South Australian election: late counting

Post tracking the progress of late counting in the South Australian state election.


Pardon me for missing an exciting day’s count in Mawson, where Leon Bignell appears to have held on – since my last update two days ago, the votes have broken 1003-909 his way, increasing his lead to 184. Only a small trickle of postal votes should be outstanding at this point.


Labor’s lead in Mawson now down to 90, as today’s update breaks 536-437 to Liberal, in near identical proportion to the first batch of 1940 declaration votes yesterday.


As the table below illustrates, things are going heavily the Liberals way in all five seats. It was a particularly good day for Rachel Sanderson in Adelaide, who now looks set to hang on, and Newland, Heysen and King are now beyond doubt. The only real question now would seem to be Mawson, where Labor member Leon Bignell’s lead diminished from 415 to 189. If that trend continues his lead will slip away shortly, but it may not do so – in particular, I would assume the votes added to the count are pre-polls and perhaps postals, with the absent votes, which should be more favourable, yet to come. I’m projecting a Liberal winning margin of 271, but there’s a lot I don’t know about the count.


Yesterday’s late counting action was limited to rechecking and adding to the count incomplete ballot papers that are “saved” under the state’s unique provision in which missing numbers get filled out according to the favoured preference order of the party who received their primary vote. This has turned the Liberals’ 67 vote lead in Adelaide into a deficit of 116, and reduced my projection of their winning margin from 447 to a dicey 192. Conversely, their lead in Newland is out from 298 to 388, and the projection from 595 to 713; and Mawson is little changed, with Labor’s lead up from 387 to 415, and my projection of the Liberal winning margin down from 239 to 205. As noted yesterday though, Labor may well do better on late counting this time than last time, as they will have put more effort in in those parts of the electorate that were formerly in Finniss. No new counting was conducted in King, which I’m still tracking although the Liberals are all but certain to win. Much more progress should be made in today’s count, as the action moves on to the very substantial pre-polls.

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.

74 comments on “South Australian election: late counting”

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  1. I think the Mawson result is a pretty big one for both parties. If Liberal were to win I think it it would be very difficult for Labor to win back even on a slim margin.

    There are some very Liberal leaning areas in Mawson, like KI and Mclaren Vale, which have been much more favourable to Bignell this time around possibly because of his profile as Tourism Minister. If they were to have to start over next time around with a new candidate I believe it would be a much harder seat to win back than seats like Adelade, Newland, King and Elder.

  2. While I agree, Max, the other seats you mention will be very difficult also, with Walkerville now bolstering Adelaide for the Libs, and the sophomore effect working to their advantage in Newland, King and Elder.

  3. Mawson looking likely for Labor now.

    That will give 25 to Liberals and 19 to Labor. Effectively 26 with Bell and 20 with Bedford for Labor. Geoff Brock in the middle.

    There is a big difference between complaning and running the Government.

    There is also another redistribution without the fairness clause in this term. That could shake things up a bit.

    It will be interesting to watch.

    I hope for the sake of the State the Government does well. Get on with it. You are in charge. You can’t blame the former Government every two seconds etc…

  4. “you can’t blame the former Government every two seconds…” haha sorry Scott but that is excessively wishful thinking.
    By the way, Bedford is not with the ALP and will vote as she pleases, each issue on its merrit. Fair chance that the ALP will agree with her on many things but I doubt all.

  5. New numbers up for Mawson. With +89% counted, and maybe 750 or so votes to go, Bignell is holding on to a 184 vote lead, which means it’s all over bar the shouting. Labor will be happy enough with 19 seats – it could have been much much worse. Its a good base for the new Malinauskas team to work from.

  6. In effect, the major parties each won one seat off the other. The Libs won King, a notional Labor seat, and Labor won Mawson with a 3% swing.

    All the Liberal gains to take government were given to them by the boundaries commission.

  7. Thanks for your updates, Dave.

    For all the talk of ALP vs Bedford in Florey, it’s the Libs who should be really concerned at the end of the day.

    The fact remains that the “left of centre” vote increased 17-odd percent – previous Liberal voters were more than happy to vote for Bedford despite her history as a Labor MP, because they obviously felt her community activism was more important to them.

    There is probably a lesson in there for both major parties, actually – if you want to grow strong local MPs then stop being so tribal. Give your members the “out” to vote with their electorates and/or their consciences on issues that are locally important. Don’t go in for “retribution” if an MP occasionally goes a bit rogue: cherish them, because these are the ones who will hang on during those elections when “the swing is on”.

