Eden-Monaro by-election live

Live commentary on the counting for the Eden-Monaro by-election.

Projected ALP swing Projected 2PP ALP win probability

Thursday evening

As the Liberals conceded defeat today, the count slipped still further away from them, mostly on account of a recheck of the Tumut pre-poll booth showing up a fairly substantial error, the correction of which caused Labor to gain 80 votes and the Liberals lose 94. A further batch of provisionals went 32-24 to Labor, and Labor even won today’s postals by 313-310. That leaves Labor’s lead at 907, out from 719, and increases their margin to 0.5%.

Wednesday evening

Fiona Kotvojs had her best day on postals yet, breaking 447-354 her way, with a larger number processed than yesterday for some reason. Other than that, rechecking cost Labor a net seven votes and Liberal zero, and provisional votes were added to the count – 759 of these were rejected, the remainder breaking 61-56 to Labor. There are still 90 envelopes listed as awaiting processing, of which a small handful will presumably be added eventually. Other than that are maybe 1000 more postals that will trickle in over the next week, along with a couple of hundred declaration pre-polls. None of which gives Kotvojs room to chase down a Labor lead that now stands at 719, down from 814 yesterday.

Tuesday evening

Rechecking was again to the Liberals’ disadvantage today, costing them 189 votes compared with 105 for Labor. That more than cancelled out their gain from the 263-217 split on the rapidly diminishing postal vote count. The blind and low vision facility also reported its five votes today, which was technically the last outstanding polling booth. That leaves Labor’s lead up from 775 to 814; my model and projection continue to assume there are around 2000 postals still to come together with 600 to 700 declaration pre-polls and provisional votes, but the rate of decline in the numbers of postals being added with each day of counting suggests the former figure is inflated.

Monday evening

Today’s batch of 1157 postal votes behaved similarly to the previously counted 10,364 in breaking 608-549 in favour of the Liberals, amounting to in an inadequate 59-vote dent in the Labor lead. The Liberals also got the worst of today’s polling booth and pre-poll re-checking, which cost them 194 votes and Labor 97, thereby extending Labor’s lead by 97 votes. Taken together, Labor’s lead increased from 737 to 775. Rosie Lewis of The Australian reports Liberal sources saying Shooters preferences split around 50-50 and the Nationals around 80-20. The latter was not so radically different from the 87-13 split at the 2019 election, but with so close a result it was enough to be decisive. If you’re a Crikey subscriber, you can read my post-match account here.

Sunday evening

Developments earlier today required Labor to put the champagne on ice, and not just because of curious determination from parts of the Murdoch empire to call the result for the Liberals. The AEC’s efforts were spent on rechecking and formally processing the available postal votes, the latter of which was the subject of an informal advisory last night that Labor had 2394 and Liberal 2464 on the progress two-party count. This was a surprisingly strong result for Labor, notwithstanding the qualifications in the section immediately below, and appeared to put the issue beyond doubt. But for whatever reason, the result was not borne out with today’s progressive addition of postals in four batches, totalling 9207 votes altogether, with Labor receiving 46.3% rather than the initially reported 49.3%.

This is still 3.1% better than Labor did on postals last year, but the uncovering of a further error on rechecking means it’s not quite enough to definitively slam the door shut. This related to the two-party result from the Merimbula pre-poll booth, the correction of which cut a further 310 votes from the Labor margin. So whereas Labor had a 1718 vote lead on the raw count when the Narooma pre-poll finally reported its two-party result early this morning, it’s now down to 737, altbeit with a lot fewer votes left to come. The projections featured in the bottom rows of my full results display are now working on the basis that 3651 postals will be added in diminishing increments over the next fortnight, of which Fiona Kotvojs will need around 60%. There are also around 700 provisionals and declaration pre-polls to come, although they are more likely to give Labor a slight boost.

