Saturday, December 9, 2006

Did a misleading campaign change the Northcote result?

On the latest figures from the VEC, the answer is quite possibly 'yes'. With votes comprising some 90.36 per cent of the total enrolment now counted, the number of people who either voted informally or did not vote at all numbered some 5345. If even a portion of that number had combined with people who voted Labor only because of the ALP's misleading campaign, the line between a Greens and an ALP victory might have been very thin indeed.

That conclusion is important, because the Electoral Act 2002 places a requirement on the Court of Disputed Returns to consider whether the result would have been changed in determining petitions challenging election results. Given that the figures suggest that the ALP's misleading campaign might have swung the balance, there appears to be scope for the Greens to challenge the Northcote result in court. Advice from the VEC indicates that this would need to occur within 40 days of the return of the writ, which is anticipated for 16 December.

I should also include here an update on the tally for the seat, as the figures given in my last post were calculated when counting had only been partially completed and things have improved somewhat for the ALP. In 2002, votes comprising 91.37 per cent of the total enrolment were counted, so this suggests that counting for 2006, at 90.36 per cent, must now be down to the very last votes. Given that, how has the ALP fared?

Well, despite an increase of 2.3 per cent in the total enrolment, first-preference votes for the ALP were down from 18,229 for Delahunty in 2002 to 17,470 for Richardson in 2006. The number of informal votes was up 0.5 per cent as a proportion of the total vote (up by 190 to 1624), as were non-voters at 1.0 per cent as a proportion of the total enrolment (about 3721 in 2006, compared to 3257 in 2002).

The upshot is that, despite its misleading campaign, the ALP first preference vote was down by about 2.7 per cent, and engagement in the process also fell away. It could well be that, as well as deceiving voters to vote for them instead of the Greens, the ALP may have turned people away who were uncertain what to believe. If that's a fair and open election, we're setting the bar pretty low.

For those so inclined, the 2002 results can be compared with the 2006 results on the VEC's own pages, though little change in the latter is now likely given the extent of the count.

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