    They say all politics is local: if all your local members are as respected (and, dare I say it, loved) by the local community as Frances Bedford is, then your work is mostly done.

  8. Basically Bell is a right wing independent (although has a few left views, like I believe he’s anti-fracking), Bedford is a left wing independent (she was one of the more left wing voices in Labor caucus) and Brock is centre (although probably slightly on the left side of that line but could just as easily work with the conservative side.) I don’t think anyone was literally asserting that Bedford or Bell were literally back in their respective parties.

    All of that is apropos of nothing, of course. The Libs have a clear majority in that house, so they can pass legislation in it without the crossbench.

  9. As for blaming the previous Government. While I agree that bad governments always try to scapegoat the previous government, the Marshall Government gets a pass for a little while as the current shape of the state is still defined by the previous government’s policies (unless you can directly demonstrate a link between a new policy and an economic trend) but the flipside to this is the completion of all existing projects and any current economic success also belongs to the previous government.

    I’d say somewhere between September and December, perhaps even not until 2019, can we start attributing non-demonstrably linked successes and failures to the new government.

    That is, for the limited effect a state government actually has…

  10. Some final observations.

    For 2022, the key marginals for Labor to form Government are Adelaide (1%), King (1.1%), Newland (2.2%), Elder (4.7) and Dunstan (6.6). Hartley will be another target – I suspect the Lib v Labor final margin will be 3% or so (the 2PP figures at the moment are Lib v X).

    As can be seen, barring some major redistributions (which arguably will be more difficult given the electoral legislative changes), it won’t be an easy task. And from that point on, the task becomes tougher, with the next “targets” being seats like Colton (8%) and Waite (8.2%) and Black (8.8%). At least in theory, and based on the new pendulum, Labor would need a uniform swing around 3-4% to form Government.

    Adding to Labor’s difficulties will be its own marginals it will need to defend – Mawson (0.4%), Lee (3.4%), Wright (3.7%) and Torrens (4.5%).

    Arguably Marshall was lucky to avoid minority Government, given SA Best’s under-performance across the board. Apart from Xenophon’s very poor result in Hartley, SA Best came close in Heysen (2.1%) and “closeish” in Finniss (4%). One wonders what might have been if SA Best had stuck to a target group of 5 or 6 targets, but of course that is irrelevant now.

    Labor need not despair, but it will take a lot of hard work to turn the tables next time. This includes keeping Parliamentary pressure on the Liberals – exposing and holding them to account for whatever goes wrong on their watch, but especially to keep a watchful eye on the business “giveaways” that State Liberal Governments love to dish out.

    I also hope that Labor can pre-select good, local candidates for the key marginals my mid-2020. No factional ring-ins, but community based people with good profile. This requires some soul-searching eg, in Adelaide, would it be appropriate for Jo Chapley to run again, or is there another more high-profile visible alternative available? Jo Chapley should be rewarded for her hard work over the past 2 elections with a winnable position in the Leg Co next time around.

  11. I meant to say that the Liberals also ran a text book campaign for an Opposition. Clearly they had a lot of cash this time. A lot more than Labor, and I cannot help feel this swamped Labor’s usual on the ground advantage. The Liberals also picked up and ran with a lot of small local initiatives which really matter to a lot of people and which do change votes. Promising to fix local traffic problems in marginal seats is a cheap and effective way to swing a few votes – who knows what a difference that made? I suspect it was fairly significant. And of course the ICAC findings from Oakden in the last couple of weeks were damaging. In a normal election campaign they would have been dynamite, although their impact was more muted I felt, perhaps because of the SA Best distraction. But again, it must have made a difference, and may account for what I sense was the Liberals only pulling into the lead (narrowly) over the last days of the campaign.

  12. Bignell’s efforts in Mawson should not be underestimated, to win the primary vote albeit only just, in an electorate that for all intents and purposes should be safe Liberal. It suggests he’s worked bloody hard to foster a profile in those new areas added to an electorate which used to have quite a lot of suburban areas, but now has none. Maybe Pyne campaigning down there a couple of days before the election was enough to sway enough undecideds!

