St Kitts and Nevis 2000–Crazy result

Given my sudden fascination with small assemblies, I was poking around in election results from St Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean sovereign state with a population of just over 52,000. With 11 elected members, its assembly certainly counts as small. The 2000 election is really something. Look at the national result:

PartyCodeVotes% votesCandidatesSeats
St. Kitts and Nevis Labour PartySKNLP11,76253.85%88
People’s Action MovementPAM6,46829.61%80
Concerned Citizens MovementCCM1,9018.70%32
Nevis Reformation PartyNRP1,7107.83%31
Total Valid Votes21,841100%2211
Source: St Kitts and Nevis Election Center, Caribbean Elections.

The second largest party got no seats, while two parties with less than 10% each won a seat or two. This is a first-past-the-post system. The problem the PAM had was it came in second in all eight seats it contested, i.e., every district on the island of St. Christopher (none were close). The advantage the CCM and NRP had is they run only on the island of Nevis, which has three district. Here are the district results.

ConstituencyRegistered votersSKNALPPAMCCMNRPValid Votes
St Christopher #14,5191,7881,1492,937
St Christopher #25,6522,0111,5073,518
St Christopher #32,5961,2353771,612
St Christopher #42,4301,0137351,748
St Christopher #52,3288697691,638
St Christopher #62,5711,6131191,732
St Christopher #72,8741,4414791,920
St Christopher #84,3251,7921,3333,125
Nevis #92,9248087961,604
Nevis #101,517555184739
Nevis #112,4305387301,268
Total34,16611,7626,4681,9011,71021,841
Source: Same as for first table.

Note that there is some pretty serious malapportionment here, as well. Nevis constituencies have many fewer voters than St. Christopher constituencies. In fact, the three Nevis districts together have only about 1.2 times the population of the most populous St. Christopher district.

So what should we have according to the Seat Product Model? The seat product is 11 (magnitude of 1, times assembly size of 11), so the effective number of seat-winning parties should be 1.49. In this election it was actually 1.75. That’s actually not a terrible miss! But in most elections it has been considerably higher than that–as high as 3.90 in 2015. So just for fun, a quick look at that one:

PartyVotesvotes% votesCandidates
St. Kitts and Nevis Labour PartySKNLP11,89739.27%83
People’s Action MovementPAM8,45227.90%64
People’s Labour PartyPLP2,7238.99%21
Concerned Citizens MovementCCM3,95113.04%32
Nevis Reformation PartyNRP3,27610.81%31
Total Valid Votes30,299100%2211
(Last column is seats won, but the heading did not copy over.)

This time, the PAM benefitted greatly! It is in a clear second place in votes, yet won a plurality of seats. Not a majority, however. According to Wikipedia, there were alliances. But even at the alliance level, there was a plurality reversal: “The outgoing coalition (SKNLP and NRP) secured 50.08% of votes but got only 4 seats, the winning coalition (PAM, PLP and CCM) won 7 seats with only 49.92% of votes.” Oh, cool: Another case of pre-electoral alliances! The effective number of alliances was just 1.86.

And at the district level:

ConstituencyRegistered VotersSKNLPPAMPLPCCMNRPValid Votes
St. Christopher #15,0361,7271,7313,458
St. Christopher #24,7401,7581,6603,418
St. Christopher #33,2651,3481,0762,424
St. Christopher #43,1661,2161,2522,468
St. Christopher #53,1078841,2452,129
St. Christopher #62,8231,9692002,169
St. Christopher #73,1918671,6472,514
St. Christopher #85,7532,1282,3644,492
Nevis #96,1272,0331,7153,748
Nevis #101,3937543061,060
Nevis #113,5841,1641,2552,419
Total42,18511,8978,4522,7233,9513,27630,299

We might not expect regionalism in such a small country, with a small assembly. But the party preferences of the two islands obviously are genuinely different (and the PLP is “regional” in that it contested only two districts on St. Christopher); yet the parties aggregate into alliances for purposes of national politics.

The malapportionment is still noteworthy–look at the small population of Nevis 10. However, one of the other two districts is now the most populous in the country, quite unlike in 2000.

Final point: Its population may be small, but according to the cube root law St Kitts and Nevis should have an assembly more than three times what it actually has: 37. If they were proportional to registered voters, Nevis would be allotted nine of those 37 seats. It currently has 3 of the 11, so 27%, so quite close to its population share, unlike in 2000 when it was overrepresented. Making the seats allocated by island more easily fit population balance in itself would be a good argument for increasing assembly size, but an even better argument would be making anomalous results like the two elections shown here less likely–even if they insist on sticking with FPTP.

