What the papers say

Random notes on coronavirus and opinion poll response rates, election postponements and a call to give counting of pre-poll votes a head start on election night.

No Newspoll this week it seems – which is unfortunate, because a report in New York Times ($) suggests coronavirus lockdowns are doing wonders for opinion poll response rates:

Even in online surveys, pollsters have also seen an increase in participation over the past few weeks. At the Pew Research Center, which does most of its polling through the online American Trends Panel, many respondents filled in a voluntary-comments box in a recent survey with expressions of gratitude.

It is inferred that “a wider variety of people are willing to tell pollsters what they think, so it’s more likely that a poll’s respondents will come closer to reflecting the makeup of the general population.”

Coronavirus is rather less conducive to the staging of actual elections, the latest casualty being the May 30 date that was set for Tasmania’s Legislative Council seats of Huon Rosevears, which was itself a postponement from the traditional first Saturday of the month. The government has now invoked a recently legislated power to set the date for a yet-to-be-determined Saturday in June, July and August. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission has expressed the view that a fully postal election, as some were advocating, did not count as an election under the state’s existing Electoral Act.

Tasmania and other jurisdictions with elections looming on their calendars might perhaps look to South Korea, which proceeded with its legislative elections on Wednesday. As reported in The Economist ($):

All voters will have their temperature taken before entering their polling station (those found to have fever or other symptoms will be directed to a separate polling booth). They will also have to wear a face mask, sanitise their hands and put on vinyl gloves before picking up a ballot paper and entering the booth. Election stewards will ensure people keep away from each other while queueing and voting. Door knobs, pencils and ballot boxes will be sterilised often.

Other than that, I can offer the following in the way of recommended reading: Antony Green’s post calling for pre-poll votes to be counted under wraps on election day starting from 2pm. This would address issues arising from the huge imbalance between election day booths, only one of which processed more than 4000 votes at the May 2019 federal election, and the three weeks’ accumulation of votes cast at pre-poll booths, of which 901 cleared 4000 votes, including 208 that went above 10,000 and ten with more than 20,000 (UPDATE: Make that 370 of more than 4000 and 208 of more than 10,000 – turns out the numbers in the table are cumulative). The result is that the largest pre-poll booths are not reporting until very late at night, many hours after the last trickles of election booths runs dry.

This has sometimes caused election counts to take on different complexions at the end of the evening — to some extent at the Victorian state election in November 2018, which ended a little less catastrophic for the Liberals than the election day results suggested, and certainly at the Wentworth by-election the previous month, when Liberal candidate Dave Sharma briefly rose from the dead in his struggle with the ultimately victorious Kerryn Phelps. It is noted that pre-poll votes in New Zealand are counted throughout election day itself, which is made practical by a ban on any election campaigning on the day itself, freeing up party volunteers for scrutineering who in Australia would be staffing polling booths.

Antony also argues against reducing the pre-poll period from three weeks to two, for which there has been quite a broad push since last year’s election, as it will lead to greater demand for the less secure option of postal voting, stimulated by the efforts of the political parties.

Also note my extensive post below on recent events in Wisconsin – you are encouraged to use that thread if you have something to offer specifically on American politics.

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.

769 comments on “What the papers say”

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  1. According to BB if you say “That’s an argument the Liberal Party Makes” you are instantly calling him a card carrying member of the Liberal Party.

    He takes the General and makes it personal.

    Take his approach and there will be no political discussion on this blog.

    You are instantly finger pointing because you pointed out the Liberal Party made the same argument.

    This is his BS.

  2. frednk
    Monday, April 20, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    That has to be in the draw for best insult of the week.
    frednk can you work out which dickhead you want to be a parrot for. Unless you want to be passed around between Briefly, BB and BW. I mean have some self respect.

  3. DP:

    I was thinking about (but didn’t say) shareholding in private (unlisted) companies. Very high risk investments are typically in small (footprint) private companies. This is completely distinct from large public companies that have been “taken private” to reduce reporting or for some other reason, which may well have different rules and conventions.

    5% shareholding in a listed company is a Major Shareholder, reported by the company in which the shareholding is held (i.e. reported by the investment not the investor). This means companies with tens of thousands of shareholders don’t have to report them all. Never having been involved in a listed company making acquisitions I have no idea what the investor has to disclose in this case.

    Some of the the major risks to the investor company are that:
    – a high risk investment (particularly in a private company) requires a massive recapitalisation at some point (WeWork is a recent example)
    – value of the investment falls sharply (including to nil) and this affects the investor company’s valuation (adversely)

    At a 20% holding, both of these are almost certain to be significant risks to the investor company if it is a non-financial corporation (perhaps not if it is a financial entity with risk spread over hundreds or thousands of investments, but they will have whole lot of other rules), and hence these risks have to be reported on in great detail. Less than 20% (at least in private companies) tends not to be an issue. Trade investors (operating in an industry related to the investor company) are often more comfortable being part of a set of two or there (so one might see three trade investors each with a holding of 15% and exactly the same number of shares).

  4. Chewer:


    I rather like the idea of every transaction having its own unique random ID.
    I don’t think its a huge scaling issue. Not when very few people are tested positive.

    They have to work in the US of A, and presumably have some estimates of the real numbers (or just assume 150m infected at some point?). Hence it would be very interesting to see their estimates (which they somehow are getting from the government, or perhaps from Google data?)

  5. The takeover threshold is 20%. However, there is the option of a creeping acquisition. That’s where you increase your holding by up to 3% every six months. That tends to be a cheaper option as you don’t need to pay a takeover premium. While that will take longer to gain control, it may give you enough shares over a couple of years to take control of the board (many shareholders don’t vote in board elections).

  6. Steve,
    Everyone is talking about how you can spend 1 month of netflix money to get a barrel of oil. Pour out the oil on the ground to give back to the planet. and you get a nifty barrel you can sell for like 28 dollars.

    Those oil producers are just leaving money on the table!

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