Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cook Islands Election

Teddy here. If you are wondering where I've been, the answer is a combination of doing other things, physically moving to a new place, and the usual summer lull.

I do have an update however for today on last month's election in the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands is a nation in "Free Association" with New Zealand. This means, in short, the country is a voluntary protectorate of NZ.

The Cook Islands has a population of under 18,000 making it equal to a "Town" in Canada, roughly equal to Thorold, Miramichi, Squamish, Cochrane, Deux-Montagnes, Midland, Huntsville, or Cobourg.

There are 24 seats in the Cook Islands parliament, and members are elected by the same first-past-the-post system we use here in Canada.

In particular, I want to address the following; the results of the election, in seats, and popular vote.

First, a disclaimer. One seat ended in a tie. I've decided for reasons outlined on the graphic, that I will assign this seat to the official opposition.

The results were as follows.

13 - 42.3% - Cook Islands Party
9 - 46.1% - Democratic Party
2 - 9.6% - One Cook Islands Party
0 - 1.2% - Titikaveka Oire (Village of Titikaveka Party)
0 - 0.9% - Independent

This may look to be the perfect case for Proportional Representation. I want to outline why it is not.

While I think the graphic speaks for itself, I want to outline why and how I came to the conclusion that this election is not a good example for why PR is needed.

First. Note the distribution of seats. This is the most important.
Rarotonga, the main island, with 72% of the population, only has 42% of the seats.
This is intentional. Cook Islanders have a concern that the wishes of the main island could drown out the demands of the remainder of the islands.

Looking at the Islands on an individual basis, we see where things fall apart.

On the "Individual" islands; that is islands with only one seat, we see the CIP winning most of them very narrowly. #6 is won with only a 8 vote margin. #10 by a 4 vote margin. The widest margin, in fact, is 19 votes on #7. Note as well the small number of total votes cast, in the case of #9, 61 votes.

The end result is 5 seats and 455 votes for CIP, 1 seat and 382 votes for the DPCI, and 0 seats and 88 votes for OCI.

Now, on to the 3 larger islands, each of which has either 2 or 3 members.
One of these seats was won by acclamation. Of the remaining, the DPCI took 691 votes, while CIP took 635. CIP however managed to win 5 seats, compared to a total of 2 for DPCI. Island #4 in particular was very close in popular vote. Note as well that there was no CIP candidate in not just one but two of these seats.

Finally we get to the main island, Rarotonga.
At 2833 votes and 6 seats, the island was clearly won by the Democrats.
at 2409 votes and 3 seats, the Cook Islands Party made a respectable showing.
at 498 votes and 1 seat, OCI managed to elect it's leader in his own seat.

Now the math.
If we gave each Rarotonga voter the same votes-per-seat as voters in the remainder of the Cook Islands, we'd have seen between 2.4 and 2.5 members elected per seat. This would mean the Democrats would have ended the election with a total 1 seat lead over the CIP.

Here, however, is the crux of the problem.

Due to the design of the seat distribution - that is, 72% of the people in 42% of the seats - the CIP won the election. This distribution, however, was intentionally designed to do just this. It was designed so that a party that appeals mostly only to those on Rarotonga, as the DPCI did, would not win the election.

This is thus not a case for why Proportional Representation is needed.

It, however, could be a case for why representation by population - the idea that voters should be in roughly equally sized seats - is needed.

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