South Australian election late counting

A progressively updated post following the counting of over a quarter-of-a-million outstanding votes in South Australia’s cliffhanger election.


5.3pm. Further counting in Elder reversed the trend just noted, breaking 1485-1254 Labor’s way and putting the lead at 757, which is very likely more than the number of votes still outstanding. Counting also favoured Labor today in Ashford (347-287, increasing the lead to 820) and Newland (671-652, putting it at 656).

Noon. Declaration votes are flowing fairly strongly the Liberals’ way in Elder, a second batch breaking 528-429. That reduces the Labor lead to 526, and could send it below 300 if the trend continues.


8.30pm. The final score for the day from Colton shows Labor gained 1196-1078, putting Paul Caica’s lead at an unassailable 570 with perhaps 1000 votes remaining to be counted. The tide of late counting continued to flood the Liberals’ way in Hartley, today’s batch favouring Liberal candidate Vincent Tarzia over Grace Portolesi by 1685-1204, pushing his lead out to 1131.

5pm. A big addition of votes in Newland breaks 1426-1332, putting Labor’s Tom Kenyon 637 ahead and confirming his victory. In Mitchell, Labor clawed back 39 votes out of 3203 added, but it’s too little too late. Pretty much impossible now not to see a result of Labor 23, Liberal 22, independents two.

4.30pm. Labor has pulled a further 107 ahead with the addition of 1415 votes in Ashford, where Steph Key’s lead is now at 760 and unlikely to change much with perhaps 1000 votes still outstanding. Sykesie reports Labor now 588 ahead in Colton, with postals favouring the Liberals by an insufficient 52-48.

1.30pm. Well-informed commenter Sykesie relates that the morning’s counting in Colton has broken Labor’s way 349-262, putting Labor 539 votes in front and making life all but impossible for the Liberals. Their only hope of making it a twenty-third seat is an unlikely late reversal in Newland, where Labor leads by 543 with declaration vote counting still at an early stage, with about 4000 votes still to count.


11pm. It appears a move from postal to pre-poll counting also staunched the flow in Ashford, where Labor’s Steph Key now looks home and hosed after today’s batch broke only 728-720 to Liberal. This leaves Key 653 in front and projected to win by about 500. Nothing today from Elder or Newland.

6pm. Labor nerves will have steadied considerably with the addition of 970 votes in Colton, which I understand to be pre-polls. These have broken 491-479 in their favour and held their lead at 452. Projecting the existing declaration vote shares over an assumption of about 3000 outstanding votes, Labor emerges over 250 votes in the clear.

1pm. Mitchell continues to trend the Liberals’ way, 980 newly added votes breaking 563-417 and pushing the margin out from 373 to 519.


6pm. It appears the votes counted today were mostly if not entirely postal votes, and they are playing according to the script of favouring the Liberals by virtue of not reflecting the move back to Labor in the final week. On top of what was mentioned previously, today’s counting favoured the Liberals 808-634 in Ashford and 888-767 in Elder, and while that’s likely to be too little too late in Elder, the projected Labor win in Ashford comes down to double figures if the final declaration vote total is presumed to be 6000.

5pm. Encouraging first set of declaration vote numbers for the Liberals in Colton, breaking their way 556-425. If that trend were to play out over a total of 5000 declaration votes – 4000 having been the norm last time, but many more pre-polls apparently having been cast this time – the Liberals would finish about 100 in front. However, it may be that these are absent votes cast over the boundary in a Liberal-leaning part of the electorate, or representative of a particularly strong result for the Liberals on either postals, absent or pre-poll votes that won’t be replicated among the other vote types. UPDATE: I’m told on Twitter that these are postal votes. ECSA doesn’t do breakdowns of declaration votes, but in the corresponding federal seat of Hindmarsh, the Liberal two-party vote in September was 55.4% compared with 53.9% for pre-polls. Absent votes favoured broke 52-48 to Labor, but that’s unlikely to be instructive with respect to Colton.

