people when they indicate a 1 they put a little inflection on the top. That’s why the vote has taken so long at McEwen

  4. The problem the returning officer has to decide whether its a 1 or a 7 on several disputed votes. As you know some people when they indicate a 1 they put a little inflection on the top. That’s why the vote has taken so long at McEwen. Returning officer and scrutineers have the same the problem in oth electorates. It is just that when it comes down to a few votes it becomes more critical.

  5. Watcher writes: The problem the returning officer has to decide whether its a 1 or a 7 on several disputed votes.

    Wouldn’t a problem of that kind affect votes from both candidates, Watcher?



  6. Oliver says: Are you sure they’re all counted? The AEC site seemed a bit inconclusive

    Hi Oliver. The only real discrepancy on the website is a single vote that appears to be mislocated in either the “Postal” or “pre-Poll list. Not enough to change the vote and probably simply a “clerical error”.

      Absent Provisional Pre-Poll Postal Total
    Envelopes Issued 9528 1091 7276 9379 27274
    Envelopes Received 9528 1091 7276 7790 25685
    Rejected at Preliminary Scrutiny 877 949 292 373 0
    Ballot Papers Counted 8651 142 6983 7418
    remaining to count? (approx) 0 0 1 -1

    (Sorry if that didn’t line up)

    The discrepancy between Postals issued and postals received occurs simply because some people obtain them but don’t use them, and others arrive beyond the time limit.




    7 votes in the news.

    rod at 107:

    It would but it means that ability of the scruitineers to argue for the inclusion/exclsusion of doubtful ballots comes into play. Perhaps more important making sure you watch every ballot counted to make sure no possible informals go into the opponents pile. So the candidate with the best scruitineers will prolly win when it comes down to a margin as small as this.

  8. Some of us might say they were already clearly more than a bit befuddled if the Lib HTV card was the one they were relying on, GG! 😉



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