Speculation is rife as to which candidate has placed a formal request to have the Warrumbungle Shire Council votes recounted. Last night the NSW Electoral Commission contacted council hopefuls to inform them that the NSWEC was considering whether they would go ahead with a recount. It is understood, but not confirmed, that Phil Johnston has made the request.

The NSW government committed to a more transparent government in 2009 and one of the steps to ensure information relevant to the public’s interest was to implement the GIPA Act  (Government Information [Private Access]). These laws authorises and encourages the proactive release of information by NSW public sector agencies (including the Warrumbungle Shire Council), and mean that information about the election can be found online.The actual vote data used n the preference counts can be downloaded [255k Zip File] and examined.

One of the more popular theories is that the Doolan/Johnston ticket confused voters who wanted to vote for them and only put a 1/2 in that group’s boxes, and did not continue on to fill on other preferences. Under the NSW legislation, these votes might be counted under the “savings provisions” rules that basically say that if the voter’s intention can be ascertained from the ballot then the vote can be counted. If a vote has consecutive numbers starting from 1 then the preference might be counted. On checking the informal votes there’s only a couple. Not enough to make up the ground needed to knock Shinton out, and other informal votes that did not number at least 5 candidates would also benefit other candidates whose votes were deemed invalid.

On examination of the informal votes for the Doolan/Johnston group it can be seen that by far the most amount of informal votes concerning their group was where voters voted 1/2 in their columns, then went on to vote 12345 etc in the second column, obfuscating their intention – were they voting for Doolan/Johnston?Or whoever they voted for in the second column? These votes will remain informal as the voter’s intention cannot be ascertained.

Here is an example of one of those votes from a voter at Dunedoo

The largest number of informal votes are by people who did not sequentially place numbers from 1 to 5 (or more). Some missed numbers, some placed 1 to 5 then added random numbers after that. There were ticks and crosses as well, rather than numbers.

Studies into unintentional informal voting from previous Australian elections found that most are caused by an issue with speaking/understanding English, which is unlikely to be the cause here. The next is confusion caused by the number of candidates. The more candidates there are, the more informal votes are cast. This could possibly be part of the cause in this election. Lastly is the possibility that the entire process of voting is confusing due to the different instructions needed for the recent Federal and State elections.

There were 307 informal votes made in this election, making up 5.32% of all votes

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