Victorian election: photo finishes

A closer look at the yet-to-be-decided seats for the Victorian election.

A full display of the election results, with complete booth figures, swings and probability estimates, can be found here. This will be updated with the latest figures at irregular intervals.

Tuesday afternoon

4pm. Ali Cupper has reportedly emerged the winner in Mildura after distribution of preferences by 254 votes.

2pm. No official figures available, but the preference count in Prahran has established that Greens incumbent Sam Hibbins has prevailed over Labor’s Neil Pharaoh, apparently by around 200 votes, with the latter conceding defeat on social media. So the Greens have maintained their lower house status quo of three seats, losing Northcote but gaining Brunswick, although they stand to be gutted in the upper house, where they went in with five and will come out with one or two.

Tuesday morning

Preference distributions will apparently start being conducted today, and it doesn’t seem there are more than tiny handfuls of votes remaining to be cleared up in the primary and two-party counts. So unless the preference distribution process turns up a misplaced bundle, it would seem Labor has won Bayswater and Hawthorn, the Liberals have held on in Caulfield and Ripon, and independent Ali Cupper has scraped home in Mildura. The only significant action in the close seat counts yesterday was in Caulfield, where postals continued to save the day for David Southwick, the latest batch favouring him 145-61 and extending his lead from 338 to 410.

Monday morning

The most interesting development over the weekend from my perch was that 525 postals were added in Mildura, which cut Ali Cupper’s lead from 252 to 189. With the dealine for postals to arrive being tomorrow at 5pm, there will presumably be only one more, smaller batch to go, and very little chance that it will overturn Cupper’s lead. Tiny additions to the vote in Hawthorn and Ripon made no appreciable difference to the situation there, as related in the previous entry. Kevin Bonham has been doing good work following the count in Prahran, where only scrutineers’ reports offer any guidance as to the flow of preferences between the Greens and Labor, which stands to decide the result. Suffice to say that it’s going to be very close. The other potential wild cards when preferences are distributed are Melton and Benambra, which Labor and Liberal respectively have at least some chance of losing to independents. Then there’s the upper house …

Friday evening

Just as my interest in the count was winding down, along comes Caulfield — Liberal member David Southwick led by 1101 yesterday, and trails by 118 today. Southwick is one of three Liberals on very narrow deficits, hoping they might be overturned on the final batch of postals. The damage to Southwick was done on absents — not so much due to the swing, which was actually modest (3.6% to Labor, compared with 7.0% of ordinary votes), but the surprisingly high number cast (5692 as compared with 3130 in 2014). Labor scored over 60%, for a split of 3439-2253. Postal votes have been overwhelmingly favouring Southwick — 2682 to 1030, or 72.3-27.7 — so it will only take a small number of late arrivals behaving according to form to get his nose back in front. But there will very little in it either way.

Provisionals and a handful of pre-polls have made next to no difference in Hawthorn, where the Labor lead goes from 156 to 163. A big day of counting in Ripon (or maybe two — I don’t think I looked closely at the numbers yesterday) has failed to settle the matter — Labor has moved to a razor-thin 73 vote lead due to the latest pre-polls, which they won 2211-2059. There was nothing in it on absents (1296 to Labor and 1289 to Liberal), and Labor made their usual small gain on provisionals (147 to 124).

In Mildura, independent Ali Cupper got a handy 195-144 break on provisionals, cancelling out a 41-22 loss on pre-polls and 20-10 on absents in a race where every vote counts. She now leads by 303 votes, which will presumably be enough.

Friday morning

As the count dries up, the in doubt seats are increasingly looking less so. Labor’s lead in Hawthorn grew from 47 to 156 yesterday, as they gained the edge on absents (281-207), postals (109-86) and pre-polls (27-15). They should gain a bit more when provisionals are added, leaving John Pesutto needing something pretty extraordinary on late postals. Labor’s lead nudged from 236 to 266 in Bayswater, after provisionals broke 120-88 their way and postals went 69-67 to the Liberals. The Greens’ lead in Brunswick grew from 353 to 414 with small additions of absents, postals and pre-polls, at which point you would be pretty much calling it. It no longer seems necessary to continue following Nepean, where Labor leads by 794, or Sandringham, where the Liberals lead by 451. No progress today in Mildura, where independent Ali Cupper leads the Nationals by 281.

