ECSA is legislatively empowered to conduct, promote and publish research into electoral matters. We value the important role that research plays in informing our decisions and improving the way that elections are run in South Australia.

ECSA conducts innovative research and analysis on a broad range of electoral issues. We monitor the quality of elections and carry out surveys on public attitudes and knowledge about voting and democracy. We seek to better understand the experiences and expectations of electors, candidates and election staff. We collate and analyse data and information about elections and publish the findings on our research webpage.

The objectives of our research program are:

  • To improve knowledge and understanding of electoral matters
  • To develop and publish research projects that inform and influence change
  • To influence changes to legislation and operational procedures
  • To produce research that is used or referenced by external stakeholders
  • To build research partnerships and to encourage research into electoral matters.

Information about ECSA’s research program and approach to conducting, supporting and publishing electoral research is explained in the ECSA Research Framework.

Research publications

ECSA carries out impartial analysis and statistical research into topical issues related to South Australian elections. This research and analysis is published online to create a research knowledge base about elections.

Research publications are presented in a variety of different formats that are free to read, including:

New publications are added regularly.

The author of the publications is ECSA’s Senior Research Officer, Dr Daniel Marx. Daniel is a political scientist with a particular interest in elections and has been an electoral observer in Middle East-North African countries. He holds a Master’s in Political Science from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (France) and a PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain). His PhD thesis was titled ‘How to rig elections. An analysis of electoral manipulation strategies in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, 1989-2009.’ Daniel’s research interests are electoral systems, political representation, election integrity and electoral fraud.

Research reports

In-depth analysis of a particular topic of interest. Research reports are generally the outcome of a research project.

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Raising turnout at council elections with social pressure: evidence from a field experiment (PDF, 1.9MB)

Daniel Marx, February 2022

This report presents the results of a research project funded by the Local Government Association of SA into the effects of social pressure on voter participation. A field experiment conducted at 4 council elections demonstrated that messaging exerting social pressure on electors can lead to significant increases in voter turnout.

Electoral trends and issues papers

Data and analysis about single topical issues relating to South Australian elections, presented in a concise, one-page, rapid-response format.

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The dangers of an ageing election workforce and how to transform one

Daniel Marx, January 2021

At the recent US election, COVID-19 underscored the dangers of relying on an elderly workforce to run elections. Australia has an ageing election workforce too. This paper looks at why more young people are needed to run elections and at a blueprint from Victoria for rejuvenating an election workforce.

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Pay to play - the cost of candidate nomination deposits around Australia

Daniel Marx, October 2020

Before running for parliament anywhere in Australia candidates must pay a deposit. The amount charged varies but South Australian deposits are the highest in the country. This Paper explores why deposits are high here and the effects (positive and negative) that raised entry costs can have on democracy.

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Indirect elections to South Australia’s Legislative Council

Daniel Marx, August 2020

In April, Ms Nicola Centofanti became South Australia’s newest MP after she was selected by a joint assembly to serve in the Legislative Council. This Paper looks at indirect elections to fill vacancies in the upper house, and highlights a legal grey area that could complicate these elections in future.

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The decline in support for major parties in South Australia

Daniel Marx, July 2020

This paper highlights the decline of the Labor and Liberal parties’ vote at South Australian elections. Despite winning 94 per cent of all House of Assembly seats since 1980, in this period the two major parties’ share of the vote has dropped by 20 percentage points.

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Who are South Australia’s non-voters?

Daniel Marx, July 2020

After the 2018 State Election, 37,480 South Australians were issued fines for failing to vote. This paper uses ECSA’s data from the 2018 State Election to provide a demographic snapshot of who the non-voters are.

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Turnout at South Australian elections since colonial times

Daniel Marx, June 2020

South Australia has held parliamentary elections without interruption since 1857. This paper analyses historical voter turnout, showing the impact of the extension of voting rights and the introduction of compulsory voting.

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Why South Australians fail to vote at council elections

Daniel Marx, June 2020

South Australia’s council elections are among the largest elections in the country not to be held under a compulsory voting regime. This Paper looks at electors’ reasons for not voting when there is no legal obligation on them to do so.