It is presumably on the basis of such calculations that Kristy McBain claimed victory this afternoon, with Labor sources quoted saying they were now “100% confident”. My own model only goes so far as 88.0%, down from its 96.5% peak late last night. All will be revealed over the coming days, and the Poll Bludger results page will be there to reveal it, providing near-instantaneous updates of the results and projections as the latest data comes through from the AEC.

Sunday morning

UPDATE AT 8:30am: The Narooma pre-poll two-party result is in, and proved less helpful to the Liberals than suggested below, breaking 1697-1632 their way.

The count ended last night with Labor leading by 1685 on the AEC’s official count, which did not include a two-party tally of postal votes it published showing 2464 going to Liberal and 2394 to Labor, reducing the lead to 1563. Only primary votes have been published from the Narooma pre-poll voting centre, which should reduce the Labor lead by another 200 to 250 votes when it reports its two-party result. Beyond that there should be another 8000 postals along with 700 votes’ worth of scraps, the latter of which should if anything favour Labor a little. That leaves the Liberals needing around 60% of the outstanding postals to win, an unforeseaable reversal on the progress of the postal count so far.

My results display has now moved into late counting phase, during which it attempts to project results for the outstanding votes, notwithstanding that the actual number of the latter is not precisely known. This shows up as three new rows at the bottom of the booth results table showing projections for provisionals, declaration pre-polls and postals. The first two are based on swing differentials from the election, while the latter assumes the outstanding postal votes will behave the same as those already counted, as they more or less did in Eden-Monaro through the 2019 election count. All of this adds up to a projected Labor margin of 1566, although as noted it doesn’t include the Narooma pre-poll which I expect will shave it back to around 1300.

Note that the aforementioned two-party postal count has been added to these results, but it won’t show up in the AEC results until the morning. This is a little messy on my end as it means there are more than two-party than primary votes in the system, which is not how things are supposed to work. Hopefully the AEC’s update will include the primary votes, and my system will be able to handle the transition back to normality when it does (since I won’t be awake for it).

Some further observations on the result:

• I said ad nauseam through the evening that projections might be thrown out by a surprise on postals, surprise in this case meaning a swing substantially different from the ordinary votes. In retrospect though, it stands to reason that a COVID-19 driven increase in postal voting should make the postal voter base more representative, and thus less conservative. AEC figures also show that Labor’s postal vote campaign also elicited 4447 applications compared with the Liberals’ 2908. In any case, the Liberals’ 50.8% two-party share of the postals counted thus far compares with 57.1% at the federal election, which compares with a picture of near-perfect stability on the two-party vote in polling booths (a 0.1% swing to Liberal) and pre-polls (what I’m projecting to be a 0.2% Liberal swing when the one straggler booth reports its two-party result).

• The outstanding fact of the result is that Labor achieved it with a stronger flow of preferences than last time, from roughly 50-50 overall to 57-43 (inclusive of preferences from the Nationals as well as minor parties and independents). This was despite the minor party preference pool being seemingly more conservative than last time: Shooters polled 5.4% after not contesting last time without costing the Nationals, while on the left, the Greens’ drop was cancelled out by gains for HEMP and the Science Party. It will be very interesting to see how much of Labor’s surprisingly strong preference flow was down to the Shooters, who directed preferences to Labor, and John Barilaro, who was accused of encouraging Nationals voters to do the same. We will get some idea when the full preference distribution is conducted in about a week, and a more exact one when the preference flow figures are published further down the track.

• The Liberal line on the result is that Labor’s 3.0% drop on the primary vote is disastrous for Anthony Albanese, since by-election swings to oppositions are par for the course in non-disastrous contexts. But as Peter Brent has calculated, there is actually very little historic tendency for oppositions to pick up swings in their own seats at by-elections, when they are suffering from the loss of the incumbent’s personal vote and, in most cases, an element of resentment that the member resigned. There is also the highly salient fact that there were eight candidates at the election and fourteen at the by-election, such that the Labor vote last year included a cohort who would have voted for Shooters or HEMP if given the chance. Nonetheless, the swing comes off an already low base and the result can’t be described as any better than mediocre for Labor.