Thursday morning

Another good day for Labor overall, who seem to be doing better from votes cast out-of-district, whether as absent votes or pre-polls, than the in-district pre-poll votes that were counted on election night. However, I’m not clear if absent votes are all being added in one hit per electorate, or if further additions can yet be anticipated where results have already appeared. I’m tending to think the latter — since absents are usually the best part of late counting for Labor, a fair bit hinges on this.

In Hawthorn, absent votes turned yesterday’s 235-vote Liberal lead into a Labor lead of 47. Labor got 56.8% out of 2498 absents, above the 53.0% I was projecting. I was also projecting there would be 3792 in total, so I am guessing there are another 1000 or so still out there. These will be decisive if so, but it can’t be said how they might behave — batches of absent votes can behave very differently depending where they were sourced from. The Liberals also got only 50.7% out of 4242 new pre-polls (2150 to 2092) added yesterday, compared with their 56.3% of the first 7148 counted.

Things continue to go Labor’s way in Bayswater, where their lead grew yesterday from 165 to 236. Labor got 55.2% of the absents added yesterday — exactly as I had anticipated, but they were 2705 in total rather than my projected 2054. It was also a good day for Labor in Nepean, where they won a batch of 3673 new pre-polls 1903-1770 — 51.8% compared with their 46.4% from the first 14,903. Labor now leads by 492, and most of the outstanding votes are likely to be absents, none of which have been added, so the balance would seem to be tipping their Labor. My lineball projection as of yesterday is now for a Labor winning margin of 0.5%.

One late counting bright spot for the Liberals is Sandringham, where 4464 new pre-polls behaved very much like the first 9424 in breaking 2489-1975 their way. Furthermore, absent votes were added and while they went 1139-884 to Labor, there were less of them than I was anticipating (2023 rather than a projected 2566). However, I’m not sure if this is all of them or not. In any case, the Liberal lead is now 497, and with only a few scraps still outstanding, this will be hard for Labor to rein in.

The Greens’ lead in Brunswick grew from 218 to 353, but they underperformed my projection out of 2653 absent votes counted in Brunswick, scoring 1475 to Labor’s 1178 — 55.6% compared with my projected 61.8%. However, that’s also about 1000 less than I was projecting, so there are presumably more of these to come. There would seem to be another 2000 of these as well. Labor will need about 56% of what’s to come.

The Nationals have come storming home in Mildura, being overwhelmingly dominant on the small number of absent votes (575 to independent Ali Cupper’s 227), and reversing earlier form to win a batch of pre-polls 870 to 640. This slashed Cupper’s lead from 859 to 281. My earlier judgement was that the number of votes outstanding here was too small for the Nationals to close the gap, and that probably still holds, as I believe there are only a few hundred postals still to come.

Nothing today from Ripon.

Wednesday morning

Labor solidly outperformed my projections yesterday in Bayswater, scoring almost exactly half of 4559 pre-polls added, where they only got 46.1% of the first 8383. They also won 52.1% of 674 postals, after scoring only 39.6% of the 2217 counted on election night, did about as well on absents as anticipated, winning 1132-922. That gives Labor a lead of 165, or 0.2% – with not much of the vote outstanding, my projection has it coming down to 0.1%, but Labor will more likely than not continue outperforming its assumptions.

Better news for the Liberals from Ripon, where 889 postals broke 535-354 to Liberal (60.2% compared with 58.0% in the first 3735) and pre-polls went 393-304 (56.4% compared with 51.0% of the first 3302). My Liberal projection has gone from 49.9% to 50.2%, but here too the number of postals received has exceeded my projection, so if anything it might be understating their chances. That said, the margin is narrow enough that a good pre-poll batch or better than expected show on absents for Labor could up-end it. Swings and roundabouts in Nepean, where the Liberals went below par on yesterday’s postals (360-297 in their favour, or 54.8% compared with 59.2% in the election night batch of 2341), but above par on pre-polls (587-357, 62.2% compared with 53.0% of the first 13,959). Before I was projecting a 134 vote win for Labor, now it’s 26 votes for Liberal.

