Victorian election endgame

A week and a half on, the finishing touches are being applied to Victoria’s rather extraordinary election result.

Saturday morning

Late excitement in Ripon, where contested ballots during a recount appear to have worn away to nothing. The VEC’s communications on the recount have been a bit confusing, but the buzz on social media suggests the Liberals have achieved the tiniest of leads, with the result perhaps to be decided by a single digit margin. The recount is to resume this morning, and is proceeding slowly as every dubious ballot is scrutinised in minute detail.

Thursday morning

My results platform is now fully updated with the latest results, and hopefully more or less works. Many more preference counts have been conducted, but not in the one contest that remains of potential interest, namely Melton.

UPDATE: By latest results, I mean the latest VEC feed. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been reconciled with the preference counts yet.

Tuesday evening

The Victorian Electoral Commission is now a fair way through the preference distributions, and it seems the numbers in the new parliament will be Labor 56, Coalition 26 (Liberal 20 and Nationals six), Greens three and independents three. The one remaining chance for a boilover is Melton, which will presumably be retained by Labor, but they have only 34.9% of the primary vote with the remainder scattered among the field of eleven other candidates. Then is the upper house, which I’m afraid I haven’t been able to give its due over the last week and a bit, but do stay tuned.

Notable results from the resolution of the count:

• Sam Hibbins retained Prahran for the Greens by a 7.4% margin over the Liberals, which he was able to do because he again squeaked ahead of Labor at the last exclusion. At that point in the count, Liberal candidate Katie Allen was on 14,824 (36.7%), Hibbins was on 12,911 (32.0%) and Labor’s Neil Pharaoh was on 12,647 (31.3%). The 264 votes separating Hibbins and Pharaoh compares with 31 votes when the exact same candidates faced the exact same situation in 2014. The difference on that occasion was that Pharaoh landed only 277 votes clear of Liberal incumbent Clem Newton-Brown on the final count – here as in so many other places, the Liberals were not a feature this time.

• Labor won the western Victorian seat of Ripon by just 31 votes, Sarah De Santis finishing with 20,030 (50.04%) over Liberal incumbent Louise Staley on 19,999 (49.96%).

• The vague prospect of an independent win in Benambra did not eventuate, with Liberal incumbent Bill Tilley emerging with a winning margin of 2.4%. Independent Jacqui Hawkins reduced Labor to third place, at which point Tilley was on 19,517 (47.1%), Hawkins was on 11,778 (28.4%) and the Labor candidate was on 10,110 (24.4%). That left Hawkins needing 88% of preferences, and she managed 78%.

In the seats that were being followed closely on the earlier post, Liberal member David Southwick made it home in Caulfield by 205 votes (0.3%); Labor’s Jackson Taylor prevailed over Liberal incumbent Heidi Victoria in Bayswater by 296 votes (0.4%); Labor’s John Ormond Kennedy was a 329 vote (0.4%) winner over Liberal member John Pesutto in Hawthorn; Tim Read of the Greens won Brunswick from Labor by 504 votes (0.6%); and Labor’s Chris Brayne finished 767 votes clear (0.9%) of the Liberals in Nepean.

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.

171 comments on “Victorian election endgame”

  1. “What is the projected Upper House summary and which of these are in doubt?”

    Yes, I too am interested in this, because the Upper House results might have some, you know, legislative consequence…

  2. My current Upper House estimate is Labor 18 Coalition 11 Greens 1 Transport Matters 1 Hinch Justice Party 3, Liberal Democrats 2, Shooters Fishers and Farmers 1, Sustainable Australia 1, Animal Justice 1, Reason 1.

    I think there’s serious doubt about these:

    * Reason in North Metro is almost as likely to instead be a win for Hinch Justice, it is very close.
    * Second Lib Dem in SE Metro could be a second Transport Matters instead.
    * Hinch Justice in W Metro could be a second Shooters, Fishers and Farmers instead.

    A few others are close. The ABC calculator shows Aussie Battler instead of Shooters winning in E Vic but I expect below-the-line votes to overturn it on current figures. It also shows both Patten (Reason) and Dagiandis (Hinch) winning in North Metro but I strongly expect below-the-lines to save the Liberal seat there.

    Because these counts are so complex it’s hard to predict results with certainty, something that nobody has forseen might cause some unexpected candidate to be elected somewhere.

  3. Before the election Hinch was worried Druery hadn’t done him a good enough set of deals! Actually DHJP only looked promising in 1-2 regions before the election, probably because those of us trying to model their vote underestimated it (they’re on 3.75%, I expected about 2.5-3).

  4. Obviously the preference deals are the biggest factor but DHJP got a pretty good number of votes too. The big man himself also received a lot of first prefs in the 2016 federal election. I think it’s understated how popular he is because he’s not Xenophon-or-Hanson-popular but he’s knocking on the door.

  5. Fine effort by Staley to hang on with only a 0.7% margin. Issues like not a single thing has been started in 4 years on the Western Hwy Duplication in the last Labor term would not have helped Santis trying to win. Same goes for the Gippsland seats, Labor have no interest in completing the Sale Duplication and all the seats there hardly swung to Labor. Northe won Morwell with virtually no swing against him. And Staley and Northe’s primary was not high and they got home on preferences this time like Labor do all the time. The Nats lost Mildura but most of the other country seats did not swing much.
    As for the Metro, it was a slaughter to Labor, crime did not work for the Libs and Labor promised the world in spending and the Libs only offered lower taxes and spending promises clearly won the day.

