Lachlan Johnson, PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations and Research Assistant at the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania
Michael Lester, researcher and PhD student at the Institute for the Study of Social Change
Tasmania has 44 candidates standing for the Senate on Saturday. Of those, the Liberals and Labor are all but guaranteed two seats. Barring a major shock, the Greens' Nick McKim should be returned. Interest lies in what happens with the sixth seat as, even with preference deals, Tasmanian voters can be unpredictable.
One reason for this is that more people vote below the line in Tasmania than in any other state or territory. In the five elections to 2013, on average just 83% of Tasmanians voted above the line compared to 93.4% for all of Australia. After the introduction of partial preferential voting for the 2016 election, the above-the-line vote in Tasmania fell to 71.88%.
Tasmania's high below-the-line voting rate can be partly attributed to low numbers of candidates compared with other states, as well as voters' experience with the electoral system used in Senate polls. Tasmania has used a largely similar quota-preferential system (Hare-Clark) in its legislative assembly elections since 1909, which explains voters' greater familiarity with below-the-line Senate voting in federal elections.
What makes this election intriguing is the range of interesting possibilities for the sixth seat. An unusually high proportion of independent and third-party senators up for reelection, following 2016's double dissolution, further adds to the importance of the Senate race in all states as the major parties fight to recapture ground from the 45th parliament's historically large (and unstable) crossbench.
Colourful former Senator Jacqui Lambie is trying to reclaim her seat from former standing partner-turned Nationals Senator Steve Martin, who replaced her following the High Court decision on the citizenship imbroglio.
Maverick north-west fisherman Craig Garland, who got a strong vote in last year's Braddon byelection on a campaign to protect state fisheries, is getting plenty of attention after teaming up with independent Andrew Wilkie to broaden his appeal in the state's south.
Then there's Labor Senator Lisa Singh. In 2016, Singh was dropped to the supposedly "unwinnable" sixth position in the Labor team, but ran a successful below the line campaign to beat her fifth position rival, union secretary John Short.
Based on past results, the most likely outcome is two Labor, two Liberal, one Green and Jacqui Lambie, according to election analyst Kevin Bonham.
But nothing is certain. As Bonham notes, the populist non-major-party vote is incredibly crowded in Tasmania, with Pauline Hanson's One Nation and the big spending United Australia Party also prominent in the campaign.