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Tas 2024 – surge in independent numbers point to larger ballots

February 23, 2024 - 10:30 -- Admin

Nominations will close next Thursday for the Tasmanian state election, and we’ve seen a surge in candidate announcements in the last few days. I’ve just finished updating my candidate lists, and they show that there is a real increase in independent candidates compared to recent elections, pointing towards larger ballot papers than in previous Tasmanian elections.

The candidate lists are now up to date on my Tasmanian election guide. I should give a shout-out to Kevin Bonham for doing a lot of the work compiling candidate announcements. My list just lists candidates, but Kevin has been adding more information about candidates at his guide.

There’s a lot of reason to think that the Tasmanian election is more complex and multi-polar than previous Tasmanian elections. The House now includes four independents. Admittedly three of those independents were elected as major party members in 2021, but there had also been a contest in Clark where two different viable independents contested that election.

So for this post I’m analysing how big the ballot papers are likely to be in comparison to the last 35 years of elections, and the role of candidates and parties outside of the three main parties over that time.

Firstly, this chart shows what proportion of the vote was cast for candidates outside of the Labor, Liberal and Greens parties since 1989.

There had been a previous surge in votes for other candidates in 1996 and 1998, but it still hadn’t surpassed 10% until 2018. At the last election, about 6% of the vote was cast for independents, with another 3% cast for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The total figure reached 10.7%.

For the next part, it’s useful to understand the rules around ballot paper structure.

While there is no above-the-line voting in Tasmanian elections, candidates are still organised in groups. Parties naturally receive a group, but independents do not necessarily achieve a group. An independent group can be formed with a higher number of signatures than the number required to nominate an ungrouped candidate. A group can contain just one candidate. In practice most independent groups in recent years have contained just one candidate, although in the past some have contained multiple candidates.

In practice there are two thresholds for an independent – those with more nominators get their own group, with the remainder relegated to the final column.

As of the time I’ve writing, all five electorates have five parties running candidates in each. Labor, Liberal and Greens are running everywhere. The Lambie Network and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have each nominated candidates in four electorates, with the Local Network nominating in the two electorates where one of those other minor parties isn’t running.

Unless more parties nominate, that is exactly the same as the average number of party groups in each electorate in 2021 – five.

But the change is in independent numbers. At the moment I have thirteen independents running, which in itself is not an exceptional number. But quite a few of those candidates are viable candidates. This includes four incumbents, one former lead candidate for the Greens, a former Speaker, a former MLC and a Hobart City councillor. I think nine of those thirteen candidates are viable candidates to create groups, which is reflected in the chart above.

If there are nine independent groups, that averages out as 1.8 per electorate, or a total of 6.8 groups per electorate. The previous biggest sizes were 6.2 groups per electorate in 1996 and 2014.

Another way to look at this question is to look at the total number of independents, grouped and ungrouped. Where there was an independent group with more than one candidate (something that happened more earlier in time) I’ve only counted them once.

I suspect there will be a bunch of random low-profile independents who nominate at the last minute, but right now independent announcements are the highest since 1998. Apart from 1998, the record was in 1992.

It’s interesting to note that all the spikes have coincided with hung parliaments. The 1992, 1998 and 2014 elections all followed parliaments that had been hung from the start, but 2021 and 2024 were also elections that followed a parliament that started out with a majority but ended up in minority.

At the time of writing, a full complement of 35 Liberal and Greens candidates have been announced. Labor has announced 32 candidates, missing two in Bass and one in Braddon. Presumably those gaps will be filled soon.

The JLN has announced three candidates in four electorates. They are only absent in Clark. This looks like their final contingent.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have announced tickets in four electorates (skipping Franklin). They’re running five in Lyons, three in Braddon and two each in Bass and Clark.

The Local Network has announced two candidates in Clark and Franklin, although their candidate lists have been in flux.

Of the 143 announced candidates, 84 of them are men. That’s 41.3% women.

The Greens are running almost equal numbers (17 women, 18 men), while just over 40% of Labor candidates are women. Just 31% of Liberal candidates are women. The JLN is close to parity (five out of twelve) while the Shooters candidates are mostly men. Eight out of thirteen independents are women.