LABOR’S Mark Tait is becoming increasingly confident of holding onto second spot ahead of independents Jacqui Hawkins and Jenny O’Connor as a rare election for the state seat of Benambra will be decided on preferences.
The Victorian Electoral Commission, has Mr Tait sitting on 7340 first preference votes – a lead of 789 over Ms Hawkins and a 1984 buffer to Ms O’Connor – at a 6pm Sunday update of counting.
Either of the independents must dislodge Mr Tait from the No.2 spot to be any chance of unseating Liberal Bill Tilley when preferences are distributed on Tuesday.
Mr Tait expects Mr Tilley to retain the seat, but not before an almighty scare.
“Where it sits at the moment is where it will stay,” he said.
“From the feedback we’re getting, the preferences will be an interesting count, they are all over the place.
“Jacqui is still in the race, but we are still a fair way ahead.”
The last time Benambra was decided on preferences was in 2006 when Mr Tilley stood for the first time following the retirement of Tony Plowman, who had held the seat since 1992.
Mr Tait said based on scrutineer feedback voters in many cases had not followed how-to-vote cards and in some instances were invalid due to only one vote being registered on the voting slip.
The independents didn’t issue how to vote cards.
The informal vote count to date of 5.35 per cent is up on 2014 figure of 4.53 per cent with six candidates contesting the election compared to four in 2014.
No independents contested the 2014 election.
“Having so many candidates has opened up the field,” Mr Tait said.
“If there was a bit more preferencing done by the independents and a bit more thought put into it, you would probably find it being a different result.”
But crucial to deciding the No.2 spot and potentially the overall result is when Ms O’Connor is eliminated in the preference count and where her votes then go.
Labor’s best hope is a 50-50 split between Mr Tait and Ms Hawkins.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Ovens Valley the gap between second-placed Labor’s Kate Doyle and independent Tammy Atkins has closed to 416 votes ahead of the distribution of preferences.
National Party incumbent Tim McCurdy is poised to retain the seat with a 44.56 per cent primary vote to date.
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