Another country with a second election within one year. Spain is going to early elections again. The date is set for 10 November. The last elections were on 28 April.
Israel today has held its second general election of 2019. I did an earlier data dive into such second elections in other countries.
In the previous entry, I did not look at turnout. I’ve seen several claims that it is a “surprise” that turnout in Israel was (supposedly) up today, compared to April. It seems to be a conventional wisdom that voters would be tired of campaigns and voting and would just go to the beach.
So, is that CW reasonable? I thought not. Other things being equal, a prior election should have revealed that important political outcomes are really at stake. On average, then, I think that should increase interest in a second election in close succession, not decrease it.
But, of course, we should not rely on either CW or my hunches. We should look at the data! So I did.
Second elections (and third, in case of Greece 1989-90) within one year are not very common. But with that caveat, turnout changes from one to the next in a sequence for 16 elections where I found data:
* mean +0.00788
* median +0.001
* range: –.074 to +.168
* half increased, half decreased
So, as is often the case, the CW is wrong. There is no systematic tendency of turnout to decrease in a ‘b’ election. However, I am not going to claim victory for my contrary hunch, not on margins like that!
It is far too rare that the two themes of this blog intersect so nicely. Here is a tidbit from my checking of the Wikipedia page about Battersea constituency (related to research, for real).
In 2001, the candidate T.E Barber used the candidate description “No fruit out of context party”, and advocated the end of, amongst other crimes against food, pineapples on pizza.
He got 1.1% of the vote!
Via Growing Produce:
Michigan’s apple, cherry, peach, and plum producers have approved a referendum to continue the Michigan Tree Fruit Research & Development Program, according to a press release from the state’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.
A total of 171 valid ballots were cast in the referendum. Of those, 120 producers voted yes (70%) representing 406 million pounds of apples, cherries, peaches, and plums (81%); and 51 producers voted no (30%) representing 95 million pounds (19%).
For renewal of the program and its activities, more than 50% of the voting producers, representing more than 50% of the production of those voting, must have approved it.
Voting technology is one obstacle to wider use of ranked-choice voting. Although groups like OpaVote have had open-source fixes for years, US jurisdictions tend to rely on commercial vendors. A decade ago, many of them resisited developing the technology. Now, of course, voters can “complete the arrow,” as is done in San Francisco, or bubble in a candidate-by-ranking matrix, as was done in Maine last week.
The challenges get thornier with STV elections. Due to the “multi-winner” nature of a race, there sometimes are very many candidates. That can result in confused voters and burdensome vote counts. Only in 1991 did Cambridge (MA) solve these problems by computerizing its electoral system. That could have happened as early as 1936, when many cities still were holding STV elections.
As it turns out, IBM had found a way to mechanize the voting process. George Hallett of the erstwhile Proportional Representation League writes:
Among the most persuasive arguments against P. R., in spite of their essential triviality, have been the objections that it required several days to get the result in a large election and that it required paper ballots and hand counting, both of which in plurality elections without the safeguards of a central count have acquired an evil reputation. In connection with the possible early use of P. R. in New York City, where these objectives would be stronger than ever psychologically, an effective answer to them has now been devised.
IBM’s system used standard, punch-card readers to count STV ballots at a rate of 400 per minute. According to Hallett, “the final result of a P. R. election in New York City can easily be determined by some time in the morning of the day after election.”
Voters would use a series of dials to rank candidates, one through 20. Then, as some will recall, the machine would record a voter’s votes when they pulled the lever to open the curtain. Opening the curtain punched the holes into the punch-card ballot.
Here is the quotation in its context (albeit a bit blurry):
Other features of the system were:
- Precinct-based error correction. A voter could not give the same ranking to more than one candidate. Nor could a voter skip a ranking.
- Freedom of choice. A voter could rank as few candidates as they wanted. They also could rank as many as they wanted. Although the machine was built for 20 rankings, there appears to have been accommodation for write-in and additional candidates. Finally, a voter could go back and change their mind about a ranking.
- Early “cyber-security.” Now we worry about nefarious actors loading malware onto touchscreens. Back in the 1930s, however, the worry was that poll workers might stuff a ballot box or throw out ballots they did not like. IBM’s solution was simple. Poll workers would not have access to individual ballots. Once a voter voted, the ballot fell into a sealed container, only to be opened in the central-count location.
