Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Latest Senate Section 44 Cases

Time for another - and I doubt it will be the final - roundup of the issues created by ineligible Senators (or in one case, a Senator-who-never-was).  I have had many questions about the Lambie situation but today's resignation of Skye Kakoschke-Moore also requires detailed comments.

Hollie Hughes (Candidate, NSW - disallowed)

The High Court's decision that Hollie Hughes should not be seated in place of Fiona Nash (apparently because of her intermediate holding of an office of profit while the original election was still open, though reasons are yet to be released) creates a new issue.  Hughes was eligible at the time of the original election but her subsequent employment renders her ineligible to fill the position vacated by Fiona Nash.  The Commonwealth is waiting to see whether the court rules that Hughes was incapable of being chosen, or capable of chosen but incapable of sitting.  If the former, Hughes will be replaced by a special count (resulting in controversial Abbott backer Jim Molan becoming a Senator) but if the latter there is some thought (I'm not convinced) that it might be a casual vacancy.

Jacqui Lambie (Tas - resigned)

Lambie has resigned her seat and this has been referred to the High Court for hearings starting December 8, together with the case of Stephen Parry.  As noted in the article concerning Stephen Parry, a simulated special count with just Parry removed creates a major problem - originally elected Senator Nick McKim is replaced by One Nation's Kate McCulloch, so what does the court do about that?  However, if a special count is held for both Lambie and Parry together, this issue is apparently removed, as also noted in the article.  That is, assuming no more Tasmanian Senators are ineligible and ... let's not assume that one too confidently, just for now ...

Assuming both Parry and Lambie are indeed found to have been ineligible and replaced by a single special count, that would lead to Richard Colbeck (Liberal #5) and Steve Martin (Jacqui Lambie Network #2) being new Senators.

However Martin is under a Section 44 cloud because he is Mayor of Devonport and was so on election day, and the question of whether local government is always, sometimes or never an "office of profit under the Crown" has never been tested.  Many federal MPs who were also local councillors have gone unchallenged in the past, but Labor requires its federal candidates to resign from local councils prior to nomination.   If Martin is ineligible, the seat cascades down to the #3 JLN candidate, Rob Waterman.  Waterman is not wildly enthused about becoming a Senator, so this has created speculation that Martin might be disqualified, Waterman might be seated and resign, and the Jacqui Lambie Network might be filling a casual vacancy.  The registered officer of the Jacqui Lambie Network is one Jacqueline Lambie and the party's constitution is a PUP-style paper tiger for her (or was when I last read it) so I think we know where this ends up.

Except that Waterman himself has two potential sources of Section 44 ineligibility - firstly a possible office of profit under the crown (Court Mandated Diversion officer at Department of Justice - though it is unknown to me whether there is any profit in this office) and secondly potential indirect interests in arrangements with the Crown (government funding, including federal, to Rural Health Tasmania).  It's not clear either of these is a problem but in any case, to get back in before the next election, Lambie would need someone to resign who was actually eligible.

If the entire Lambie ticket wipes out then a special count would next give their seat to McCulloch, since she came closest to winning the original election and One Nation is the most favoured party on JLN's above-the-line votes.  However, this unlocks the question of whether a special count is still the procedure when a party has run out of candidates, and I discuss this separately below.

Another possible way back into parliament for Lambie (who has ruled out state politics although she'd probably bolt in) is the House of Reps if Justine Keay (Labor MHR for Braddon) is disqualified and has to recontest.  Although Lambie would start well behind the Liberals and Labor in such a by-election in terms of base votes, she might win it, especially if the Liberals decided it would be fun to run dead or not run at all.

What Happens When A Party Runs Out Of Candidates?

The special count provisions for recounts are not mandated in the Electoral Act directly.  Rather the High Court has chosen, by analogy, to treat the matter in the same way as when a candidate dies between the close of nominations and the return of the writ.  In Re Wood, the court rejected three alternative options:

* A by-election for a single seat, firstly because "It is inappropriate because such an election would fill the vacant place by what would be in effect preferential voting for a single member constituency, not by proportional voting for a multiple member constituency." [21]  Secondly, because "there is no blemish affecting the taking of the poll and the ballot papers are available to be recounted if the valid choice of the electors can lawfully be ascertained by recounting."

