Monday, November 17, 2014

Electoral Math - or why our municipal electoral system sucks

A friend asked to explain what I mean when I talk about the bad electoral math of our electoral system.  So this is for Jack.

The top 4, 6 or 8 candidates in the election are elected depending on the size of the council.  This sounds simple enough and it would be if we only had a single vote but we do not, we get multiple votes.    You are allowed to vote up to the number of councilors there are to be elected.  You do not need to vote all your votes but most people do.  This is where the problem comes.

This is a quick simplistic break down of a fictional election

Let us assume we are elected 8 councilors to the council of Fort Camosun BC and there are 16 candidates of which 6 are currently on council.   There are 10,000 voters casting an average of 6 votes each for a total of 60,000 votes cast.  There are informal right wing and left wing slates.

Aaron - current councilor - right wing
Beth - current councilor - left wing
Carl - current councilor
Diane - current councilor - right wing
Earl - current councilor - left wing
Flora - current councilor - left wing
Gerald - right wing
Hilda - right wing
Imogen - left wing

The right wing and left wing slates each get 2000 of their supporters to vote for their slate, they both have four candidates on their slates so each of their candidates get 2000 votes and those 4000 people (2000 for each slate) cast a further 8000 votes which is an average of 800 votes for each other candidate.

2500 people like five of the current council (randomly five, not the same five) this is worth 2,000 votes for each incumbent.   2500 votes are remaining or 250 votes for each of the other 10 candidates.

Jack through Olivia all equally bring 500 voters to the election.   That is 3500 people accounting for 21,000 votes but only 3500 votes have a home.   There are 17,500 votes from these supporters looking for a new home.  Most of these votes will go to people they recognize the most, the incumbents.   Let us assign roughly 2/3s to the incumbents because they are the best known names, that is 2000 to each one of them.   The remaining 5500 are split equally among the other ten candidates

So where are at
Aaron 6,000
Beth 6,000
Diane 6,000
Earl  6,000
Flora 6,000
Carl  4,800
Gerald 2800
Hilda 2800
Imogen 2800
Jack 2100
Kurt 2100
Lizzy 2100
Mike 2100
Nellie 2100
Peter 2100
Olivia 2100

All the incumbents are elected and the two new councilors come from the slates with one slate candidate just losing.

The new candidates bring in the largest group of "extra" votes looking for a home and this benefits the best known names the most.   A typical new candidate's supporters will give 1/2 vote to an incumbent for each vote the new candidate gets.  The perverse reality is that often in our elections the harder work of new candidates benefits those they are trying to unseat.    

Each slate only has 2000 supporters each but they keep much of their vote internal and that helps them stay near the top.

A lot of people that come to vote and are not tied to anyone's campaign will tend to vote for the names they know, the incumbents.

In real life the numbers are not this neat but you can make some realistic assumptions about how people will behave in an election when they are trying to fill their ballot with enough names.

So how can Jack win?   Ideally appeal to both the left and right slates.  If 2/3s of each slate's supporters like him he gains an extra 2,667 votes and at the same time takes away 500 votes from each candidate not on a slate.   Jack goes from 2100 to 4,767 while the other new candidates all drop to 1600.   He even passes current non-partisan incumbent Carl who is now at 4300 votes.

Jack could create a new non partisan slate with five other new candidates and hope this will keep enough votes among the newbies to deny the incumbents their normal benefit.

Jack could also become the best known name out there, ideally be a former MP, win an Oscar, spend enough money to make his name a household name, or anything else that makes his name stand out over all the others.   This is really only possible if you are already rich or famous which Jack is not.

Keep in mind this is all very much simplified.

Does this help?

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