The Association of Market and Social Research Organisations has published a discussion paper for its review into last year’s federal election polling failure. It notes that existing standards set by the Australian Press Council are too lax and readily ignored in any case, and suggests a familiar retinue of suggested new standards including full disclosure of weightings used and detail of how preference flows were determined. While the inquiry’s committee and advisory group are impressively credentialled, it should be noted that most actual pollsters aren’t members of the AMSRO. The recent announcement that YouGov, Essential Research and uComms would establish an Australian Polling Council occurred independently of its process, and is likely to be the more consequential development.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary inquiry has been putting the blowtorch to the Electoral Commission of Queensland over the failure of its results reporting facilities at the local government elections and state by-elections on March 28. Excuses include disruption arising from COVID-19, which extended to “coding resources” being locked down in Wuhan, and the complication of combining elections for two state parliament seats with the statewide council elections. It also appears an American firm contracted to provide a new election management system, Konnech, has found itself bamboozled by what the electoral commissioner described as “the complexity of Queensland electoral law”, which “far exceeded that of any other Konnech customer” (a conclusion it would no doubt have reached in any Australian jurisdiction).
The new results website went belly-up on testing a week out from election day, prompting the ECQ to hurriedly concoct the unfamiliar-looking results website that appeared on the night. Polling booth officials were required to submit results through a shareable spreadsheet application, which threw up formating inconsistencies upon transfer to the ECQ system. The ECQ’s technical staff spent the night dealing with the results website issues, leaving corresponding issues with a horrifyingly complex XML results feed to one side. Consequently, the ABC’s results displays remained stuck on a tiny share of the count all night, and updates remained infrequent beyond election night. It is to be hoped that this will all be sorted out before a state election that will be held on October 31.