* A whole state by-election, because there was no reference or basis for disturbing the election of the other Senators for the state.

* A casual vacancy, because the conditions for the casual vacancy provision in Section 15 of the Constitution were not activated.

A party that runs out of candidates to fill vacancies caused by disqualification might try running a line that to allow the seat it won to go to a different party would in effect fill the vacant place by a disproportional process, denying the will of voters that it receive a certain number of seats and instead returning a party that the original voters did not desire to return.  It might try to claim that on this basis it should be entitled to fill the position itself.

I think such an argument would be rejected and the special count process followed anyway.  If a party has only won the vote that gave it a seat using ineligible candidates, then who is to say (and on what evidence) that had it run eligible candidates it would have won the seat at all?  Voters might have responded differently to those candidates, and even an above the line vote for a party cannot be taken to mean that a voter would have approved of any or all hypothetical candidates for the party.  Indeed the original Tasmanian Senate count provides a concrete example of this: the Greens would not have won two seats had either of their leading two candidates been ineligible.

(By the way, Tasmania, which has five-member Hare-Clark seats at state level, actually has a state-level provision for a party running out of candidates for casual vacancy recounts.  The party may elect to either allow a further casual vacancy recount or contest a one-seat by-election.)

Skye Kakoschke-Moore (SA - resigned)

Which brings us to Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, who has been brought unstuck because her mother was born in Singapore, at the time a UK colony, later making her mother retrospectively a UK citizen in an inheritable fashion - a matter on which Kakoschke-Moore had apparently received incorrect advice.  She is the third of the four NXT MPs elected at the last election to face Section 44 queries, but the first to be wiped out by them (Nick Xenophon was cleared but resigned anyway, and Rebekha Sharkie hasn't quit and is yet to be referred.)

A special count for Kakoschke-Moore's place will be won by Tim Storer, the only unelected NXT candidate of their original four.  However, since the election, Storer has fallen out with the party, most obviously because they decided to appoint staffer Rex Patrick to Xenophon's casual vacancy rather than him.  Storer sent the SA Parliament a legal letter asserting rights in the matter, which the SA Parliament ignored, presumably because he clearly didn't have any.

However, his hand has just grown a lot stronger.  Nick Xenophon is trying to argue that the Hollie Hughes case creates a precedent because Storer is no longer a party member and hence may be either incapable of being seated or retrospectively incapable of being chosen.  I don't like his chances.

Section 15 of the Constitution requires that when a party member is chosen to fill a casual vacancy, if they cease to be a member of that party before the seat is actually filled, then they are not eligible.  However that Section works like that because of the history (especially the 1975 part of it) of States appointing Senators who were either not members of the vacating party at all or else were members who the vacating party wouldn't accept.  If a State approves a person who is a non-preferred member of the vacating party, then the party can negate the approval by expelling a member.

None of this applies to filling a disqualification vacancy using the results of the original election.  It is not necessary for a person to be a party member to be elected to the Senate at all, and it is not even necessary that an endorsed candidate of a party be a member of that party.  There is also nothing I can see that allows the retrospective withdrawal of endorsement of a candidate without their consent.  Just ceasing to become a party member does not even nullify Storer's entitlement to be on the NXT ticket, and there is no process apparent for a "disendorsement" that would have any effect.

Indeed if there was a way to disendorse candidates between the confirmation of nominations and election day and thereby stop them from taking their seats (on the grounds they had lost eligibility to be nominated), perhaps the Liberal Party would have found it in the case of Pauline Hanson, back in 1996.  The Liberal Party disendorsed Hanson too late to prevent her name being printed on the ballot papers as a Liberal.  She was elected anyway and sat as an independent.

So NXT, or SA Best (Federal) as it will be soon, might have to try arguing something like this: the choice of the voters (in the absence of Kakoschke-Moore) was to elect three NXT members including Tim Storer as a member of the NXT ticket.  However, in the knowledge that Storer is persona non grata, the special count will elect two NXT members and Tim Storer as an independent, but that is not what the voters voted for.  Of course, Senators quit their parties now and then, but should an instant rat be knowingly put in place?

