The Wentworth Race Isn't Over Yet And The Liberals Could Actually Still Win
Maybe it was called too early, because the margin in Wentworth is just a few hundred votes.
The race was declared in favour of independent Kerryn Phelps less than 90 minutes after polls closed in Sydney on Saturday night, with a huge swing pushing her to an unexpected win.
Or so we thought.
Because while Phelps was overnight set for a thumping win, the margin as of 11am Sunday is just 884 votes. Phelps is sitting on 50.61 percent of the vote, the Liberals on 49.39.
The race isn't over, and the Liberals could still win.
Government candidate Dave Sharma and Prime Minister Scott Morrison might rue their early concession speeches last night, while Phelps could end up wishing she didn't make that victory speech.
ABC election guru Antony Green called the race for Phelps around 7.20pm on Sunday, and most other outlets soon after. Speaking on the ABC on Sunday, he called it "the most dramatic turnaround I've ever seen", saying Phelps' election day numbers were high but her pre-poll and postal numbers were much lower.
This all comes down to how the votes are counted, and the difference between votes cast at polling places on election day, the pre-poll votes, and postal votes. Because while the Australian Electoral Commission quickly gets to work counting the votes cast on election day, votes lodged before election day are counted a little bit later.
If we only counted the votes cast on Saturday, Phelps would be sitting back with her feet up as the new member for Wentworth. But the postal and pre-poll votes are often lodged by older voters or those who are less able to travel on election day, and because Liberal voters tend to be older, the Liberals traditionally poll better in those votes.
Plus, don't forget, the Liberals had an absolutely shambolic last few days, with multiple controversies erupting -- from the "administrative error" that led government senators to support Pauline Hanson's racist 'it's OK to be white' motion, to environment minister Melissa Price being accused of rudeness to the former president of Kiribati, and criticism of plans to move the Australian embassy in Israel.
People who voted before those events might have had a higher opinion of the Liberal party than those who voted Saturday.
The margin has narrowed from 1000, to 900, to now 884. An analysis by the Tally Room website found Sharma had won nearly 65 percent of the first round of postal votes.
"There are still many postal votes to be counted. We will simply wait for that normal, democratic, robust, credible process to follow its course before we are in a position to know who the successful candidate will be at that by-election," PM Morrison said on Sunday.
He reminded media that the AEC holds an automatic recount if the final margin is under 100 votes. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, joining the PM in Sydney, claimed Sharma was always the underdog in the race.
"I have been around politics for a long time. And you always wait until the last vote is counted. Indeed, the message I said to Kerryn today was to say there are still less to be counted and we will see where that ends," Morrison added.
"The result demonstrates an enormous amount of anger which has been levelled at the Liberal Party."
We'll keep you updated through the day as the vote continues. You can follow the AEC's published results here.