The Liberal lead in Hawthorn increased yesterday from 53 to 235, but only postals were added, and these were slightly less favourable to the Liberals than those counted on election night, bringing my projected final Liberal margin down from 1.1% to 0.8%. The election night postals went Liberal 1104 (60.4%) and Labor 725 (39.6%), but yesterday’s batch went Labor 1115 (54.3%) and Liberal 937 (45.7%). No further pre-polls have been added, and the outstanding ones may yet surprise in either direction. Then there are absents, which I am projecting Labor to do well on, though evidently not well enough.

The Greens are firming in Brunswick: they won a second batch of postals 442-426, after losing the election night count 950-699, and they won a batch of absents 811-537, exactly the proportion anticipated when I projected them to win by 1.0%.

Tuesday afternoon

Labor leads on the raw count with about a third done in Morwell, but my projection is that this will flip when the outstanding votes are in — Northe is on track to receive about 70% of preferences, in which case he wins 52-48 (I conducted a regression analysis to test whether the existing preference count was representative of the whole, and found that it was). Better news for Labor in Geelong, where Christine Couzens leads Darryn Lyons, and Pascoe Vale, where Lizzie Blandthorn leads Oscar Yildiz 59.0-41.0. In Shepparton, Suzanna Sheed looks seat to emerge with 54% to 55% against the Liberal candidate.

Tuesday morning

With very little counting done yesterday, the chief news is that the Victorian Electoral Commission announced it is conducting new preference throws to indicate the likely winners Morwell (independent versus Labor), Geelong (Labor versus independent), Pascoe Vale (Labor versus independent) and Shepparton (independent versus Liberal), and will publish the results later today. The removal of the two-party numbers from the media feed caused my results reporting facility to conk out, so the figures it show remain those from Sunday.

The only thing I know so far about the new preference throws is that the Pascoe Vale pre-poll count has broken 6059-6008 for Labor’s Lizzie Bladthorn over independent Oscar Yildiz, as related by Richard Willingham of The Age. This suggests the advantage to Yildiz on preferences is only 53-47, in which case Blandthorn would win handily with between 54% and 55%. Independents Russell Northe and Darryn Lyons will respectively need around 72% and 66% of preferences in Morwell and Geelong. The deal in Shepparton is that it’s the Liberals rather than the Nationals who finished second, but unless I’m missing something, it would seem to me that Suzanna Sheed is home and hosed in either case.

The only change in the seven seats where I felt the existing notional counts were following was in Ripon, where a batch of pre-polls broke 587-357 to the Liberals – 63% compared with their earlier 53%. This means my projection has gone from 0.1% in favour of Labor to 0.1% in favour of Liberal. The votes counted totals for the upper house have edged up from the forties to the fifties, but I’m still holding off looking into them in detail.

Sunday night

If you want real detail on the likely course of the late count, Kevin Bonham is your man. For starters, I will content myself with the following projections of how the undecided seats where the correct two candidates have been picked for the notional preference count stand to play out. As explained below, there are methodogical details that one might well think imperfect, but if nothing else, consider it a conversation starter.

This assumes that a) outstanding pre-polls will break the same way as those already counted, and the number outstanding is as indicated by the relevant figures from the Victorian Electoral Commission; b) postals will break the same way as those already counted, with the total number to be counted equal to the total in 2014 adjusted in proportion to the growth in enrolment since that time; c) absent votes will differ from non-absent votes in the same way they did in 2014, with the total number determined the same way as for postals. No account is made for provisionals, which should throw a handful of extra votes Labor’s way.

This makes it clear enough that the Liberals should get home in Hawthorn, Sandringham and probably Bayswater, but Nepean and Ripon will go right down to the wire. The Greens’ traditionally strong showing on absent votes should see them home in Brunswick, and it seems likely independent Ali Cupper will gain Mildura from the Nationals. I was circumspect about this in my post last night, as I expected the Nationals would do well on postals – but it turns out that, for whatever reason, very few postals are cast in Mildura. Indeed, it ranks last in the state for number of postal votes received, according to the VEC’s figures.