I think this line is also weak.  Mainly there's the same argument as above - we don't know that the NXT voters (even the above-the-line ones) weren't expressing a personal preference at some level for Storer; nothing tells us they would have voted the same way no matter who was on the ballot.  There are also some consequences of retrospective disendorsement - if Storer could be disendorsed then why not Molan? And at what point would retrospective disendorsement have to occur by?

We do have a few previous cases of this sort of thing coming up.  Lucy Gichuhi was elected as a Family First Senator but Family First had merged with Australian Conservatives and thereby ceased to exist.  Irina Dunn was expelled from her party after refusing to make way for Robert Wood, but the party could do nothing to prevent her being elected to replace him.

But supposing NXT did somehow succeed in having Storer's election nixed.  Then was Storer incapable of being chosen or was he only incapable of being seated.  If incapable of being seated, is it a casual vacancy or a special count?  If in either case it is a special count, does Anne McEwen win as found by yet another Grahame Bowland simulation, or is she incapable of winning because that distorts the voters original intention and the proportionality of the count?  If she is incapable of winning does that then give rise to a casual vacancy or some other solution? It all gets even sillier than it already was.

Aside from any vanilla S44 issues that might affect Storer (who knows) there is one other wrinkle in the Kakoschke-Moore situation.  Nick Xenophon will appear on the winners' list for the special count, but he is already an ex-Senator, the first time this has happened.  This will not have any effect.

Andrew Bartlett (Queensland - hypothetical)

Andrew Bartlett has been seated as a Senator, the replacement for Larissa Waters.  The High Court found that although claims were being made about him having university employment at the time of the election (which might be an office of profit under the crown, though again this is unknown), no-one involved in the hearing on his vacancy had put evidence before the Court and hence the matter was hearsay.  However, the Greens are obtaining further advice on the matter.  The case of Bartlett has another interesting dimension - at various points it has been suggested that there might be problems with challenging the eligibility of a candidate who the High Court has declared elected following a special count, although I've also seen an opinion that they can still be referred.  If Bartlett is disqualified, he is replaced by another Green, Ben Pennings.  That assumes Pennings is eligible, of which I have no reason to doubt.

Jordon Steele-John (WA - hypothetical)

And one more for the time being.  Fresh from successfully foreshadowing the demise of Hollie Hughes, Stephen Murray has suggested that Scott Ludlam's replacement Jordon Steele-John might be in trouble if he has a student loan.  All I can say on that one is that as a former student for over a decade, if that's the case that will be me done for life!  (At one stage I even had to take out the $2 for $1 scheme whereby you get twice as much money but as a loan rather than keeping it.)  If I ever run for parliament I will obviously need to write to the government and declare that I renounce all my allegiances to its student loans and hence no longer owe it money.

There may well be more Senate cases over the next few weeks as politicians go through the process required to make declarations by early December.

Note: A small error in the original version of this article was corrected.  The Tasmanian situation would not be the first time a special count has been ordered for two vacancies, as this also happened in Queensland with Waters and Roberts, although Waters' resignation and Roberts' disqualification came some time apart.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Queensland: A Hard Election To Model

Primary vote aggregate Labor 34.7 LNP 32.8 Green 8.8 One Nation 17.3 Other 6.4
If Newspoll/Galaxy preference assumptions are correct Labor should just win majority on current numbers (Projection: Labor 50 LNP 37 PHON 4 KAP 2)
If ReachTEL preferences are accurate LNP may win, though ReachTEL released 20 Nov is less clear on this

Note: Live comments on Queensland elections here on Saturday night.

It's taken me until the week before the election to get around to posting any analysis during the campaign for the 2017 Queensland election.  This is partly because of an unusually severe version of the usual problem: I've been extremely busy and there are just not enough of me to do everything I'd like to do.  It's also because this election's very challenging to model.  And, as I noted previously, the big picture isn't much help either.  The government has been chaotic, but the federal Coalition's turmoil is a massive burden for Tim Nicholls' LNP opposition.

Most of the difficulty comes from the preference problem.  A divergence of around four points in polling exists between the ReachTEL polls on the one hand and the Galaxy/Newspoll stable (and also Essential) on the other.  About three points of that, on the latest figures, is caused by preferencing differences.  ReachTEL is using purely respondent preferencing, while the others are using some combination of previous elections (Essential) or assumptions with an undisclosed and unclear basis in evidence (Galaxy/Newspoll).  The previous election had much less significant One Nation presence and also had optional preferencing, so there is really no credible baseline for "last-election" preferencing.

