Monday, February 19, 2018

Real questions with formula for run-off voting

The question of the pros and cons of “run-off” elections is an interesting one and is deserving of our consideration. Whether it is appropriate to bring such legislation to Parliament this late into the term and during what should be the mid-year break is another matter.

The “first-pass-the-post” formula we have adopted as a part of our electoral system has been under the microscope for a number of years. It is not that the use of two-round systems of voting is new. Such systems were in use as far back as the 19th century in Germany. Many countries now use this system but is that enough of a deciding factor to spur us into adopting such a system?

I am loath to advance a personal position on this issue at this time and I would like to listen to the views of learned experts on the matter. I would like here, though, to throw into the ring one issue for consideration.

Let me construct a scenario. In a class of 101 students, there is an election for class president. Three candidates are going up for the post: Jim, Tommy and Janet. The elections are held on Monday and the results are: Jim —40; Tommy—26; and Jane —35. Clearly, no candidate wins a majority of the votes cast. Rounding off the numbers, Jim has 40 per cent, Tommy 26 per cent and Janet 35.

In a first-past-the-post system, Jim would be declared the winner, But new rules have been instituted and a majority winner is needed, so a second round of voting ensues. Remember that in the first round, Jim led the voting followed by Janet and Tommy last.

Tommy has been eliminated so this second round of voting is a head to head clash between Jim and Janet. The results of this second round are a bit of a surprise. Janet 51 per cent and Jim 49 per cent.

Armchair analysts look at the results to find out why the clear leader in the first round ended up narrowly losing the election. The conclusion they reached is that when forced into a second round, the voters retreated to voting along familiar lines and in this case, all the girls voted for Janet and all the boys for Jim.

This is only a hypothetical scenario but it is something we need to consider. When an electorate is faced with a second round of voting, are we getting a clear favourite of the voters?

For a long time we have seen voting along ethnic lines in this country. Is it not possible that when forced into a second round that voters would revert into voting along familiar lines?

Just a thought dear people, just a thought.

Gary S Almarales

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