Then there are the in doubt seats for which the two-party count doesn’t offer an insight. Prahran will be won by whoever out of Greens incumbent Sam Hibbins and Labor’s Neil Pharoah survives the second last exclusion on preferences, which will be absolutely touch and go. Then there is my watch list of five seats (not counting Mildura) that could potentially be won by independents, as discussed in my previous post. Morwell could stay with Nationals-turned-independent member Russell Northe, and will go to Labor if it doesn’t; the Liberals might lose Benambra; Labor might lose Geelong, Melton and Pascoe Vale.

That leaves Labor with 49 seats nailed down, on top of which they might keep Geelong, Melton and Pascoe Vale, and gain Prahran, Nepean, Ripon and Morwell. The Coalition have 27 seats in the bag, including Hawthorn, Sandringham and (perhaps generously) Bayswater, on top of which they might keep Nepean, Ripon and Benambra. I’m pretty sure the Greens will have Brunswick in addition to Melbourne, and are lineball to keep Prahran. I’m giving Mildura as well as Shepparton to independents, to which it’s at least possible to add another five.

As for the upper house, we’re still at too early a stage in the count for me to be bothered putting my oar in – only election day votes have thus far been counted, and an increasing number of voters have finally got the message about the advisability of voting below the line (requiring the numbering of only five boxes in the case of Victorian state elections). However, it looks fairly clear that there will indeed be a spectacular array of micro-parties on the cross bench, and that the principal casualty of this phenomenon is the Greens.

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.

457 comments on “Victorian election: photo finishes”

  1. Observer

    Talking police, I was talking tonight to someone who first met Labor’s ‘fill in’candidate in Bayswater, Jackson Taylor, about nine years ago after they had both finished school. Jackson I think went straight into the police force and has risen through the ranks. More recently he has been on Knox Council and is now Deputy Mayor. This young acquaintance said Jackson always seemed incredibly level-headed, and just determined to do the best job for his community, whether it was in policing, or in local government.

    In the last few years they had gone their separate ways as you do in your twenties, and they were stunned on Saturday night to see Jackson on TV. But they said he will be a real asset to the Labor Party and the Parliament if he wins the seat.

  2. The rather less positive for the ALP than most of the rest of the state contests in Werribee and Melton have finally got some coverage in The Age.

    Unless The Age has scrutineering sources, which they don`t mention having, I think their claim that the ALP candidate is likely to win Melton is lacking in evidence. The Liberals won`t win but an independent might, although the vote is so spread that we can`t even be sure that Dr Birchall will be the top independent at the end of the 4 candidate preferred count.

  3. However, I’m not clear if absent votes are all being added in one hit per electorate, or if further additions can yet be anticipated where results have already appeared.

    Most likely all of the absents will be delivered to each home electorate in one hit. But it takes time to process them before they are counted and depending on how many of them there are it would not surprise if there is more than one batch added to the count.

  4. I just noticed that regarding my comments about Labor still being 430 votes ahead of the Greens in Prahran after all the new pre-poll & absent votes were added (around 9000 of them), that those votes were only added to the 2PP count and none of them were actually added to the primary vote count. So that 430 vote lead is actually very outdated and could be extremely different after those 9000 votes.

    William – Do you have any idea why the VEC would only do a 2PP count for 9000 pre-polls and absents, especially in a seat where at this point the 2PP count is pretty much meaningless (firstly because it’s not close and secondly because it may not even be the correct contest) and not count the primary votes? I would understand prioritising a quick 2PP count in a seat like Hawthorn to determine an outcome, but not Prahran where the contest isn’t actually in the 2PP count.

    Or would it just be an oversight that the VEC forgot to actually update the PV results on their website?

  5. Fiona Patten is currently at 4th spot in NMET, but counting at 16%, so i guess it must be in a recount and she will get relegated at a latter stage in the count as before.

  6. Trent,

    On election night the VEC does a tally of first preferences and then an indicative preference count. Both figures are entered into the VEC computer system which drives their website and the ABC’s website.