4pm. The first 1424 added in the only seat that might get Labor to a majority, Mitchell, have broken 782-642 the Liberals’ way, increasing their lead from 233 to 373. If that keeps up, their winning margin will be around 800.

2pm. 1218 votes have been added in Newland, breaking 632-586 to the Liberals and reducing the Labor lead from 589 to 543. If that trend continues, the Liberals will only be able to wear away about 200 votes. However, trends in late counting can be variable, particularly in relation to pre-poll and absent votes which might be cast in particular parts of the electorate or neighbouring electorates. Unfortunately, ECSA doesn’t distinguish between different types of declaration vote in its published results.

Monday night

This post will follow the crucial late counting for the South Australian election, which has so far only dealt with re-checking of the polling booth votes counted on election night. Counting of an estimated 260,000 pre-poll and postal votes begins today, with the Liberals needing multiple miracles to boost them from their likely total of 22 to a majority of 24, and Labor hoping they might yet get there through what presently seems an unlikely win in Mitchell. Labor’s narrowest leads are of 571 votes in Colton (1.6%) and 589 votes in Newland (1.8%), while the Liberal lead in Mitchell is 233 (0.7%).

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.

390 comments on “South Australian election late counting”

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  1. As you say Outsider, LP would need to get 59% of outstanding votes to win Elder and that is unlikely. In a SA seat I would have said victory by 200 to 250 votes is ‘very close’ but not ‘desperately close’. I reserve desperate for less than 100.
    Does look like the ‘Can you trust Habib’ flier made the difference. Playing on fear makes a difference with a significant portion of the electorate. I think Labor made a mistake with the brick wall background, as that really was racist. ‘Can you trust Habib’ would have been sufficient. Interestingly if they had said ‘Can you trust Carolyn Habib’, the fact that women are trusted more would have counteracted the Habib Muslim reference.

  2. On current trend Labor win Elder by about 260.

    I see someone (and it was sort of suggested the Electoral Commission) feeding the Advertiser today that donkey vote is 1-2% and might be deciding Colton.

    Humbug. Once namse for parties were included on ballot papers the donkey vote droppped from around 2% or more to about 0.5-1% depending on demography (a bit like informal demography but not quite the same).

    So in Colton the donkey vote might be 0.75%. Thats say 165 votes. If the donkey vote didn’t exist then Caica is still 400 in front. And if the Libs had the donkey vote instead then the margin is still about 240.

  3. matt31, I totally agree. I regularly tweet Matt and dave about their overt support for the Libs, even to the point of arranging ‘leaks’ known to Marshall beforehand, but presumably not to Weatherill, in their debates.

    It’s constantly Liberal talking points and their approach to the different sides is remarkable, with gentle questioning rarely interrupting speeches by Liberal guests, contrasting with aggressive, rude and constant interruptions with Labor guests. This isn’t a case of listener bias, it’s just too obvious 100% of the time.

    On top of that, we get ‘best mate’ Michael Owen from News, who has never had a god word to say about Labor.

    It didn’t work, though and it’s rather enjoyable listening to the numb reaction from them to their defeat.

    Then again, when you have an interviewing style where they questioned the Christmas Pageant Director as if he was a criminal, you’ve got a problem, as many listeners pointed out.

    I would have thought Matt Abraham would have learnt from his negative ruling over the Kevin Foley business, but he’s gone the other way. Says a lot.

    Does anyone have any info on his previous work before Adelaide 891?

  4. I think it is arguable that the Habib leaflet would cost Labor votes. See earlier post. Habib’s name is on the ballot paper – if there is a Habib name reaction that occurs anyway. The Labor leaflet quite likely to create an anti-Labor vote among quite a few voters given Habibs publicity in the papers

    There certainly is no evidence that it changed any significant number of votes.

