PREDICTION: Possible Mackay election winner emerges
ANALYSIS: Incumbent Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert is on track to clinch her third term and retain the safe Labor seat.
Exit polling at the Mackay and Northern Beaches early voting booths awards 47 per cent of the primary vote to Mrs Gilbert, with LNP challenger Chris Bonanno claiming 33 per cent.
Of the remaining four candidates, One Nation's Christine Keys came in next closest at 11 per cent.
The seat has been a Labor Party stronghold for decades, basically since its inception.
But this support dropped off dramatically during the 2012 Newman Government landslide, which resulted in a huge swings away from Labor across many seats.
The late Tim Mulherin held onto the seat with the narrowest margin Mackay had experienced in recent history with just 0.5 per cent.
But in the 2015 election, Mrs Gilbert won with a 12 per cent swing toward her and after the 2017 tilt she has retained a 10 per cent margin going into this election.
University of Queensland political expert Chris Salisbury said the COVID-19 pandemic had created favourable conditions for major parties at this year's election, to the detriment of minor parties such as One Nation.
"I do expect that it will favour the incumbents more so and that this seat will be held by the ALP," Dr Salisbury said.
"In this seat and I expect in many regional seats, we will see many more two-horse races between the major parties."
Dr Salisbury said last year's Federal Election result had framed Queensland Labor's "presidential-style" state election campaign, with the party "sensitive" to the voter backlash it copped in mining regions.
"It has been quite obvious this time that both the major parties are very much looking to shore up support in the regions," he said.
"The premier's frequent visits to this seat and many others in the north and in Central Queensland also shows Labor's hand in how they have fashioned this campaign around the premier, around her popularity and around the support she's enjoyed for managing the pandemic conditions.
"No doubt the party is looking to rub off some of that popularity on candidates in marginal and regional seats."
But Mr Bonanno is not out of the race entirely.
Dr Salisbury said the unpredictable impact of COVID-19 on this election, as well as postal votes and election day voting could turn in his favour.
"Traditionally, postal votes have favoured the Coalition across Australia," he said.
"It is almost an unwritten rule that postal will give a boost to conservative candidates."
Dr Salisbury said the expected shift towards major parties this year could explain exit polling figures obtained for the seat of Mirani.
But, with pre-polling figures harder to come by in Mackay's southern electorate, it was more likely because the small sample size was too small to make any predictions.
The figures award ALP's Shane Hamilton with 38 per cent of the vote, ahead of One Nation's Mirani MP Stephen Andrew on 27 per cent and the LNP's Tracie Newitt on 23 per cent.
But votes in Sarina alone put the incumbent Mr Andrew in the lead so it is impossible to predict the seat at this stage.
The Daily Mercury team has been conducting anonymous exit polling since early voting opened last Monday.
This involved asking those coming out of the booths who they voted number one on their ballot paper and why.
Exit polls can only provide a snapshot of voting, with final results only available once votes are counted.
Mackay (sample size 516)
- ALP- JULIEANNE GILBERT 47.48%
- GREENS -IMOGEN LINDENBERG 4.46%
- IMOP - JULIE SAUNDERS 1.16%
- LCQ - SHAUN KRSTIC 2.52%
- LNP - CHRIS BONANNO 33.14%
- ONP - CHRISTINE KEYS 11.24%
Mirani (sample size 176)
- ALP - SHANE HAMILTON 38.07%
- CLMP - NICK BYRAM 0.57%
- GREENS - BEN WATKINS 2.27%
- LNP - TRACIE NEWITT 23.86%
- NQF - JASON BORG 6.82%
- ONP -STEPHEN ANDREW 27.84%
- UAP - TEPEPE BORG 0.57%