    In the days following the election they do a check-count of all first preferences. They do not check count the 2CPs.

    On Wednesday the VEC started to enter the check-count totals by first preference. This switches reporting from the first count entries to the check count entries. As the check-count entries are zero before entry, it results in all the counts going down. It also explains why there is more 2CP in some seats than primaries. The late first counts of absents etc have yet to be check counted and re-entered.

    That’s why the ABC LC calculator went backwards yesterday, why all the lower house first preference tallies went down, and why there remain inconsistencies between first preference tallies and 2CP counts.

    The check count locates and corrects errors in the first preference tally, but these are not reflected in the 2CP counts which remain the totals from the first count. For that reason there may be a difference between the 2CPs shown now and what comes out of the distribution of preferences.

    I made suggestions for better ways to organise the switch from first to check count in a meeting with the VEC two years ago. They prioritized legislative changes to allow the counting of early votes over engaging in changes to their election management and reporting system.

    With the ABC computer, you just have to do your best with the data provided.

  7. Thanks so much Antony, that’s a great explanation and it makes sense now where those “missing” 9000 primary votes are in their data! I guess we’ll just have to wait for all those new pre-polls & absents to be re-checked and re-entered before we have any idea how the Labor v Green race is going in Prahran!

  8. In the two local electorates, Ovens Valley and Benambra, we had strong independent representation.

    At the last election, the Greens polled 9-10% in both electorates. This time they’re below 4%.

    This suggests the ‘protest’ vote component of the Green vote is at least 4%, if not 5 – the ‘rusted on’ Greens only make up half of their votes.

  9. Legislative Council minor parties changing a bit this morning, looks to be moving left from the night, 2 AJ now (+1), Reason 1 (+1), hinch 3 (-1), Aussie Battlers 0, Transport matters 1 (-1);
    ALP: 17
    Hinch: 3
    Animal Justice: 2
    Lib Democrats: 2
    Reason: 1 (Patten)
    Transport Matters: 1
    Sustainable Aus: 1

    ALP:17, LNP:11, OTH: 12

  10. zoomster,

    In Benambra, Labor’s vote went from 31.2% to 17.9%, a loss of almost half (42% in fact).

    It’s probably not entirely fair to draw conclusions about rusted on voters when there is an independent hoovering up votes from everywhere in an electorate where the party in question isn’t strong to start with.

  11. @bug1
    Don’t bother with the Legislative Council until tomorrow at least. If you look closely, the current calculations are off very low percentages of votes counted – because of re-checking they’ve gone *down* since election night.

  12. Ante Meridian @ #170 Thursday, November 29th, 2018 – 1:34 pm


    In Benambra, Labor’s vote went from 31.2% to 17.9%, a loss of almost half (42% in fact).

    It’s probably not entirely fair to draw conclusions about rusted on voters when there is an independent hoovering up votes from everywhere in an electorate where the party in question isn’t strong to start with.

    The voting in the Wentworth by-election also confirm this. Both Labor and the Greens lost a significant number of votes to Kerryn Phelps.

  13. Toby, fair enough, and i misread when Antony wrote as well.

    I was thinking they might be starting to include below the line votes, which could perhaps change things enough to effect minor parties…

  14. Fiona Patten looks as though she has been re-elected after distribution of all the preferences. It was the ALP vote that was decisive in her win. I think Fiona is one of the better politicians in the Victorian Parliament.

  15. @AlPal
    See Toby’s comment at 2pm – don’t read anything into what the ABC site is currently showing for the Legislative Council. There is recounting going on, and the % counted for Northern Metro has currently been wound back to 18%.

  16. Listening to Ali Cupper on regional radio.

    She is going to be a major asset for her electorate.

    Talking about allocating money on need not just population. And rural Victoria does have them, believe me.

    Shame foe Benambra and Ovens Valley voters that they will be stuck with dead wood for 4 more years.

  17. GG – Looking at the results now (and STILL waiting for Caulfield’s absent votes to be counted) I think Ven may have meant Caulfield which is sitting on 69.7% counted.

  18. Factoid of the day…

    With John Pesutto presumably gone in Hawthorn, Ferntree Gully is now the only station on the whole of the Belgrave line that sits in a Liberal electorate .

