Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 Alberta Election Results under Preferential Voting and Proportional Representation

In his article "Possible Outcome of 2012 Alberta General Election with Preferential Voting", Dr. Tim Trudgian from the University of Lethbridge shows a possible outcome of the 2012 Alberta General Election with preferential voting. Preferential voting is a voting system based on ranking voter preferences using a threshold of 50 percent of popular support to determine who wins a seat, and transfer of the candidate with the lowest number votes' secondary preferences to the remaining candidates, until the 50 percent threshold is reached. The value of this system is that the winning candidate must have at least 50% of popular support through voter preferences. In contrast, the first-past-the-post system allows candidates with popular support well below 50 percent to win, case in point the 2011 federal election and the 2012 Alberta provincial election.

Dr. Trudgian's possible preferential outcome focuses on the NDP, Liberals, PC, and Wildrose for the sake of simplicity. Also, he assumes the voter preferences for these parties. The FDA believes these assumptions are reasonable. The preferential voting resulted in:

NDP 2 seats
Liberal 2 seats
PC Party 73 seats
Wildrose 10 seats

The actual election results were

NDP 4 seats
Liberal 5 seats
PC Party 61 seats
Wildrose 17 seats

The Liberal Party, the only party to support preferential voting actually lost 2 seats under the system, while the PC Party increased its seats by 12 and the Wildrose lost 7 seats and the NDP lost 2 seats. Dr. Trudgian accounts for the differences based partly on the PC Party having only one third place finish (and second and first in all other ridings), and the NDP preferences flowing to the PC Party.

Dr. Trudgian's possible outcome is limited because the election data is based on the actual first-the-past-post results and likely high strategic voting. In a preferential voting system, as Dr. Trudgian notes, there would be no cause for strategic voting, and some or many voters would have voted different in a preferential voting system.

In addition, the FDA determined a possible outcome of the Alberta election based on proportional representation. The same limitations to Dr. Trudgian's outcome applies to the FDA's.

To simplify the calculation, the FDA focuses on Calgary, dividing the city into five sectors made up of five seats each. Then the FDA totals the number votes per party for each sector and applies the modified Sainte-Laguë method as used in Norway and Sweden:
Seat distribution is divided by the following sequence: 1.4, 3, 5, 7, etc. (The number of votes of the winning party in each round is reduced by the sequence.)

Number of seats won under first-past-the-post:

In Calgary:

Alberta Liberals 2 seats
Alberta NDP 0 seats
PC Party 20 seats
Wildrose 3 seats

Popular vote in Calgary:

5 Sectors (comprised of 5 ridings each)

Acadia/Bow/Buffalo/Cross Currie

Alberta Liberals 10, 902
Alberta NDP 3, 350
PC Party 30, 338
Wildrose 24, 065

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 30,338 (21,670)
2. Wildrose 1 seat, 24, 065 (8, 021)
3. PC Party 1 seat, 21, 670 (4334)
4. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 10, 902
5. Wildrose 1 seat, 8, 021

East/Elbow/Fish Creek/Foothills/Fort

Alberta Liberals 5, 685
Alberta NDP 4, 234
PC Party 47, 545
Wildrose 28, 114

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 47, 234 (33, 738)
2. PC Party 1 seat, 33, 738 (11, 246)
3. Wildrose 1 seat, 28, 114 (5, 622)
4. PC Party 1 seat, 11, 246
5. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 5, 685

Glemore/Greenway/Hawkwook/Hays/Klein

Alberta Liberals 7, 228
Alberta NDP 4, 234
PC Party 47, 545
Wildrose 30, 249

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 47, 545 (33, 960)
2. PC Party 1 seat, 33, 960 (11, 320)
3. Wildrose 1 seat, 30, 249 (6, 049)
4. PC Party 1 seat, 11, 320
5. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 7, 228

Lougheed/Mackay-Nose Hill/McCall/Mountain View/North West

Alberta Liberals 14, 127
Alberta NDP 3, 096
PC Party 31, 497
Wildrose 25, 457

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 31, 497 (22, 497)
2. Wildrose 1 seat, 25, 457 (8, 485)
3. PC Party 1 seat, 22, 497
4. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 14, 127
5. Wildrose 1 seat, 8, 485

Northern Hills/Shaw/South East/Varsity/West

Alberta Liberals 6, 773
Alberta NDP 3, 201
PC Party 37, 626
Wildrose 29, 977

Application of modified Sainte-Laguë method:

1. PC Party 1 seat, 37, 626 (26, 875)
2. Wildrose 1 seat, 29, 977 (9, 992)
3. PC Party 1 seat, 26, 875 (5, 375)
4. Wildrose 1 seat, 9, 992
5. Alberta Liberals 1 seat, 6, 773

(Source of popular vote figures: Elections Alberta, Unofficial Election Results as of April 25, 2012; calculations by the Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

First-past-the-post election results for Calgary:

Alberta Liberals 2 seats
Alberta NDP 0 seats
PC Party 20 seats
Wildrose 3 seats

Proportional representation results for Calgary:

Alberta Liberals 5 seats (+3)
Alberta NDP 0 seats (0)
PC Party 14 seats (-6)
Wildrose 8 seats (+5)

As evidenced by the results above, the Wildrose, Alberta Liberals, and possibly the Alberta NDP (depending on the results in other regions) are at a disadvantage under the first-past-the-post system.

The first-past-the-post rewards the first candidate past the line; whereas proportional representation rewards popular vote. Popular vote is at the essence of democracy.

If we apply the percentages from Calgary to the rest of the province, a proportional representation system would have yielded possibly:

Alberta Liberals 6 seats (20 percent increase; Liberals and NDP have similar popular vote totals)
Alberta NDP 5 seats (20 percent increase)
PC Party 43 seats (30 percent reduction)
Wildrose 33 seats (43 percent increase)

Conclusion: 

Under proportional representation, the PC Party would have a minority government, or there would be a coalition government. This result is more democratic and fair than the Alberta election result in which the PC Party received a 61 seat majority, because the PC Party had only 43.89% of the popular vote and 30.91% voter support overall. The FDA believes that the PC Party is unworthy of a majority government. In the 2012 Alberta election, five parties campaigned for proportional representation, and the Wildrose Alliance Party (which stood most to benefit from it) did not support proportional representation (although it did in 2008).

Foundation for Democratic Advancement

Possible Outcome of 2012 Alberta General Election with Preferential Voting

2012 Alberta Proportional Representation Election Results 

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