  5. [Of course they have to be careful not to threaten Federal LNP seats in SA]
    I think that’s the problem they have.

    If they punish SA, then Labor will be all over it.

    Anyway, I will take the risk of Abbott-based punishment for the state over the certainty of Tea Party loonies pushing a Marshall government to sack everyone but themselves and the police.

  6. Elder is bordered by Ashford, Bright, Mitchell, Davenport, Waite and Morphett. So it has two Liberal successes on one side and Liberals greatest failure on the other plus some safe Liberal seats.

  7. Looks like the ECSA must have found a few Labor votes or miscounted last time. Labor lead back to 645 with about 2500 to go. Dec votes now averaging 48.5 ALP to 51.5 Lib so if that keeps up it might only reduce Digance lead by 100 at the end?

  8. And Tony Piccolo in Light showing how it is done. Now winning Dec votes 54.3 to 45.7 with maybe 300 to count. Increased margin from 52.3 to 47.7 on election night to 52.8 to 47.2 – not many Labor candidates will have that result.

  9. Today’s counting has reinforced my sense that Labor has performed exceptionally well on declaration votes in key marginals. Mitchell being the exception…

  10. Outsider 316: A lot of this can be deduced from the location of pre-poll centres and booths neighbouring the electorate where absentee votes are likely to be cast. If you have a good understanding of where and when people vote in an electorate it isn’t hard to deduce the likely flow of the dec votes.

  11. [Habib’s name is on the ballot paper – if there is a Habib name reaction that occurs anyway.]

    No, because on the ballot paper she’s Carolyn Habib, which is not nearly as scary as “HABIB.” “HABIB” could be Yasser Habib or Osama bin Habib. Whoever designed this flyer knew exactly what they were doing.

  12. Wakefield 314: That’s likely to be because the pre-poll centre in Light was in the more Labor leaning part of the electorate (Evanston).

  13. 316 – Mitchell is not an exception Outsider. Labor went backwards in Mitchel 0.4% only. Compare with Ashford 0.6, Bright 1.2, Colton 0.3, Hartley 1.5, Newland 0.3, Florey 1.2, Elder 0.6.

    And marginals not much different to other seats – Labor Cheltenham 0.0, Enfield 1.0, Croydon 0.8. Lib seats Lab backwards Chaffey 0.2, Schubert 0.1, Stuart 0.4.

    Also Dunstan 0.9 and Adelaide 0.7.

    So generally small reduction in Labor% but hard to see a pattern unless position of booth as Ekigozan suggests. And in Light Evanston booth was only 54.3 to Labor so not sure that explains Piccolo standout of a 0.5% gain in declaration votes to date

  14. And I think the declaration vote differentials in 321 put to rest any argument about a significant late swing to Labor given an expected gain for Libs from postal votes.

  15. All in all Wakefield Labor put in an exemplary marginals campaign. Agree my call on Mitchell was a bit harsh. I was hoping against hope the declarations would favour Labor there but sadly not.

  16. Diogenes. There is no compulsion on Such and Brock to do anything should they so wish. Following the Dunstan/Kerin precedent, Labor would continue as the Government until the House first sits, albeit in caretaker mode. After electing a speaker, it’s first action would be to seek a vote of confidence. Assuming a rock and Such had chosen the do nothing option, neither would be speaker, so Labor would have to nominate one of their own, making it 22 all on the floor. If Brock and Such chose to abstain from the confidence motion, as Such did in 2002, it would be carried 23/22 on the speaker’s casting vote. Weatherill could then seek a new commission from the Governor. This option would give Such and Brock the capacity to bring down the government at any time. Politically, for them, it might not be such a bad approach. Maintaining true independence on individual votes and not being locked in to one side or another, whilst still delivering government to Labor, at least for the time being.