    Prior to this election, every station up to and including Ferntree Gully was in a Liberal electorate after the train crossed the river at Burnley.

    This shows how deep the wipe out was.

  19. Hi BBS,

    Good to see you posting a gain. I hope you are well.

    The story is the same on the Frankston line and Dandenong line.

    It was the level crossing removals wot done it!

  20. GG

    Thank you for the kind greeting!!

    If either side does qualitative polling post elections it will be interesting to see how close to the top of issues the level crossings come up.

    In Box Hill, the ALP did push the issue at the Surrey Hills end of the electorate where there are still two level crossings.

    There were some removals under Brumby and the Libs but there is no denying the Andrews outcomes have been far superior to anything before.

  21. blackburnpseph @ #188 Thursday, November 29th, 2018 – 6:43 pm


    Thank you for the kind greeting!!

    If either side does qualitative polling post elections it will be interesting to see how close to the top of issues the level crossings come up.

    In Box Hill, the ALP did push the issue at the Surrey Hills end of the electorate where there are still two level crossings.

    There were some removals under Brumby and the Libs but there is no denying the Andrews outcomes have been far superior to anything before.

    In Ivanhoe, the moving of pylons gathered a crowd of 1000 when they removed the crossing at Rosanna Road just to watch it happening one Sunday morning.

  22. Regarding level crossings, it shows the value of getting a project right once and for bloody all. Which contrasts starkly with – to pick a random example – the NBN stuff-up.

  23. Bob

    Really hoping Ali Cupper does win – surely that lead can’t be overtaken now. We have relatives in that region and it includes some of the most disadvantaged areas in Victoria. I think that like Suzanna Sheed she will be a great voice for her electorate. It is interesting how the rural electorates furthest from Melbourne like Mildura and Gippsland East which are generally both safe National can feel very neglected and turn on the Coalition.

    My dad was raised on a farm and used to say that most regional areas would do better to elect independents because then they would get noticed. So I think of him every time any rural independents are elected.

    He also said that the then Country Party would be better off in Coalition with Labor because the city-centric Liberals never did anything much for them as they took their votes for granted. And his example was the first Labor governments in Victoria in the early 20th century which had actually been minority governments who had held office with support of the County Party.

    And also there was a Country Party Premier Albert Dunstan who was there with Labor support for eight years 1935-1943.

  24. All of the Libs in very close contests with Labor or Indie seem to have the donkey vote advantage. In other words none of them deserve to be elected.

  25. Rocket

    I have often had Nat voters approach me and say, “I don’t know why we’re not in Coalition with you guys, we’re much closer to you than the Libs.”

    Whereupon I say, “Unions” and they scurry.

    Remember, Labor was founded in the country. Its first enemy was farmers….and ag workers are still the most poorly paid in Australia.

  26. zoomster

    There are so many changes to demographics with mechanisation – it took twenty men to take off their crop, now it essentially takes one. And the Queensland gerrymander set up by Labor because of this effect later benefited Bjelke-Petersen.

    And the nearby towns that were filled with farm labourers emptied out, many disappearing along with their footy teams. And the irony of that “unions” thing – I think farm workers are something like 2% of the workforce and make up nearly half the workplace deaths. Generally no unions, and also the self-employed farmers, means worse safety standards. And of course part of those high death rates is also caused by that very mechanisation that allows someone to work alone with lots of dangerous machinery. And also then the distance from the sort of health and trauma care that could possibly make a difference.

    I have stood next to the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine where the Labor Party had its origins. And then someone poisoned it in 2006 and killed it! Though a Barcaldine local all those years ago told me he believed that they were always commemorating the wrong tree – so I like to believe the poisoner was foiled after all.

  27. Greensborough Growler says:
    Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 5:28 pm
    Ven @ #178 Thursday, November 29th, 2018 – 4:17 pm

    What is happening in Caldwell? According to ABC, the vote count is 69.7%. Why is it so low after so many days?

    Caldwell is a Federal Electorate, comrade!

    GG, I typed Caulfield. I don’t know why it is showing Caldwell. Thanks Trent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *