Federal election 2019: Why Mallee preferences could make for a 'messy' election night

Thirteen candidates will today vie for the title of Member for Mallee.
Thirteen candidates will today vie for the title of Member for Mallee.

THE Mallee vote count could get “messy” on Saturday night, according to a leading election analyst.

Psephologist Dr Kevin Bonham said because of the presence of both a National and Liberal candidate, plus three independents, preferences could be tricky to get a handle on.

Unless one of the Coalition candidates – likely The Nationals’ Anne Webster – pulls in a strong enough first-preference vote for the race to be called, a winner may not be known on the night.

The Australian Electoral Commission makes a judgment, based on various factors, on who to include in two-candidate preferred counting on election night.

However, depending on how people vote, their prediction may not match the actual final two candidates.

“Mallee is a very messy situation,” Dr Bonham said.

“It could take a while to unravel – it might end up going to the final distribution of preferences or it might be clear-cut (based on first-preferences).”

The keen election-watcher will be keeping a close eye on how Mallee plays out.

He said if the combined Coalition first-preference vote – Dr Webster and Liberal candidate Serge Petrovich added together – exceeds 45 per cent, that should be enough for the seat to be retained.

“In a range of 40 to 45 (per cent), then you have to start to look at how widely spread the independents are and how strongly their preferences are flowing and all that sort of stuff,” he said.

Watch our preferences explainer:

While the three independents are directing voters to mark the other independents at the top of their ballot, not everyone will follow these instructions.

“Usually in these things it is easier if you have one main challenger, as it cuts down on the loss of votes at each exclusion,” Dr Bonham said.

“The flow between the independents might be strong but it won’t be 100 per cent – some people will know one but not the other, that kind of thing.

“But if there’s enough ‘put the Nats last’ sentiment on the ground, still it is possible one of them might get up.”

Historically, about 92 per cent of Liberal preferences tend to flow to The Nationals’ candidate, Dr Bonham said.

Online bookmaker BetEasy was on Friday offering odds of $1.14 for a Coalition win in Mallee.

Among the independents, Ray Kingston moved into $9 late this week, Jason Modica was $10 and Cecilia Moar was $26. Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Dan Straub was next in line at $34.

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