Election night commentary

2.00am. I’ve now flicked the results facility over to the next phase, which takes the existing result and estimates how the outstanding votes will play out, in turn requiring an estimate of how many outstanding votes there actually will be — which I’ve put it a highly approximate 8000 in the case of postals. The model assumes these will behave the same as the 4768 that have reported, which recorded a handsome 5.9% swing to Labor (it also project much smaller expected numbers of provisional pre-polls and declaration votes). For much of the night the assumption has been that postals would whittle away Labor’s raw lead, as they so often do in late counting, but those counted so far have gone nearly 50-50. Having reduced the number of expected outstanding votes, the Labor win probability is now at 96.5%, which is high enough that you would say the model is calling it. Most seasoned electoral pundits are even more bullish for Labor, since the Liberals will need to win the outstanding postals by about 60-40 to turn around Labor’s 1703 lead. They may, however, get a small boost when the Narooma pre-poll booth reports its two-party result, which my model is currently disregarding.

12.18am. There was a whole bunch of activity on pre-poll vote counting just when I had thought it stopped, and turned my updater off while I worked on incorporating these postal votes — I turned it back on to clear the backlog. Of the 13 pre-polls, all but the small blind and low vision facility are now in, along with two booths yet to report two-party results. In the final analysis, pre-polls did not behave much differently from election day votes — about 2% better for Liberal, 1% better for Labor and no difference for the Nationals. This probably doesn’t amount to the recovery they needed to balance their disappointing results on postals. Antony Green is pretty much calling it for Labor.

11.29pm. The AEC has announced that the postal vote count has ended for the evening at Labor 2394 and Liberal 2464, which Labor would be very pleased with. These numbers have not been added to the AEC’s site, but I’ll make an effort to incorporate them in the results page after I’ve had some time to get my head together.

11.13pm. That may be all we’re getting on results from tonight, though don’t quote me on that. Stay tuned in any case, as I’ll be posting a general overview of the situation at some point over the next few hours. The election results facility will also continue humming tonight and through the late count, and unlike the AEC and ABC sites, it will not cease attempting to protect the result at the end of this evening, instead making an effort to estimate the outstanding postals, pre-poll and declaration votes that will decide the result over the coming days. In a spirit of kind-of-summing-up — if you’ve enjoyed my results facility this evening, kindly consider expressing your thanks for the rather considerable amount of work that was involved through a small donation, which you can make through the “become a supporter” button at the top of the page or the top right of the results page.

10.57pm. Cooma pre-poll in, both primary and two-party vote, with a 2.5% swing to Liberal on the latter. Prediction needle continuing hovering around 75% for Labor.

10.47pm. Two-party result from Yass pre-poll: 1.6% swing to Labor, and a shift of the prediction needle in Labor’s favour, from 70.7% to 77.1%.

10.41pm. Jerrabomberra pre-poll primary vote similar to Queanbeyan: Labor -6.2%, Liberal +0.7%, Nationals +5.0%. Prediction needle now in from 75% to 70.7% Labor win probability.

10.35pm. The long-awaited Queanbeyan PPVC in on the primary vote: Labor -7.9%, Liberal -1.3%, Nationals +5.1%. The Poll Bludger prediction needle has Labor’s win probability in from 82% to 75%.

10.31pm. The Bega pre-poll has reported its two-party vote, showing a 0.8% swing to Labor.

10.24pm. Antony Green says we should see all pre-poll primary votes by the end of the night, but not all the two-party counts, and that counting will certainly wrap up for the evening at 11pm, i.e. a bit over half an hour. Don’t know what the deal is with postals, beyond the fact that Kristina Keneally had numbers from about 3000 counted that sounded fairly encouraging for Labor to me, for all that Keneally has been striking a cautious note.