  6. if lib margin in Ripon is 15 votes…… this is tiny…. there is a case for the court of disputed returns just like Nunawading Provence many years ago. Interesting what a byelection would do…………. Ripon voice in government or opposition.

  7. Prahran went to the Court of Disputed Returns last time and was upheld.

    The Nunawading Province result was tied, so even a single fault would have sent it to the polls (as it was 44 were found). This cost the ALP its majority on the floor, preventing reform of the Legislative Council (the had done a preference deal with the Democrats to introduce proportional representation instead of scrapping the Legislative Council as had been their policy until that point, which they may have been able to implement if the Split in 1955 had not happened before the ALP`s impending likely Legislative Council majority after the Legislative Council election due in June 1955).

    http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/a/australia/states/vic/historic/1985council.txt

  8. I’m pretty sure I would remember it if Prahran had been to CDR, and I don’t. It went to a recount like Ripon and as far as I know that was the end of the matter. There was a CDR case but that was Palmer United complaining about early voters supposedly not declaring inability to vote on the day, as a result of which the requirement for a reason to vote early was abolished.

  9. I am going to go out on a limb for the LC.
    I am going to predict 3 Greens because of BTLs.

    Can’t fault Kevin on the Coalition and ALP.

    From Kevin’s micros list, which are not in the Druery deals?

    Transport Matters 1
    Hinch Justice Party 3,
    Liberal Democrats 2,
    Shooters Fishers and Farmers 1, Sustainable Australia 1,
    Animal Justice 1,
    Reason 1

    I have heard Reason and Animal Justice are not, but?

  10. I am going to predict 3 Greens because of BTLs.

    I’m pretty sure even if every BTL went to them there’s no way for the greens to get to 3.

  11. Note that my projections take into account how many BTLs there are and who they are for. Predicting who they will flow to is a different matter, but there are some cases where BTLs alone can’t change the result so it would need something else (like a different exclusion order or some unexpected electoral system quirk as happened with one of the One Nation seats in WA.)

  12. I can’t see how the court of disputed returns would not hear Labors argument considering Ripon was first called for Labor’s candidate Sarah De Santis by 31 votes last week, only for the Victorian Electoral Commission to conduct a partial recount at the request of Liberal MP Louise Staley.(according to the Age)
    Too close to call I reckon on a partial recount.

  13. De Santis was 31 ahead at the end of the distribution of preferences. Then there was a further recheck of Labor and Liberal and informal votes prior to the recount, and the results of this recheck were never officially announced, reported indirectly on Twitter as 3 or 4 votes to Labor. This was followed by the recount, and whether the recount was just of the distributed preferences or of all votes has never been made officially clear either, though it could be the former based on the candidates with lower tallies having the greater changes. Communication by the VEC on these matters wasn’t good.

    Very likely the court would hear any argument that went beyond just “hey it’s very close” and pointed to actual alleged errors; whether it would agree with it being another matter. And in the meantime Staley is the declared winner and the seated MP.

  14. Kevin
    It’s amazing to me that we still don’t know the Upper House makeup more than two weeks after the election. I think you have pointed to a dump of votes starting at 2.10 tomorrow.
    Do you have an educated guess when we will know if Reason have grabbed a seat in the mirage called Northern Metro?

  15. For most practical purposes (as opposed to, say, questions as to the eligibility of a candidate or outright fraud) the only issue the Court of Disputed Returns will generally consider is whether or not individual ballots have been incorrectly excluded or included.

    The kinds of arguments generally made here involve such things as whether that number on a ballot is a “1” or a “7”, whether abusive scrawl a voter has written on a ballot has the potential to identify the voter, whether a ballot has been correctly initialled by a polling official, whether an X though a number is an attempt to vote “1” or just the voter correcting a mistake, and whether the voter has attempted to vote for Mikey Mouse or it’s just idle doodling.

    Scrutineers for each party will have a short list of the most contentious ballots that were included and excluded and will be able to make an assessment of whether they think they have a decent chance of successfully arguing at least eight of them at the CDR. Each one of these contentious ballots will already have been argued over for some time, on more than one occasion, by the RO and scrutineers from all parties.

    In the end these kinds of ballot by ballot arguments tend to be a mug’s game as for every ballot you challenge your opponent will also bring along a bucket of their own, the net result of which is you win some and lose some and maybe change the final result by +/-5-6 votes in either direction.

    The only real way that a challenge might have half a chance at succeeding is if the RO has made some kind of borderline ruling on validity that runs across enough ballots to include or exclude a dozen or so in a single swoop. These kinds of issues pretty much never come up because Australian ROs are extremely well trained and professional, the issues have already been argued to death with the scrutineers, and the RO is able to draw on lots of experienced advice from the VEC along the way whenever they feel the need for a second opinion.

  16. Al Pal: My educated guess is sometime between 2:30 pm and 2:40 pm, assuming that either someone present tweets the result or the VEC posts it right away. However if the margin at the key point is very close – and this is perhaps more likely in N Metro than in any other case – then there might be a recount adding a few days.

    I would say that good democracy is like good wine, it takes some time, except that what is going on in the Victorian Upper House with Group Voting Tickets has nothing to do with good democracy and not really a lot to do with democracy at all.

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