Counting starts in Murray and Cootamundra by-elections

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian greets a voter in Griffith on Saturday.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian greets a voter in Griffith on Saturday.

UPDATE 10.30pm: The Nationals look likely to have held the seats of both Cootamundra and Murray – albeit on significantly reduced margins.

The Nationals candidate for Murray, Austin Evans, appears to have scraped past Shooters hopeful Helen Dalton, while Steph Cooke was quite comprehensive in her victory in Cootamundra.

UPDATE 9.30pm: Riverina MP Michael McCormack has tweeted his congratulations to Steph Cooke, who has easily won the seat of Cootamundra.

UPDATE 9.15pm: ABC election expert Antony Green is reporting a huge swing of almost 20 per cent against the Nationals in the seat of Murray.

However, Mr Green is still predicting the Nats will hold the seat.

UPDATE 9pm: Steph Cooke looks set to succeed Katrina Hodgkinson in the seat of Cootamunda, despite a swing of about 10 per cent again against the Nationals with 64 per cent of the vote counted.

UPDATE 8.10pm: Nationals candidate Steph Cooke holds a commanding lead in the two-party preferred vote over her Country Labor’s Charlie Sheahan rival.

A short time ago the official count has Ms Cooke on 62.4 per cent of the vote, with Mr Sheahan on 37.5 per cent.

UPDATE 8pm: In the seat of Murray, Nationals hopeful Austin Evans holds 53.4 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, with Shooters candidate Helen Dalton on 46.5 per cent, as counting continues.

UPDATE 7.30pm: Nationals candidate for Cootamundra Austin Evans is sitting on 41 per cent of first preference votes as counting continues in the seat of Murray.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party hopeful Helen Dalton has 31 per cent and Country Labor candidate Michael Kidd is on 21 per cent.

Counting continues.

UPDATE 7.15pm: Steph Cooke, the National Party’s hopeful in the seat of Cootamundra, holds a commanding lead early in the count.

Austin Evans, Nationals candidate for the seat of Murray.

Austin Evans, Nationals candidate for the seat of Murray.

Ms Cooke has received 47.5 per cent of first preference votes, with Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate on 23.6 per cent and Country Labor representative Charlie Sheehan on 22.1 per cent.

Counting continues.

EARLIER: The polls have closed and counting is underway in the Murray and Cootamundra by-elections.

Steph Cooke and retired Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson.

Steph Cooke and retired Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson.

In the seat of Murray, Nationals candidate Austin Evans and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers hopeful Helen Dalton are expected to fight out a close contest.

Cootamundra is also set to be a battle between the two parties, with Steph Cooke standing for the Nationals and Matthew Stadtmiller for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

Despite having a stranglehold on both seats for many years through Adrian Piccoli in Murray and Katrina Hodgkinson in Cootamundra, the Nationals have poured significant resources into retaining the seats.

Cootamundra Shooters, Fishers and Farmers hopeful Matthew Stadtmiller casts his vote in Young on Saturday.

Cootamundra Shooters, Fishers and Farmers hopeful Matthew Stadtmiller casts his vote in Young on Saturday.

On Saturday, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian flew into Griffith to do some last-minute campaigning on behalf of Mr Evans.

The scene outside the Athenium in Junee on Saturday afternoon.

The scene outside the Athenium in Junee on Saturday afternoon.

It comes as former Prime Minister John Howard and Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer slammed the Shooters’ policy on guns as “dangerous”.