Doctor and activist

Willoughby By-Election Update

17 February 2022

There has been a lot of excitement about how close Independent Larissa Penn has come to Liberal conservative Tim James in Willoughby. Presumably the excitement is because it was tacitly assumed that she had no real hope and the State Liberals are even more on the nose than was expected.

The current ‘Two Candidate Preferred is Penn 48.24% to James 51.72%. This is a margin of 3.51%, so half of this is needed to change to get Larissa Penn elected, i.e. 1.755% or 321 in 18,247 formal votes. The not-very-good website does not have the preferential count on it.

The fact that Larissa Penn has come from 32.15% to48.24% (up 16.09%), while James has only come from 43.38% to 51.75% (up 8.37%) shows that most voters of Willoughby have been filling in their preferences despite it being optional, which suggests a reasonably sophisticated electorate, which it is. But in that elections are often won or lost by small margins, it is still likely that Penn will lose and that difference will be the number of votes that exhaust because of the optional preferential system that the big parties put in. So they will be rewarded for their undemocratic ways. We will also be able to see how many Green voters exhaust and whether the lack of preferences has been critical. In that there is only 1.755%, it will be a close thing.

It might be noted that there were no ‘stooge independents’ in this election, that is to say ones that favour a major party and have just been put there to take a few (gullible) voters away from independents with a real agenda. Perhaps this is because the Libs were very confident.

I fear that a major party fiddle of the voting system, and bad HTVs from the Greens and possibly others will rob Larissa Penn of victory. I hope I am wrong.

We need to make the NSW voting system compulsory preferential, but getting the major parties to agree to this might be a hard ask.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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