Labor candidate Rob Mitchell has said today he is not yet ready to claim victory in the Victorian electorate of McEwen, although the ALP appears to have taken the seat.
Weekend counting gave Mitchell a surprise seven vote win over former small business minister Fran Bailey, but he has said “I won’t claim it until I get the phone call from the AEC saying they’ve declared it.”
Two more votes for Bailey turned up this morning, complicating matters.
The Liberal Party is asking for a recount, but an AEC spokesman told AAP this morning one would not automatically follow just because a result was close.
There is speculation the Liberal Party will challenge the result in court, although in the most recent similar case the ALP did not seek to have the result overturned when the Liberals won the SA seat of Hawker by 14 votes in 1990.
A by-election ordered by the Court of Disputed Returns could have embarrassing echoes of events in Lindsay in 1996. Former Labor minister Ross Free successfully overturned Jackie Kelly’s election that March, only to lose by a larger margin in a by-election held on October 19.
The poll wonks are swapping trivia in response to the result. On Saturday, Poll Bludger’s William Bowe wrote:
This time yesterday, Liberal member Fran Bailey held on to a 32-vote lead in McEwen which… was 77 per cent likely to hold after the few remaining votes were counted. Those votes are now in: the last few absent votes broke 100-93 in favour of Labor’s Rob Mitchell, postals went 37-21 his way, pre-polls favoured him to the tune of 33-23, and further rechecking of booth votes cost Bailey 14 and Mitchell eight.
Pspehos’ Adam Carr has commented, “If the result is within 20 votes after the recount, the Liberal Party’s lawyers will be able to scrape up some pretext or another for a court challenge. There is always some little irregularity in a campaign and in the count that can be used.”
Carr provides the best list to check the provisional results in McEwen against. There’s the Hawker win in 1990 and future Fraser minister Ian Viner’s 12 vote win in Stirling in 1974, but Carr has more:
In terms of numbers of votes, the closest result in a House of Representatives contest was 1 vote (13,569 to 13,568), when Edwin Kirby (Nationalist) defeated Charles McGrath (ALP) in Ballarat (Vic) in 1919. The result was declared void in 1920.
In 1903 Robert Blackwood (Free Trader) defeated John Chanter (Protectionist) in Riverina (NSW) by 5 votes (4,341 to 4,336). This result was also declared void.
The closest result allowed to stand was 7 votes (13,162 to 13,155), when John Lynch (ALP), defeated Hon Alfred Conroy (Lib) in Werriwa (NSW) in 1914.
In terms of percentages of the vote, the closest result was Kirby’s voided win in Ballarat in 1919: he polled 50.002% of the vote. The closest result allowed to stand was that in the Griffith (Qld) by-election of 1939, when William Conelan (ALP) defeated Peter McCowan (UAP), after preferences, with 50.007% of the vote.
After plugging the AEC’s figures for McEwen into the Crikey calculator, Mitchell has secured a massive majority of 0.006695.
Meanwhile, a Crikey subscriber writes:
Have any of your readers noticed the resemblance between Ms Fran Bailey and Ian “Molly” Meldrum? Could they possible be related.