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Vic 2018 – group voting tickets triumph over voters

December 11, 2018 - 21:56 -- Admin

The button was pushed this afternoon in the eight Victorian Legislative Council contests, producing provisional results (subject to any possible challenges where the race might be close.

The seat count by party is:

  • 18 Labor (+4)
  • 10 Liberal (-4)
  • 1 Nationals (-1)
  • 1 Greens (-4)
  • 3 Hinch’s Justice Party (+3)
  • 2 Lib Dems (+2)
  • 1 Reason (-)
  • 1 Shooters (-1)
  • 1 Sustainable Australia (+1)
  • 1 Transport Matters (+1)
  • 1 Animal Justice (+1)

There was a slight increase in the non-Greens minor party vote, from 19.7% to 22.1%, but this doesn’t explain the big increase in members from these parties, from five to ten.

I don’t have any particular problem with minor parties getting elected. Indeed I’m a fan of proportional systems which make this possible. But the group voting ticket system has seriously distorted the result to favour certain minor parties over others, and has allowed Labor to divert its voters’ preferences to parties more likely to be pliable in the balance of power, and away from the Greens.

The arguments in favour of abolishing the group voting ticket system are strong, and we don’t have any particularly new evidence coming out of this election result, but all of the usual arguments still apply.

In this post I will run through some of the biggest problems with this election result.

The following table compares each parties’ vote to their seat share:

Party
Votes
Percent
Seats
Largest remainder
D’Hondt
Saint-Laguë

Labor
1,406,122
39.2
18
16
18
16

Liberal
1,054,980
29.4
11
12
14
12

Greens
331,751
9.3
1
4
4
4

Hinch’s Justice
134,413
3.8
3
2
1
2

Shooters, Fishers & F
108,312
3.0
1
1
1
1

Liberal Democrats
89,441
2.5
2
1
1
1

Animal Justice
88,530
2.5
1
1
1
1

Democratic Labour
75,294
2.1
0
1
0
1

Patten’s Reason
49,008
1.4
1
1
0
1

Vol. Euthanasia
42,730
1.2
0
1
0
1

Aussie Battler
33,234
0.9
0
0
0
0

Victorian Socialists
32,614
0.9
0
0
0
0

Sustainable Aus.
29,866
0.8
1
0
0
0

Health Australia
28,190
0.8
0
0
0
0

Aus. Country Party
24,374
0.7
0
0
0
0

Transport Matters
22,228
0.6
1
0
0
0

Aus. Liberty Alliance
20,131
0.6
0
0
0
0

Hudson 4 NV
6,438
0.2
0
0
0
0

Others
7,929
0.2
0
0
0
0

While the Greens did suffer a negative swing, they still polled more than twice as many votes as the next most popular minor party, with Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party polling 3.75%, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers polling 3%.

If you look at the ratio of votes to seats, the discrepancy is massive. Transport Matters won one seat off a statewide vote of 22,228, while the Greens only won one seat off 331,751 votes.

My objection is not to small parties winning seats – but to the arbitrary and undemocratic way that this is decided. If the Victorian upper house was elected by the Saint-Laguë method (a variation on D’Hondt which gives a boost to smaller parties) we would have seen two less Labor members, one more Liberal, and three more Greens. But we would have still seen two members of Hinch’s party win seats, along with six others. This would have included members of the Democratic Labour Party and the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, both of whom received more votes than Sustainable Australia or Transport Matters but missed out thanks to unfavourable preference flows.

One of the most extreme results was Transport Matters in East Metro. They won off 0.6%, thanks to preferences from almost every other group. Eleven other candidates started ahead of them in the race for the final seat, with the Greens leading on 9%.

It’s also worth looking at the result in the South-Eastern Metro region, where the Liberal Democrats won off 0.84% of the primary vote. If every vote flowed according to the group voting tickets, the Transport Matters party would have won a second seat off 1.3%, but enough below-the-line votes flowed elsewhere to knock out TMP before the Greens, at which point preferences instead favoured the Lib Dems.

Not every minor party candidate was elected on such a tiny vote. Catherine Cumming of the DHJP polled 6.8% in West Metro, and her fellow Hinch Party MLCs both polled over 4% in Northern Victoria and Western Victoria.

I’d like to finish by discussing below-the-line voting. There was a concerted online campaign to encourage voters to opt out of the GVTs by choosing their own preferences. About 9% of votes were cast below the line (up from 6% in 2014).

While group voting tickets still decided most of the seats, there were some crucial moments where below-the-line votes did come into play, specifically:

  • Below-the-line votes accelerated Greens leader Samantha Ratnam getting elected in North Metro, which meant that Socialist preferences flowed in full to Fiona Patten, favouring her over the DHJP’s Carmlea Dagiandis.
  • Vern Hughes of the Aussie Battler Party was expected to narrowly win on group voting tickets, but dropped behind Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party thanks to some of those preferences leaking as below-the-line votes. The Shooters then benefited from the released preferences and won.
  • As mentioned above, Transport Matters were knocked out in south-east metro as many preferences flowed in other directions, but this just allowed the Lib Dems to win on the back of the votes that would have otherwise gone to Transport Matters.
  • The Greens came a lot closer to winning in South Metro, losing by only 2755 votes, not the 23,516 predicted by the calculator.

I’ll leave it here, but I’ll come back later in the week with some maps showing the final results. In the meantime, I recommend checking out Kevin Bonham’s analysis for more details of the final upper house count.