  13. What I presume are final numbers for Mawson have been posted, with Bignell’s lead down to 110. That is with 91.4% of votes counted. If they are final numbers, he obtained 1 more first preference vote than Gilfillan!! Definitely only just…

  14. Outsider – count Florey as a Labor supporting seat. 24th seat will be Elder at 4.7%. Doubt that Hartley will be closer than that. So the redistribution has really hurt Labor because a 52/48 result should mean Labor only need a 2.1% swing to get a majority. A redistribution should help Labor a bit by evening up the voting numbers.

  15. At sa level Labor has prospect of a win. The redistribution without the requirements of the fairness clause will boost labors position also what labor does with the Federal electorate of Adelaide will impact…
    Maybe this will allow Kate Ellis to contest Adelaide or Norwood

  16. There’s talk that Duncan McFettridge is still a rough chance in Morphett – but first he needs to garner the preferences of Dignity, Greens and SA Best to leapfrog ahead of the ALP candidate, who actually polled too well!

  17. Boundaries reviewed after every election. In Constitution still but fairness clause has gone – despite appearing in the version which Google brings up.

  18. Re: McFetridge in Morphett, I don’t think that’s plausible. To begin with I would think 14% would be the lowest vote ever polled by a successful candidate for a single-member seat. But he would need the most extraordinarily tight preference flows from the Greens (over Labor and SA Best), then SA Best (over Labor AND Liberal), and then Labor (over Liberal), and you would think we would have heard something about that kind of thing by now. I would expect Greens preferences alone to put this thing out of his reach.

  19. The gap between Labor and Conservatives has narrowed quite a bit in late LC counting. Now only about 0.04 of a quota or about 0.4% or 4,500 votes. Down from about 10,000 a couple of days ago. Possibly 20,000 votes still to add so Labor lead could still drop a bit – maybe a few hundred.

    Despite their waffle I don’t see Conservatives making up more than a few hundred votes from preferences at best versus Labor. The reality is very few voters did anything except put a 1 in a box above the line which means no preferences. Perhaps 10-20% gave a preference of any sort. Probably 60% of people didn’t take a HTV and those who did probably mostly did not bother studying it and just relied on party names. And as per 2016 Senate this resulted in pretty random scatter except for recognisable/high profile parties and candidates. As Mr Brokenshire lamented, losing the Family First label has been a significant factor in this election.

    Dignity advised preference to SA Best but as between Labor and Conservatives probably little impact. 10% votes transferred to SA Best would be a good result but that is only 2000.

    Of the parties who issued preference advice the only ones relevant in the count will be Stop Population Growth which suggested a 2 to Conservatives ahead of Greens and Labor (work that out for the anti birth control Conservatives). Half of SPG votes are donkeys and my guess is Labor will probably get as many preferences as Conservatives.

    LDP, Animal Justice, Child Protection and Advance SA all have substantial votes. Of this group probably only LDP voters might have some preference for Conservatives but would think a few hundred votes at best. And lastly the third SA Best candidate is likely to be eliminated unless they can pull in 10,000 more preferences that Conservatives. That also seems to be in the way too hard basket.

    We wont know the final outcome for a couple of weeks probably. Does anyone know the process for choosing which votes for SA Best get locked into quota and which are part of the surplus to be distributed. These are likely to be the only votes in this category. Previously the ECSA has used all the 1 only above the line to fill quotas and left the preference votes to be distributed. This seems a major distortion. Kevin B – maybe you have an idea on this?

  20. Sim Singh-Malhi was the Labor candidate in Chaffey and looks likely to have recorded the biggest swing to any major party candidate in the election – probably around 10% from 25 to 35 – but based on a serious guess as to where SA Best preferences will go. Singh-Malhi was one of very few major party candidates who got an increased primary vote when an SA Best candidate was running. Plus the result this time is without donkey vote whereas in 2014 Labor had donkey vote.

    And can anyone explain why the informal vote in Florey at 6.7% is one of the highest in State. Very odd when a serious independent creates an option for the disengaged voters.

  21. Wakefield – you were right about Hartley – Tarzia won by a lot, although Grace P did a bit better than Nick X on 2PP. Interesting that X ended up coming third. So based on actual results, Labor is looking at close to a 5% 2PP swing to form Government next time, based on the 2018 pendulum (and that’s counting Florey…). The redistribution will be critical. The current version of the State Constitution (including the latest electoral amendments) can be accessed via Austlii – see

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