Why the machine did not catch on remains a mystery. IBM appears to have been pitching it to New York City in advance of the November referendum, which put STV into place from 1937 to 1947. Those passing by 41 Park Row could see a demonstration model at the Citizens Union office.
It is a shame that New York (and other cities) did not go with the system. According to Mott (1926), the average invalid-ballot rate in 19 elections to that point was 9.1 percent. My data reveal invalid rates of up to 18 percent (Manhattan and Brooklyn, 1941). Part of this was abstention altogether. Another part was the lack of interest in discerning voter intent, handling skipped rankings with compassion, and so forth. IBM’s machine, however, would have addressed some of those issues, all while educating voters at the same time that they voted.
Galvanized by the first ever ranked-choice-voting (RCV) win in a U.S. state, reformers just hours ago held a conference call to build their movement. Ranked-choice voting is a set of voting rules more kind to “outsiders” than our ubiquitous plurality system. Given the unusual strength of America’s two-party system, why do outsider-friendly electoral reforms ever win?
My answer is: a replacement institutional template, losing-party self-interest, and ruling-party disunity. In a recently published paper, I show how this logic can explain the spread of “multi-winner ranked-choice voting” (i.e., proportional representation or PR) in the first part of the 20th century. Losing parties and disgruntled ruling-party factions promote voting-system change in a bid for policy-making influence. Voting reform organizations supply the replacement template.
Does my answer also explain the RCV win in Maine? Is that enough to buy my argument? If the answers are “yes,” reformers would concentrate on jurisdictions with sizable out-parties and fractious ruling parties.
Americanist political scientists would also change the way they think about election “reform.” The dominant trend for more than a century has been to see party and reform as exclusive. Fifty years ago, we would have read about conflict between “machine politics” and “good government.” Now we read about “activists” versus “compromisers,” legacies of Progressivism, and reformer “process-obsession.” What if party itself were a critical reform ingredient? As Jessica Trounstine reminds us in her excellent book, Democratic boss Thomas Pendergast was more than happy to turn the model city charter (without PR) to his own “machine” ends in Kansas City.
Let’s see if my template-loser-faction model explains what just happened in Maine.
“Maine has not elected a governor to a first term with majority support since 1966,” said Jill Ward, President of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “Ranked Choice Voting restores majority rule and puts more power in the hands of voters.” – quoted from FairVote.org
Efforts to enact RCV began in 2001.
The losing party
Circumstantial evidence suggests that, from 2001 until the 2014 re-election of Gov. Paul LePage (R), the Democratic Party either:
1) controlled a policy veto point via the governorship, or
2) did not expect “independent” voters’ ballot transfers under single-winner RCV to help elect its candidates.
How is 2014 different for Democratic Party expectations? If the rhetoric of the current governor is any indication, the Maine Republican Party has become more socially conservative. Perhaps it is now so socially conservative (in Democrats’ minds) that the Democratic Party thinks “independent” voters would rank its candidates over Republicans. Maybe Democrats are thinking: “If we had RCV, we wouldn’t be the losing party.”
The disgruntled, ruling-party faction
My hunch is that this is a group of fiscal conservatives, no longer at home in either state party. That doesn’t make them a disgruntled, ruling-party faction, but it might have made them willing to consider Republicans in earlier years. Consider:
- Proponent of record for Question 5: An Act to Establish Ranked-choice Voting. Liberal on some economic issues, but supports consumption taxes and income-tax reduction.
- Two-time independent candidate for governor. Liberal on the environment, ambiguous on economics, but not a conventional Democrat of yore. Endorsed independent candidate Angus King (over the Democrat) to replace outgoing Sen. Olympia Snowe, a famed “moderate” Republican.
- One-time independent candidate for governor. Quits Democratic Party to run. Wanted Maine “to be the Free Enterprise State.”
Predictions and evidence
Last month I predicted that a coalition of regular Democrats and “the independents” would put RCV over the top. Republicans threw me a curve ball by endorsing RCV the very next day, but, as the proprietor of this blog has written, such endorsements can be strategic.