  17. Interesting that counting of the larger than usual number of early votes has not favored the Libs at all. Normally they tend to, but I think that assumes they tend to be particular demographics (that favor Liberals). As a larger number of people seek to vote early, it seems logical to expect that the early votes will tend more to match the overall voting pattern. This seems to have been the case.

  18. Last big dump of votes in a marginal has improved Labor vote in Hartley – drop from election night back to 1.1 from 1.5%.

    So ECSA has done its job in getting the votes counted for House this week. At 91% counted that mostly just leaves some postals to come in, although after a week there can’t be too many of them.

  19. Interesting factoid about SA Libs having votes in the wrong places:

    Libs have 5 seats with margins under 5% (1%, 2%, 3%, 3%, 3%)
    ALP have 9 seats with margins under 5%
    Ashford 1.9%
    Elder 1.8%
    Newland 1.5%
    Light 2.8%
    Colton 1.5%
    Florey 2.5%
    Wright 3.0%
    Lee 4.5%
    Torrens 3.2%

    Libs have 14 seats with margins over 10% (i.e. nearly 64% of their seats!)
    ALP have 5 seats with margins over 10% (i.e. only 22% of their seats)

    Libs have 3 seats with margins over 20%
    ALP have 0 seats with margins over 20%

    So even with a 2% swing NEXT election, the Libs would only just fall over the line into government with 24 to 26 seats!


  20. The problem the Liberals have is that their really safe seats are mostly in the country. THis makes it difficult under the ‘fairness’ provisions, as there are few Labor country centres and those that are have already been absorbed into those country seats, in general.

    That leaves the city seats and we’ve almost got ot the stage where the only way to ‘fix’ the problem is an actual minor gerrymander, or a return to the bad old days of weighted country electorates.

    In 2018, the extremes are that the Libs will sweep in with 55% (something they’ve never done in SA?) or perhaps a mild swing of (say) 2 or 3% back to a popular Weatherill will see an election on new boundaries as tight as this one.

    One thing I’ve learned. Predicting the next election in Australia is purely a guess and rarely follows logic.

  21. Wow, this is surprising. If he does not turn up to Parliament and Mr Brock supports the Liberal Party, we effectively have a dead heat.

    ALP Appoints a Speaker, 22 vs 23. Falls. Liberal’s then try and form a Government, appoint a speaker and the same happens. Surely Dr Such cannot leave us like this if Mr Brock does not support the ALP.

  22. I am not so sure this makes much difference.

    I think it is clear Brock is going to back the ALP but I felt that Such was going to abstain. He certainly won’t be backing the Libs. And if there was ever a vote of confidence in the government, then both Indies were to back the government (unless something really awful was going on a la NSW Labor).

    So, that meant Labor and others = 25 (take away Speaker -1) = 24 and Lib = 22 in confidence motions.

    Now, with Such away (and non-paired) it is going to be Labor and other = 24 (take away Speaker -1) = 23 and Lib = 22 in confidence motions.

    Even if an ALP member or Brock was off sick, the Speaker (who is likely to remain as Mr Atkinson) would obviously give a casting vote to the government.

  23. Yeah this leaves it at the point that only Labor can form government.

    Or we have another election.

    We could be headed to a by-election in Fisher anyway, which the Liberals should win. However the SA Liberals are making an art form of losing everything.

  24. Another election on the current boundaries would likely produce the same result.

    Brock may end up Deputy Premier in the short term.

  25. What happens if Brock backs the Liberals, Atkinson resigns as speaker so there and no one accepts nomination as speaker?
    Or does Atkinson stay as speaker until there is a confidence motion passed in a government?

  26. I do wish Such a speedy recovery and hope this is not the first step to something worse (no, I am not going to speculate on a Fisher by-election right now.)

    If Brock backs the Liberals, it could trigger a constitutional crisis, leading to another election (which Brock will be in no interest to have – especially as the Libs will double their efforts to unseat him and will be able to more convincingly hammer their point home about hung parliaments.)