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Charting the rise of pre-poll voting in South Australia

Daniel Marx, May 2020

This Paper charts the rise of pre-poll voting over the past 35 years in South Australia, initially extremely slowly but then surging spectacularly since 2010. Understanding why pre-poll voter numbers have increased and how to cater to them is one of ECSA’s current research priorities.

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South Australians’ attitudes towards internet voting

Daniel Marx, April 2020

Electoral commissions are regularly told that internet voting is an overdue replacement to pencil-and-paper voting. The South Australian public has a more nuanced attitude. This Paper looks at survey data showing South Australians’ likelihood to vote online and their confidence in the security of internet voting.

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The decline of ordinary voting and its consequences

Daniel Marx, March 2020

There has been a steady decline in the past 35 years in the proportion of electors voting at a polling booth in their own electorate on polling day. This Paper charts this decline and considers the significant repercussions for voters, for candidates and for ECSA.

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Turnout at Australian by-elections

Daniel Marx, February 2020

Turnout at by-elections around Australia is on average over 10 percentage points lower than at general elections. This paper collates and compares turnout data at the three most recent by-elections in each Australian jurisdiction and compares it with the most recent general election held there.

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South Australia’s Register of Declaration Voters

Daniel Marx, January 2020

This paper tracks the growth of South Australia’s Register of electors who automatically vote by post at each election. Since it was introduced in 1985, the Register has grown greatly both in numbers of electors registered and in the categories of electors entitled to register.

Briefing papers

Timely, impartial analysis and research about electoral issues currently relevant to ECSA and its stakeholders.

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What’s in a name? The naming conventions of electorates around Australia

Daniel Marx, October 2020

Electorates in South Australia are named after geographical names, Aboriginal names or increasingly to honour famous dead people. But there are big disparities in who gets naming honours. This Paper explores these disparities, as well as the different naming conventions around Australia and the pros and cons of each naming option.

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The under-representation of women in South Australia’s Parliament

Daniel Marx, August 2020

South Australia once led the nation in granting women the right to vote and stand for parliament, but now has the fewest female MPs of any Australian jurisdiction and is alone in falling below the UN’s critical threshold of 30% female representation. This Paper looks at key data about women in parliament and considers the factors hampering women's participation in politics.

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Low awareness of pre-poll voting in South Australia

Daniel Marx, June 2020

South Australia lags at the tail end of Australasia in pre-poll voting for a few reasons. This Paper focuses on electors’ low awareness of the existence of pre-poll voting and on a unique provision of the state’s electoral law designed to discourage pre-poll voting for convenience by obliging ECSA to only promote and encourage the casting of votes on polling day.

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Electoral campaigning in the time of COVID-19

Daniel Marx, April 2020

COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of life and elections are no exception. In the lead-up to a recent council election, a few intending candidates claimed that the pandemic would negatively impact their ability to campaign, thereby undermining the integrity of the election. This Paper explores the functions of electoral campaigns and whether these are affected by COVID-19.

Electoral backgrounders

Papers exploring more complex aspects of South Australian elections in depth.

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Voting tickets – a unique feature of South Australia’s lower house elections

Daniel Marx, September 2020

South Australian lower house elections have a unique feature known as the voting ticket designed to ‘save’ informal votes that are incompletely numbered. This Backgrounder explores how voting tickets function, how many votes they save, some of the benefits and concerns associated with their use and what alternatives exist to address the state’s high levels of informality.

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South Australia’s council supplementary elections

Daniel Marx, March 2020

Every year ECSA conducts an average of ten council supplementary elections – the equivalent of by-elections in the parliamentary system. This paper explores the frequency of these elections, the reasons why they are held, levels of participation both of voters and candidates, as well as the costs and administrative burden associated with holding them.

ECSA research publications are released under a Creative Commons licence. Any content republished must be attributed to the author and not be altered, transformed, or built upon, nor used for commercial purposes without our permission (Research paper copyright).

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