More Oz Election: and I learn something new every day!

Yesterday I wrote:

Bit of a puzzle. ABC still says we have six seats in doubt; the Australian Electoral Commission Tally Room says none. According to AEC it’s Coalition 74, Labor 71, Greens 1, Katter 1, Xenophon 1, Independents 2, not yet determined 0.

Today we have ABC saying 74 for the Coalition, 66 for Labor, 5 Other and 5 in doubt, while the AEC Tally Room says 76 Coalition now, 69 Labor, 1 Green, 1 Katter, 1 Xenophon and 2 Independents. However, if you scroll down you find listed as “close” the same five seats ABC has in doubt.  So I think I have worked out why the two sets of figures differ. Looks like ABC’s endgame prediction of 76 to Coalition, and 69 to Labor plus five Other is most likely now, not that anyone except Christopher Pyne is conceding anything quite yet.

So technically not a hung parliament, but near as!


Christopher Pyne

Yesterday in Diggers I was talking to a fellow who is, I think, a bit of a Tony Abbott fan. He was saying that he’d seen something on Sky News about voting just one number above the line in the Senate still being counted as a valid vote. Our Senate voting system is pretty complex, even more so when it comes to counting the votes – which is why it could be a month before we are sure exactly who has been returned to the new Senate. The voting system was reformed just before this election to one where you either vote six above the line, or at least twelve below the line. See my 15 June post Voting opens in Oz 2016 election.

OK, so I doubted my friend (and so did his wife, I have to say), thinking votes marking just one box above the line would be informal. Turns out though my friend was correct, as Antony Green explains.

Can I just vote 1 above the line?

For the last 32 years, a single ‘1’ above the line has been formal, with the ballot paper then taking on the full group preference ticket of the chosen party. The new system has abolished the tickets and the instructions now read that you should fill in at least six preferences in party boxes above the line on the ballot paper.

However, with 95% of the electorate having voted with a single ‘1’ for three decades, requiring six preferences had the potential to create a huge increase in informal voting caused by voters not being aware of the new instructions.

To avoid increasing informal voting, a generous ‘savings’ provision has been included in the act. Any ballot paper with a valid first preference above the line will be ‘saved’ from being informal. Such a vote will count for the candidates of the chosen party, but will have no preferences for any other candidate or party on the ballot paper. A ballot with a valid first preference will be valid for every further preference completed, so a 1,2 is also formal, a 1,2,3 is formal, as is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and so on.

Some people have been unwisely saying just voting ‘1’ is good enough. This is a mistaken view.

In the House it is always the candidates from parties with the lowest votes that get excluded and have their preferences distributed. That is not the case in the Senate.

The more complex counting system used in the Senate means that in certain circumstances, the party with the most votes can be excluded and end up having its surplus to quota preferences distributed to other parties.

Do not be confused with ‘just vote 1’ strategies used at single member electorate contests in NSW and Queensland. In the Senate the most effective vote always has preferences, even if you are voting for one of the major parties.