    I suspect he is going to back Labor anyway but this will just firm his resolve to do so.

    However, what is most important is Dr. Such’s health and I sincerely hope that journalists, politicians and staffers do not harass him too much.

  27. I am getting a little tired of The Advertiser’s carping on the result and pressuring the Independents. If they think this will help the Libs – they’re wrong. Dr Such’s health will not make a difference to the running of the state and their reporting is starting to border on shrill.

    Like Carey, I wish Dr Such a speedy recovery and perhaps everyone involved should spend more time on policy development – Labor need to in order to get the state out its mess, and the Libs sure need to as they have less policies than most micro-parties.

  28. If Dr Such’s health was an issue, why did he nominate for Re-Election?

    It’s not as if a hung parliament was out of the realm of possibility, with the Liberal’s needing 6 seats and the Government only able to lose two.

  29. Frankly, the Advertiser is one of the losers from this election. They completely read the pulse of the state wrong and their attempts to compensate for the egg on their faces with bullying headlines is just making them even bigger losers.

  30. Scott @340

    I understand that when nominations closed he was not aware of the extent of his illness, awaiting medical advice.

    Like, I think I am safe to say, most of us, he did not abandon ship upon a possibly bad diagnosis but chose to go on, hoping for the best and knowing with modern medical practices he may well recover after a short break.

    (EG My father in law who was diagnosed with cancer in his 50s and after 6 or so months off work, with approved leave, returned and retired when 65 fit as a fiddle – and still going strong many years later.)

    Dr Such could have asked for a delay to the election but I doubt Mr Weatherill or Ms Mousley of ECSA would have been able to accommodate him.

    As I have posted previously, Dr Such has annointed a successor from amongst his staff but I would be very pessimistic that any Such protege, however well supported by Dr Such, would struggle against the Liberals: unless the By-Election occurred whilst the SA Liberals were in the middle of another one of their legendary blood baths – now, that would be ironic.

  31. Carey

    Do you recall the ’93 election? The Sunday Mail didn’t know how to tell SA Keating had won/Hewson had lost.

    I am told the then editor slumped into his office chair that night with a bottle of scotch and left everything to his staff.

    I was also told by a prominent Advertiser journo after the ’93 State Election that Labor would never again run this state – when I reminded him of his comment in 2003 he muttered an epithet and walked off.

    You’d think they’d move to the Daily Telegraph or something.

  32. There’s no “chaos”, Murdoch press. The Weatherill government stays in office unless and until it loses a vote of confidence when the House meets. If there are only 46 members present then Labor + Brock is a majority. If Atkinson is Speaker then the floor vote is 23-22. Even if the Libs win a Fisher by-election, Labor will survive with Atkinson’s casting vote.

  33. If Brock says he will go Labor only if the ALP keep Weatherill as Premier then I think Don Farrell will be the first Senator to give birth to kittens.

    Not only that, Turbo Tom for all of his white-anting of Weatherill during the campaign could be given a blood nose by Jay – say a portfolio he really hates – and the Right couldn’t move on sufferance of losing government on the floor of the house.

    Geoff Brock can have a lot of fun, and do a lot of good for regional SA, at this rate.

  34. [If Brock says he will go Labor only if the ALP keep Weatherill as Premier then I think Don Farrell will be the first Senator to give birth to kittens.]

    A completely un-called-for remark. Farrell has shown admirable discipline and loyalty to Labor. He has twice given up positions he could have secured if he had been prepared to insist, in the interests of the party. Others could learn from his example.

  35. My guess, with no insider knowledge, is that Such has a bony metastasis which will require surgery and radiotherapy.

    There would have to be a very high chance there will be a by election to whoever forms government is pretty irrelevant.

  36. Patrick

    We don’t know officially. He has prostate cancer and had a prostatectomy about nine years ago. He is in Flinders at the moment on extended leave.

    We don’t even know if it is related to the prostrate cancer.

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