If I was right, Democrats and “the independents” should have voted for RCV, but the Republicans should not have.
Below I give a rough test of these hypotheses. Here are precinct-level results of the vote in favor of RCV by the vote for each major-party presidential candidate. (Vote shares are overall, not of the two-party vote.) This is preliminary. I only have data so far for 87 percent of precincts, the state has not released official results, and I have not looked at the correlation of RCV support with partisanship in other offices. I don’t yet have a way to get at behavior by “the independents.” Finally, I have not yet run an ecological inference analysis, but I plan to remedy all this later.
As you can see, Democrats seemed to like RCV, and Republicans did not, at least as revealed by presidential voting.
The role of uncertainty
Why don’t “the independents” simply join the Democratic Party if they dislike current Republican positions as much as the Democrats? This is what’s really interesting about the adoption and use of RCV. I argue that groups in reformist alliances do not plan to cooperate on all pieces of legislation. Let’s say Maine ends up with an “independent” governor or a sizable contingent of “independents” in its state legislature. I would not be surprised if we see them working with Democrats on some legislation (e.g., “social”), then with Republicans on other bills (e.g., taxes).
Why don’t Democrats foresee this possibility? Perhaps they recognize that single-winner RCV is not the same as PR. Consequently they may reason that “independents” will not become a bargaining force. Rather, “independent” ballots will bolster the position of Democrats in government.
Then why are “independents” going along with a reform that’s good for Democrats? Perhaps they disagree with Democrats on who’s likely to benefit from strategic voting. As Gary Cox reminds us, strategic voting depends in the end on voter expectations, shaped by elite messaging about precisely which party or candidate is “hopeless” under a given electoral system. The perception that RCV has made elections kinder to outsiders is important. If there really are many sincerely “independent” voters, “independent” candidates may get a toehold in government.
And that’s when things get interesting.
What if an election is tied? Apparently it is not that unusual, at least in contests with relatively small electorates. FiveThirtyEight tells of some recent US cases. It also cites a study by Casey B. Mulligan and Charles G. Hunter that says:
between 1898 and 1992 there were no tied elections for [US] federal office and only one (New York’s 36th District in 1910) that was decided by one vote. Only twice has a general election for a state legislative seat resulted in a tie: a Rhode Island state Senate race in 1978 and a 1980 New Mexico state House race. The former was decided by a special election, the latter by a coin flip.
I understand by way of Yusaku Horiuchi that ties for the last seat are fairly common in Japanese municipal elections, where SNTV is used.
What about other countries that readers may have familiarity with? And do most jurisdictions have clear rules of what to do in even of a tie? The FiveThirtyEight post refers to some cases where there were no such rules, and the council or other body had to make up a procedure.
[It took me a few days to notice that the subject line did not say what I meant it to say. Fixed now.]
I wonder if my readers can enlighten me on what the norm is for the time between the close of polls and the release of full preliminary official results. I am particularly curious about developing countries and new democracies, and especially those with large and difficult territorial expanse.
I ask because the long gap in Indonesia–apparently it will be about two weeks before official results are announced–is surely a contributing factor in the bubbling crisis over dual claims of victory in the 9 July presidential election. The “quick counts” (samplings of polling-place counts) point to a victory by Joko Widodo (Jokowi)–or at least the credible ones do.
Even for a country as vast as Indonesia, two weeks seems like an unnecessarily long time for a result in the current age, especially when there is only one office on the ballot. I can understand the long delay in a place of ongoing conflict and severe underdevelopment of infrastructure, such as Afghanistan, which had its presidential runoff on 14 June but has no full results yet. And I further understand that systems of paper ballots take longer than electronic voting, such as India and Brazil. But Colombia produces same-evening results on a paper-ballot system with rugged terrain (even if mostly mainland, unlike Indonesia) and with significant conflict zones. It seems Indonesia could do better–and, to mitigate crises over conflicting claims–needs to do better.
But what is the norm?
Steven’s comment at the earlier thread on the Colombian ballot reminds me that I ought to offer a little publicity, as well as a plea for readers to contribute any images that they might have. Please feel free to join the Ballots group: https://www.flickr.com/groups/793551@N23/
I also will note that Andy Reynolds has a nice collection of ballot images on his website.