10.16pm. Tumut pre-poll two-party in, swinging 0.6% to the Liberals, quite different from the 9.4% swing to Labor in Merimbula, the only other pre-poll booth in on two-poll. To the extent that I understood earlier that pre-poll two-party votes would not be counted tonight, clearly this was not the case.

10.04pm. Merimbula pre-poll in on two-party, and Labor got a hefty swing of 9.4%. As noted though, they haven’t done quite so well at the other three pre-polls that have reported on the primary vote.

10.00pm. Pre-polls are now looking a mixed bag. The fourth set of primary vote results is from Tumut: Labor -3.0%, Liberal +6.0%, Nationals -1.2%, 3764 formal votes. In primary vote swing terms, Labor and Liberal are both doing 3-4% better on pre-polls than primaries, but the Nationals are doing 4% worse. So they still look a net positive for Labor, though the long-awaited Queanbeyan result could upset that. If they remain so and Keneally is right about postals, Labor should get over the line.

9.57pm. Kristina Keneally on the ABC has postal vote information not available to the rest of us, showing a 2.4% primary vote swing to Labor off 3000 counted, which would be very good news for them.

9.56pm. Less good pre-poll result for Labor from Yass, down 3.6% on primary vote. The Liberals are up 4.4%, but the Nationals are down 7.5%, so I guess it will come out status quo.

9.48pm. Labor worried about Queanbeyan pre-poll, but with the two results so far, Labor has a +3.7% primary vote swing compared with -4.1% on the election day vote.

9.46pm. Status quo at Bega pre-poll: Labor +1.3%, Liberal +2.2%, Nationals -1.5%, 4320 formal votes.

9.42pm. First pre-poll result is from Merimubula, and it’s good for Labor, who are up 6.7% with Liberal down 3.4% from 4980 formal votes.

9.38pm. All counts now done for the election day booths.

9.32pm. I believe the pre-polls that will report on the primary vote are Queanbeyan, Bega, Merimbula, Cooma and Jerrabomberra, and that I heard Antony Green say we’ll start seeing some results in around 20 minutes. I not sure what the circumscribed pre-poll vote means for the AEC’s promised count of postal votes this evening.

9.25pm. Kristina Keneally just revealed we are unlikely to see any pre-poll two-party counts tonight, but we will get primary vote counts only from about five centres whose names I didn’t fully catch, but which included Queanbeyan, Bega and Cooma.

9.22pm. Still nothing on pre-polls, one straggler left on two-party preferred from the election day count. For what lies ahead, what’s notable is that pre-poll voting count hasn’t much changed, but the postal vote has more than doubled. While Kristina Keneally has expressed concern about pre-polls (see below), I might hypothesise that the postal voters are not the people who normally vote postal, and the people who do normally vote postal tend to be conservative. So Labor’s performance on postals may be, at least, above average.

8.40pm. To self-promote during the quiet part of the count — and perhaps also a plea for donations while I’m about it — I’d like to point out a feature of my results page which is about to become very useful, namely that election day booths and pre-poll booths are listed in different sections, with separately recorded sub-totals and swings.

8.28pm. Kristina Keneally on the ABC is making pessimistic noises based on the size of the Queanbeyan pre-poll, and the party’s soft performance there, which she attributes to the area being Mike Kelly’s “base”.

8.22pm. A big lull in the count, with nearly all the election day booths in apart from a few stragglers (one on the primary vote, eight on two-party preferred).

8.16pm. Antony Green notes the absence of the United Australia Party as a contributing factor in Labor’s stronger preference flow, and also the possibility they are doing well out of Shooters Fishers Farmers preferences. That would include donkey votes since Shooters drew top of the ballot and Liberal are last.

8.06pm. Projected swing: 0.0%.

8.05pm. Labor just had a pretty good set of primary vote numbers from Jerrabomberra, which was better for them than the other Queanbeyan booths, causing the needle to nudge a little in their favour for the first time.