9 thoughts on “St Kitts and Nevis 2000–Crazy result

  1. I think the regionalism makes a lot of sense. The islands are a federation, after all, and there have been periodic succession movements on Nevis.

    A referendum held on Nevisian independence in 1998 fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to secede (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Nevis_independence_referendum). An independent Nevis would have been be a seriously small state– yet with an assembly that would be twice the size of the current St. Kitts & Nevis one if it followed the cube root rule (22 MPs given the 2011 population of 11,108)!

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    • Yes and no. I mean, I agree based on some contextual knowledge–I knew it was a federation. Yet most federations don’t have such regionally distinct party systems, although some do. And I was not aware of an active secession movement or the referendum.

      And usually the seat product prevails, even over federalism! But not in this case, evidently.

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      • It’s actually quite common in the Anglophone Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago both have federal systems where the smaller unit is dominated by a local party, IIRC.

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  2. What is the smallest size of a legislative body? US city councils usually have the bare minimum is 5 at least in California, Los Angeles County. There are a few cities in LA County that elect 4 members.

    Since most cities in Los Angeles County of the State of California average size for a city council is 5 members, according to the cube root, each city should have 150 residents? This worked well when many of these cities were first incorporated. Why was 5 members chosen? I would imagine that at least minimum of 9 would be best.

    According to the cube root rule, a city that has 100,000 residents has a 46 member city council? Of course one doesn’t have to elected everyone, sortition could be used to chose city council members. Half could be chosen by lot, and the other half are elected.

    As of 2019, California has a 39.51 million and the state legislature should consist according to the square root of 341 members.

    As of 2019, Los Angeles County has a 10.04 million population and if there was a county assembly, according to the square root, it would consist of 216 members.

    As of 2019, City of Los Angeles has a 3.967 million population and the city assembly, according to the square root, would/should consist of 158 members.

    As of 2019, Orange County, California has a 3.176 million population and if there was a county assembly, according to the square root, would/should consist of 147 members.

    Unfortunately nobody adheres to the cube root for any level of government, most countries have assemblies that are too big, or too small, never the just right size.

    The LA County City of Vernon has 96 people residents, maybe now it has 200 residents, so it is the only city council that meets the cube root.

    If any city council and/or if county assemblies were established in the state of California using the cubed rooted, the city councils would become huge, and the county assemblies would be far larger than the state legislature. It is amazing that the county boards of supervisors are just 5 people for LA County.

    https://www.calculatorsoup.com/calculators/algebra/cuberoots.php

    It seems easier for small countries to have moderate size assemblies and the people are closer to their politicians than in a big huge country.

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    • I wondered recently whether the cube root rule is observable for city councils. Plugging some cities’ populations and council sizes into a simple spreadsheet I find they seem to converge to near the 5th root, albeit with a greater variance (about 2x) than in my set for national legislatures. My sample was only 15 US cities, chosen willy-nilly (some of the largest, some I happen to have lived in, some random state capitals) so this might mean nothing, but I’m curious enough to add more cities if I find time. Very possibly there’s a dataset somewhere anyone can easily scrape and I did it the dumb way 🙂

      It’s only partly connected to your point, but I was coming from your same initial question basically: why ~5 members? I don’t really have my head around why the cube root rule is observed(*) for legislatures even, much less why a same-only-different rule might be observed for city councils. I hope others might have any ideas.

      (*) And that is, at least AIUI, “observed” as in “is manifest,” not as in “has ever anywhere been strictly adhered to on purpose,” which maybe more than anything makes it so interesting/baffling!

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      • Taagepera’s theory provides reasons why the cube root law (not “rule”!) should be observed in practice, but as far as I know, no one has ever tried to unpack it and see if the theoretical basis plays into any decisions to set assembly size in practice. (Those are that the cube root of “active” population most closely optimizes the balance between two types of communication channels–those between constituents and representatives and those among representatives).

        Whether it should apply at sub-national, and particularly municipal, level would depend perhaps on whether we expect the load on either type of channel to be lower or higher than it is in a national assembly.

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  3. The smallest size is one. Georgia (the American state) has several counties which use a sole commissioner system where a single person holds both legislative and executive power. I believe Bartow County (population around 100k) is the largest which still uses this system.

    In Texas, all counties have a 5 member commissioners court, regardless of population. Some cities have 3-member councils, though.

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