Monday January 29, 2007
In this graph I’ve plotted estimates of Australia’s total resident population over time (mid 2002 to mid 2006, from ABS), as well as (near-monthy) enrolment numbers from the Australian Electoral Commission; vertical lines indicate the timing of state and federal elections. Total resident population is increasing linearly over the time period, but voter enrolment is more volatile, showing a big run up around the time of the 2004 Federal election, and then, curiously, a levelling off and even a decline. Indeed, as Stephen Luntz noted, if not for a boost in enrolment associated with the Victorian state election, the pattern of declining enrolments would be less ambiguous.
With the rolls closing the days writs are issued for the 2007 election, one doubts that there will be the big ramp-up in enrolment observed in 2004. The AEC says that in 2004, they got over 70,000 new applications for enrolment and over 400,000 enrolment cards in the week between the issuing of writs and the close of the rolls, so almost of all the run-up in enrolment ahead of the 2004 election came in one week. That “close-of-roll” week-long window for getting voter enrolments lodged/updated is gone now.
Methodological caveat: total resident population does not equal the population eligible/required to enrol to vote under the Commonwealth Electoral Act (18+ years of age, citizens, etc), but its a quick and dirty proxy and probably a pretty good one at that (i.e., over the 2-3 year window graphed here, simply take a constant proportion of the total resident population to get the eligible enrolee population). This means that the relationship between the two variables (population and enrolled population) as shown in the graph, and the disjuncture between enrolments and population growth after the 2004 election enrolment peak is probably real.
It would also be helpful to have enrolment data going back a little further in time, so as to see what the trajectory in enrolment numbers looked like immediately after the 2001 election? Maybe a slight decline after a big run-up in enrolments around a Federal election is par for the course?
This uncertainty aside, I suspect that what I said in a previous post is correct: its getting easier to get tossed off the roll and harder to get on it, and its almost certain that there will be no “surge” in enrolments in the weeks ahead of the next Federal election, given that the rolls the day that writs are issued.