8.00pm. The projection continues to tighten as the larger centres report, though not so much as to change the basic fact that it all hinges on the dynamic of pre-polls and (especially) postals. The AEC doesn’t normally count postals on the night, but it will be doing so on this occasion, but only after the pre-polls are counted. This means that there will be a dump of what the AEC estimates at anywhere between 5000 and 8000 votes in the small hours that may very well decide the result, if the pre-polls don’t do so first.

7.51pm. Labor’s projected lead continues to moderate as Queanbeyan booths continue to report. Only one of them is outstanding though (at least on the primary vote).

7.47pm. On Sky, John Barilaro says the Liberals will win, Graham Richardson says Labor will. Sight unseen, my money would always be on Richo.

7.36pm. Just as I expected — a flurry of votes for Queanbeyan has cut the projected Labor margin by half a point. Curiously, there has been a swing to the Nationals in Queanbeyan and against them in the country. Early in the count I was projecting a primary vote swing against the Nationals, but that’s gone now.

7.35pm. I’d like to take the opportunity to throw in a little plea for donations. Needless to say, this whole set-up has been rather hard work. They are gratefully received either through the “Become a Supporter” buttons at the top of the page and the bottom of each post.

7.31pm. That Queanbeyan booth swung 5.4% to Liberal on two-party, and the primary vote figures in from Queanbeyan East also show a swing to the Liberals. If that’s a pattern, there may be a bit of a swing of the pendulum back to the Liberals shortly.

7.29pm. With nearly half the booths now reporting on the primary vote, the total number of votes cast at polling booths is down on 7% on the equivalent at the election.

7.23pm. The result otherwise seems to have settled in — outside Queanbeyan at least, we are clearly looking at modest changes on the primary vote and a stronger preferences flow to Labor. The question now is how the dynamic looks elsewhere.

7.21pm. Possibly a concern for Labor that they are well down on the primary vote in the one Queanbeyan booth to have reported so far. So far it’s only in on the primary vote — be curious to see how the two-party looks.

7.13pm. The various models have converged now, such that the traditional approach of booth-matching the two-party preferred count is now actually more favourable for Labor than what Antony Green calls “prediction based on projecting preference flows”, which is what I’m using. The raw count, with is about 50-50, has not caught up, but the models predict it will when more favourable booths for Labor come in, probably from Queanbeyan. But as I must consistently point out, with the result this close, the dynamic of pre-poll and postal votes is a major wild card.

7.10pm. I observe that the large field of minor parties and independents is doing quite well collectively but not individually. It doesn’t look the sort of minor party vote assemblage to give Labor a strong flow of preferences, but so far that’s the deal.

7.08pm. In any case, my projections are closer to Antony Green’s now, which makes me less nervous about them. I observe that he has a “prediction based on projecting preference flow” model, which sounds rather a lot like what I’m doing, and like mine is showing Labor in a stronger position — more so in fact in his case.

7.04pm. My model has been reasonably consistent in recording next to no swing for a while now, which just leaves the question of whether my model is right. To repeat the ways in which it might not be: it is using a two-party count of around 1900 votes to produce a preference estimate for a primary vote count of 6725, which so far looks surprisingly favourable to Labor; and at this of all elections, anything might happen on pre-polls and (especially) postals.

7.00pm. I speak too soon, as the Labor preference projection is up again on the latest update.

6.58pm. The latest updates have had the projected two-party lead ebbing away, partly because the early optimistic projection of their preference flow is coming off the boil (as I thought it might as large booths came in and the Nationals vote became less of a factor).

6.56pm. It wasn’t all the preference model kicking in that caused that change though — the swings against Labor and in favour of Liberal on the primary vote have also ameliorated.

6.53pm. Well, there you go — my preference flow swing model has kicked in and suddenly it’s projection is a lot rosier for Labor. This is largely because, out of the six small rural booths that have reported two-party results, Labor has a stronger flow of preferences than it did in 2019. Just maybe, Nationals voters are indeed taking John Barilaro’s hints. But this is a problem so far as my model is concerned, because the votes counted so far are in places where Nationals voters are concentrated.