A further issue with Queensland has been the dearth of statewide polling.  In the last six weeks there has been only a Newspoll (17 Oct), a Galaxy (1-2 Nov) and three ReachTELs (two commissioned ones both on 13 Nov and an earlier one for which the 2PP was released but the primary votes were not.)  The Newspoll and Galaxy both had Labor ahead 52-48 and all the ReachTELs had Labor behind by the same margin.

Aggregating all polls that have released full primaries based on polling conducted entirely since September, but with a 25% downweighting for commissioned polls, and with greater weighting for November (3) than October (2) and September (1) I get a reading of:

Labor 34.7 LNP 32.8 Green 8.8 One Nation 17.3 Other 6.4

By Newspoll's preference assumptions this would result in a 51.8% 2PP for Labor, a 0.7% swing to the government.  But by ReachTEL's respondent preferences it would result in about a 51-49 result to the LNP.

A small number of seat Newspolls released today was reported favourably for Labor, because it showed them gaining Whitsunday and competitive in Gaven, while holding Ipswich West and Mansfield.  However the flip side of the reporting is that the poll also had Labor losing Bundaberg and losing Thuringowa (an otherwise vaguely safe seat) to One Nation.  Also as Whitsunday was 51-49 to Labor and Gaven 51-49 the other way, the chance one would give them in Gaven is the chance of them not gaining Whitsunday.  So, a very threadbare conclusion on the evidence in question, which based on my record in calling out sloppy Queensland poll reporting probably means the conclusion is true.

The overall average of the eleven Labor-vs-LNP seat polls released by the Galaxy/Newspoll stable has been a swing of 0.9 points against the government, with three projected losses, one projected gain and two 50-50s in seats held by the LNP.  Throw in the projected losses in Thuringowa and South Brisbane (the latter of which I don't take all that seriously) and the seat polls do not in fact show Labor in good shape.  Seat polling is an enterprise in crisis, but the least we can say is that the seat polls at best add nothing positive for Labor to what we know about the state picture.

One Nation

Currently the only seat where I can find any seat betting that has One Nation favourite is Buderim, the seat of their state leader Steve Dickson.  However, Buderim is not strong ground for One Nation historically and it isn't clear that having a state leader in a seat is enough to overcome that.  In general, I have had about 19-20% as the tipping point at which One Nation start to win a lot of seats.  The polling at present has them a little shy of that.  Using Alex Jago's Senate-based calculator (the Senate preference results skew to Labor by around 1.5 points on average compared to the Newspoll/Galaxy preference assumptions) the tip from the current level of One Nation support is for five One Nation wins, but one of them is Traeger which is being left with Katters Australian Party.  The rest are Callide, Hinchinbrook, Lockyer and Mirani.  Callide is extra-winnable because of the loss of Jeff Seeney's personal vote (and One Nation have shown up as polling competitively there) while the others listed haven't had any released polling I'm aware of.  Mirani is one that's cropped up in these Senate simulations but for whatever reason isn't on the frontline of betting.  With so many vagaries in converting Senate to state results it's deeply unlikely they would win exactly those seats but the simulation should give a fair idea of about how many seats they are good for, even if not those exact ones.

So at the moment One Nation will probably win a few seats, but probably won't win a lot.  They are not far short of the winning-lots level but would probably have to surge a few points in the last week to get there.

There's an impression in the seat betting (which is not predictively reliable, but in this election, what is) that One Nation are more of a nuisance to the LNP than Labor in seat terms.  Of the 21 seats One Nation are at $5 or less on one exchange, 12 are seats the LNP would be expected to win, including 4 of 6 where they're at $3 to win.  However, because the LNP probably will form government with One Nation if they have to, and Labor are very unlikely to, losses to One Nation are a lot more painful for Labor.

Labor's Task To Retain

I count Labor as starting with 49 notional seats, including three notionally Labor seats occupied by the LNP, and also Pumicestone and Cairns which are technically on the crossbench.  I count the LNP as starting with 42, including Nicklin which is being vacated by an independent, and Dickson's seat of Buderim (won by the LNP last time).  Two seats are held by KAP.  Ignoring any possible losses to the Greens, Labor's target for forming majority government is 47 seats, a loss of two notional seats.