The next few days have a lot of elections!
The European Parliament elections have been ongoing and conclude Sunday, which is also the day for the election of:
President of Colombia (first round)
President of Ukraine (first round)
Parliament of Belgium
President of Lithuania (second round)
Then we have the two-day election of the president of Egypt. (I could have said the ratification of the coup led by Abdel Fatah el-Sisi).
In the Colombian election, this will be the second time an incumbent is seeking reelection, given that the no-reelection clause was only lifted during the first term of Alvaro Uribe, who won a second consecutive term in 2006. Of particular interest in this election is that it pits incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s preferred successor in 2010, against a new candidate aligned with Uribe (as well as other candidates). The two had a falling out, mainly over policy towards the insurgency. But the Partido de la U, originally founded by and in support of Uribe, remains the party of the incumbent.
The Ukrainian election represents the attempt to return to electoral legitimacy following the ouster in February of Viktor Yanukovych in the popular uprising. One of the biggest questions in this election is whether it can be effectively conducted in parts of the southeast where separatist insurgents are threatening government control.
Belgium’s federal election is concurrent with the regional and European elections, which I believe is a very rare combination.
For a project I am currently working on, regarding district-level vote fragmentation, I am toting up the number of losing parties (with any vote share) in electoral districts in various countries.
Here are a few cases that I have completed. This first list of countries gives the number of losing parties, averaging across districts and (usually) more than one election per country.
Czech Republic, 15.5
New Zealand, 2.3
The figure for New Zealand refers to several pre-MMP elections.
This is a small set of countries, and I am currently expanding it. But what really jumps out here is how many partisan choices Albanian voters have. This refers to the 2009 and 2013 pure-PR elections only. The mean district in these Albanian elections has a magnitude of 12, a mean number of winning parties of only 3… and thirty-six losing parties!
Some of the other PR cases also have a lot of losers, but none like Albania.
It is interesting to see how many losing parties are typical of the two big FPTP countries, Canada and UK, with both averaging more than four per district.
Another interesting summary statistic is what vote share the losing parties average. In Albania it is 1.05% per party. That sums to a LOT of wasted votes! Spain, too, has a high average vote share for losing parties for a PR system, at 2.8%. In the Czech Republic it is 1.2% and in Israel (with nationwide PR, rather than districted) it is only 0.4%.
Thus we should also consider the average percentage of the first losing party in a district:
Czech Republic, 4.7
New Zealand, 32.9
Of course, in FPTP systems the average shares for first losers and thus for all losers are especially high, but the larger losing parties in any given district tend to win some seats elsewhere.* In the PR cases, a lot of these losers are not winning anywhere (or might win in just one to two high-magnitude districts); they are just small parties that have no chance at all. I wonder what it is about Albanian party law, or other features of the country’s politics, that contribute to so many micro-parties running.
* The third party (second loser) in the FPTP cases of Canada, UK and (formerly) New Zealand averages 14-15%. The average winner in Canada and the UK, by the way, is at almost precisely 50% (in NZ it was 52.8%).
Most of the raw data from which I calculated the above numbers come from the Constituency Level Electoral Archive, although I am augmenting it from various other sources. The list of countries shown here is the subset on which I am currently working: parliamentary democracies with “simple” electoral systems by Taagepera (2007) criteria, meaning no second round or upper tier. Thanks to Cory Belden for her research assistance; some day she will get a much better acknowledgement than one on a blog post…
April is a good month for election-watchers.
Today Hungary votes for the first time since the constitutional and electoral reforms imposed by Fidesz following the two-thirds majority granted it by the country’s mixed-member very-unproportional electoral system.