6.52pm. I’ve now got 197 votes of preference flows to work with, frustratingly short of my threshold. The next two-party result to report may cause a sudden change in my model, one way or another. Another point of caution at this by-election is that a different dynamic may emerge on pre-polls and postals this time, whereas these models assume broad continuity on this score.

6.49pm. Antony Green is now recording the 6.6% primary vote swing against Labor that I had earlier, so it looks like my system is ahead of his. Since then, the swing has moderated slightly — I’ve got it at 4.8%. With the Greens down too, that’s obviously not good news for them, but this is a mixed electorate and so far the results are all rural. I’m still a bit leery of my two-party projection, and will remain so until there are more than 200 votes listed in the “preference flows”, at which point it will stop using my pre-election guesstimates.

6.41pm. I’m recording a fairly solid 6.6% drop in the Labor primary vote — Antony Green’s is a bit more modest at 5.5%, but it’s been catching up with mine.

6.37pm. I suspect my guesstimate preference model is understating Labor because of the drop in the Nationals vote. If so, it will resolve when a few more booths are in on the two-party vote.

6.34pm. Five booths in on the primary vote. Contrary to pre-election talk, the Nationals vote looks to be down — note that the early booths that report early are the party’s rural centres of strength. But so far it’s not yielding a dividend to Labor, so there’s nothing to separate them.

6.32pm. Three booths now in on the primary vote. At this stage, my model is going off primary vote swings, which so far are looking modest, and my pre-election guesstimates of how preferences will flow. My preferences will start to be based on booth-matched swings when a few more booths are in.

6.29pm. We have our first result, on both primary and two-party, for the Bowning booth. Tiny figures, with 150 counted, but if my processes are working correctly it’s a swing to the Liberals.

5.50pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Eden-Monaro by-election. The display featured above is a small sample of what will be available tonight on this site’s results facility. The top half of the display features progress vote totals and booth-matched swings, including a New York Times-style “election needle” recording a probability estimate of the final result. This is based on a somewhat novel projection of two-party preferred that uses estimates of the final primary vote shares and preference flows. The latter is the subject of its own table, which will show how minor party and independent preferences are flowing based on the latest two-party count, and how this compares with the corresponding results from the 2019 election.

The bottom half features the clearest and neatest display of the booth results you will find, in the form of a table in which you can toggle between vote totals, percentages and swings. Not the least of the benefits of this is that the results can be easily cut-and-pasted into a spreadsheet. The table also features separate sub-totals for ordinary election day polling booths and pre-poll voting centres, with swings to match — an increasingly important distinction on election night, when the latter come in quite a bit later than the former and don’t always behave the same way.

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.

882 comments on “Eden-Monaro by-election live”

  1. Hi all, its been a while (stupid polls!)

    I dont think we can read much into this result (outside the electorate), which ever way it goes. Voters just want political leaders to listen to experts, they arent tuned into local politics at all.

    There is less hostility towards politicians than any time i can remember, it cant be compared to any previous (by-)election.

  2. You’d have to think there would be some sympathy vote for Kelly’s successor… ill health is unfortunate reason for a by-election

  3. I guess i should make a prediction anyway… i think easy liberal win, just because voters tend to support whoever is in government when there is a crisis because they want stability, current crisis override previous crisis.

  4. @Luke any sympathy about Kelly resigning due to ill health would be eased by him walking straight into a high paying corporate job

  5. You’d have to think there would be some sympathy vote for Kelly’s successor… ill health is unfortunate reason for a by-election

    I don’t think electoral politics really works this way.

  6. Antony’s booth projections have ALP wining 51.5/48.5 – lots of free range egg in those early booths for gleefull posters faces 🙂

  7. I don’t think there is such thing as a sympathy vote for predecessors. Look at Northcote by election when popular MP passed away from cancer.

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