A fair amount has been made of the fact that the One Nation strategy of preferencing against sitting members harms Labor more than the LNP, since in many LNP seats One Nation could come second anyway making its allocation irrelevant.  However, there are quite a few close seats where One Nation aren't running or won't poll much.  I don't find that it makes a huge difference in terms of the number of expected 2PP wins for each side, and the fact that a lot of One Nation's LNP-held targets are well up the LNP side of the pendulum means that the LNP must have been expending effort in seats it would normally not need to bother defending.

Against that aspect, there is an advantage to Labor, and that is personal vote effect.  Labor MPs who won seats from LNP members at the last election will have obtained personal votes, whereas the defeated LNP members' personal votes will have been factored into the LNP's 2015 vote in their seats.

I expect personal votes to count for less this election than normal.  Firstly, most of the new Labor MPs defeated LNP MPs who had only been in for one term themselves, and hence would not have built much of a personal vote up themselves.  Secondly, redistributions mess with personal votes, and the Queensland one which has changed 89 seats into 93 would have had large impacts on them.  Nonetheless, sophomore effect is a theory and a fact, and Labor would have won outright last time but for it.

After factoring all these things in, if there is no swing I have Labor winning the 2PP contest in, on average, 49 of the 91 non-KAP seats (in other words, no change).  For the 0.7 point swing projected using Newspoll's preference assumptions, I get 51 Labor 2PP wins (so, say, something like ALP 50 LNP 37 PHON 4 KAP 2, if no Greens get up).  For the 3.1 point swing to LNP that ReachTEL keep getting, however, I get 51 LNP 2PP wins.  And obviously if it's somewhere in the middle things get very close.  (I personally slightly prefer Labor's chances at this stage.)

Bearing in mind that the majors are each likely to drop a seat to a few seats to One Nation, it's still quite possible either side can win this outright.  However, if the 2PP lands somewhere around 50:50, a hung parliament becomes a lot more likely.

The Greens

The Greens have not had the success so far with inner-city Queensland seats that they have had in NSW and Victoria.  However the Adani coal mine proposal gives them one hell of a trump card to deploy in such areas.  The Greens will be energised in the final week by their party winning the Northcote by-election in Victoria - a win that was no great surprise, but the margin (approaching 56-44) was a big one.

I have continued to have an eye on Maiwar because of its Prahran-like results history, though it's debatable whether LNP voters in the suburbs in Maiwar are as tractable as Liberals are in Prahran.  A ReachTEL showing the Greens falling well short should not be treated as definitive.  There is a history of ReachTEL poll errors in inner-city electorates where the Greens are strong, of which Northcote tonight (a nine or ten point 2PP miss) is yet another case.  A Greens internal has them competitive but Greens internals were never that reliable either.

The fight for South Brisbane and McConnel (where the Greens are taking on Jackie Trad and Grace Grace) stepped up with a surprise Galaxy showing a 51:49 Green lead in South Brisbane, but the Greens are coming from a very long way back there against a candidate with a large personal vote, so I'd need to see a lot more than a 1-point seatpoll to give that one away.

So all up the Greens still have a few chances but none of them are easy.

Which Pollster Will Blink?

We've had a long run of the Newspoll/Galaxy stable on the one hand and ReachTEL on the other getting completely different 2PPs because of different preference assumptions.  Pollsters are especially careful with their final poll because it is the one they're judged most by, though I've often argued this is silly.  It will be interesting therefore to see if either pollster comes back to around 50:50 this week, or if they both stay where they are.

Update: 20 Nov New ReachTEL

After churning out endless 48-52s ReachTEL now in the final days comes out with a 51-49 for Labor, off primaries of Labour 34 LNP 30 One Nation 17 Green 10 KAP 3, leaving 6 for Others, so I assume the undecided have been addressed.   By Newspoll methods this would be about 53.3-46.7 for Labor, so this also suggests some easing in the differences between the two pollsters' preferencing assumptions, but not much.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Poll Roundup: Citizenship Chaos Sends Government To New Term Low

2PP Aggregate: 54.2 to Labor (+1 point in a week) - highest reading of term
Labor would win election "held now" with a large margin
Government has lost majority (for now) with two MPs recontesting their seats in by-elections

This week we've seen a highly unusual event in Australian political history: a federal government has lost its majority partway through a term.  This last happened in 1931.  The one-term Scullin government began its term with a robust 46 seats out of 75, but a by-election loss and defections to the opposition UAP and the Lang Labor split saw it whittled down to 35, following which it collapsed before the year was out.  What has happened to the Turnbull government, so far, is much less dramatic - two of its seats are vacant pending by-elections, and the government will recover majority status if Barnaby Joyce is returned, although it would then lose it again if John Alexander is defeated.