Monday is the general provincial (or “national”?) election in Quebec. The final ThreeHundredEight.com projection shows the Liberals most likely will win a majority, although the estimated range includes the possibility of a minority government. The Parti Quebecois (PQ) can be said confidently to be in second place, according to the projection, while the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) has closed in on the PQ in votes. The PQ’s lead over the the third place CAQ is now only around five percentage points, but it is projected to get only one fifth as many seats as the PQ. With projected votes breakdown of 39.0-27.6-22.7, but seats of 69-45-9, it is quite a “non-Duvergerian” result in the votes, but fairly Duvergerian in seats. The mechanical effect of FPTP will make the legislative party system much more two-party than the votes, by significantly over-representing both of the larger parties. The Liberals and PQ have been targeting ridings (districts) held by the CAQ, but it may not be working. There are indications that the CAQ is the party with the momentum, though getting into second place in votes is both unlikely and would not get them out of third place in seats. The fourth party, Quebec Solidaire, appears to have two safe seats despite only 8.4% of the projected votes; it is great to be small party under FPTP if your supporters conveniently concentrate their places of residence! (There were two earlier F&V posts about this election campaign: on by JD on the pro-PQ bias, and one by me on the surprising mid-campaign swing against the PQ.)
Also coming right up are general elections in two of the world’s largest democracies. Indonesia’s legislative elections are this Wednesday, 9 April. Indonesia uses open-list PR,* and is the world’s largest democracy to use any kind of PR (just ahead of Brazil, which also uses open lists, and votes later this year). Indonesia uses a counterhoneymmon electoral cycle, with the presidential election coming on 9 July.
Also this week marks the beginning of the biggest voting exercise of them all, India. The general election will take place in nine phases,** starting 7 April and ending 12 May (see map with schedule). Results will be declared in mid-May. Indications from polls are that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of various state-based parties will win, and that it will be the worst outcome ever for the Indian National Congress and its ruling United Progressive Alliance. The NDA likely will be short of a majority, however, and will need outside support from other state-based parties that have joined neither alliance for the election. BJP leader Narendra Modi, current Gujarat state Chief Minister, is the likely Prime Minister. However, if the NDA is short of a majority, it can’t be ruled out that the support parties could demand a different PM, given what a lightning rod Modi is for communal tension.
* And SNTV in the largely powerless second chamber, also being elected Wednesday.
** Or “stages”. Please don’t call them rounds.
I already said this in a comment at an earlier thread, but it is the sort of thing that is at the very core of Fruits & Votes, and hence deserves its own space…
By my calculation, the effective number of vote-winning parties in Costa Rica’s 2 Feb. election was 6.21. The effective number of presidential candidates was 4.36. Both easily break the record for the country’s elections back to 1953. The old averages and maximums were 3.21 and 4.84 for vote-winning legislative parties and 2.37 and 3.30 for presidential candidates. (Historical figures based on Bormann and Golder’s dataset.)
Costa Rica’s party system sure is unrecognizable from what it was for so long!
The effective number of parties or candidates is by now the most well established measure of electoral or legislative fragmentation. It is simply a weighted count of the number of components (parties, candidates, or anything else) where the components are weighted by their own size through squaring them. Operationally: square each component’s share (out of 1), sum the squares, and take the reciprocal of the sum. Originally proposed by Laakso and Taagepera in a 1979 article.
[Update: I added in a comment a list of cases with streaks of four or more elections with largest party having over half the vote.]
Given the news that a proposed merger of two opposition parties in South Africa was called off, I was wondering just how unusual is South Africa in having had a string of elections in which one party won a substantial majority of the vote.
Querying a dataset of over 1000 elections in countries that can be considered democracies (including many developing countries and young democratic regimes), the answer is: quite unusual.
The mean vote share of the largest party in these 1,148 elections is .42. In South Africa’s four democratic elections to date, the ANC has averaged .64. Such a high figure is just beyond the 95th percentile (.63) of the worldwide distribution.
Of course, the failure of opposition parties to offer a clear alternative does not help the cause of “normalizing” South Africa relative to other democracies. On the other hand, the extreme PR system also is an impediment. While normally, the more extreme the PR, the less likely is a party with over half the votes, if your starting point is a hegemonic party, then extreme PR presumably inhibits the development of an opposition that could challenge the leader. That is, numerous very small parties can all win their share without unifying, and the benefits from unifying are less clear for parties than they would be in a country with either a less proportional system or direct presidential elections (or both).
Speaking of direct presidential elections, the distribution of the worldwide data does not change much if we focus only on parliamentary systems, although there is small (and totally insignificant) tendency for bigger shares for the largest party under presidential systems (mean .43, although 95th percentile .61).