However, as the Section 44 eligibility issues continue to unfold (with the tabling of required evidence by December 1 expected to be the next step), we could well see more by-elections early next year in some much more difficult government seats.  The prospect of the government slipping into permanent minority, or perhaps even losing enough seats that it can no longer govern, is a real one.  There may also be by-elections in Labor and crossbench seats, but no incumbent government has gained a seat from an opposition in a federal by-election since 1920 so there would not be too much optimism regarding chances of gaining seats there.  My legally unqualified view, incidentally, is that the "hesitators" (those who filed to renounce UK citizenship too late for the process to complete by the close of nominations) are in trouble.  The references in previous cases to the taking of all reasonable steps as sufficient refer to a context in which a member cannot reasonably renounce an overseas citizenship, not one in which a candidate was needlessly slow about it.

How Accurate Was The Same-Sex Marriage Polling?

The abrogation of responsibility and waste of resources that was the Marriage Law Postal Survey has now concluded with a Yes vote of 61.6%, based on a very high turnout of 79.5%.  Every Australian poll on same-sex marriage in the last ten years has shown more voters supporting same-sex marriage than opposed, with the exception of a single fledgling ReachTEL in 2011, so this has been seen initially as another good result for Australian polls.  In contrast, non-polling "big-data" approaches based on social media analytics failed completely, with the EqualityPulse site mostly favouring the No vote until after the polls had closed and a Griffith University study bombing embarrassingly.  (Be wary of anyone who claims their methods predicted Trump would win - most who predicted him to win did so because they wrongly expected him to win the popular vote.)

This is being taken as another strong result for Australian polling, but the reality is not so snazzy, and more consistent with experience elsewhere.  Below are all the final poll results by each pollster that I could find.  (Some pollsters conducted several polls, typically finding little variation through the survey period.) The polls vary in methods - some asked about results based on those who had voted, some asked about the votes of those who intended to vote and some just asked a basic question about support or opposition to same-sex marriage.  One (Ipsos) appears to have asked about voting intention among those certain to vote only.  In many cases, inadequate public documentation means that it is not entirely clear what the pollster did.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pembroke By-Election: Live And/Or Post-Count

CALLED: Reliable scrutineering reports on Sunday that Siejka (ALP) will win easily with Walker narrowly beating Chipman for 2nd.


Analysis: Still awaiting margins for the two scenarios. As Brad Stansfield has said on Twitter, it's a bit much to be saying first that the Liberals' attack on Chipman wouldn't work at all, then after the result that it worked too well. But if working means getting near winning, it was only a pyrrhic success. It seems that far from generate a sympathy vote for Chipman, the tactic actually worked in driving votes away from him and to Walker, but at the cost of driving Chipman preferences (in droves as predicted by Pete Lawler on Twitter last night) and possibly primaries to Siejka. The Liberals needed to make the final two to have any on-paper chance, but did they cause enough voters to switch their preference from Chipman ahead of Siejka to the other way around to the extent that they caused Siejka rather than Chipman to win ? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years: Round 3

Image result for gough

"The Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Sir Billy Snedden, has broken his promise: the promise he made to me before the election. He promised not to tell any lies about me, if I didn't tell the truth about him."*

A month ago I started a multi-round Not-A-Poll to determine this site's visitors' choice for the title of Best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years.  The idea is that each month the Prime Minister in last place is eliminated and the rest continue until someone gets over 50% and wins.  There are rules permitting multiple exclusions in certain cases, to speed up the process a bit.  Each round runs for a month, so you can vote for different candidates from round to round if you want to. Multiple voting is in theory banned and adjustments may be made if I detect it, but there will probably be a lot of low-level multiple voting I can't detect or prevent. Comments about the merits of the contestants are welcome.