Saturday, December 16, 2017

Senator: Use EBC data to find best system


seeking a solution: Temporary Independent Senator Dr Sharon Legall makes her maiden contribution during debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014 in the Senate, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, on Wednesday evening. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Mark Fraser

TEMPORARY Independent Senator Dr Sharon Legall has suggested the data the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has from previous elections be tested to determine exactly which electoral system would be the best fit for this country.

Legall, who is replacing Senior Counsel Elton Prescott in the Senate as a result of his absence from this country, made the statements during  her contribution to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 in the Upper House on Wednesday night.

It was her maiden contribution in the Senate.

Legall said the run-off proposal in the bill is the one that seems to “cause a lot of angst to members of the population”.

She said the first scholarly article she read on the issue of run-off was written by statistician William Shelton.

Legall said the majority of scholarly articles she read during her research on the topic contained statistical data.

“I would like to suggest that we can engage in a similar exercise. We’re saying that a run-off election is beneficial, well let us test it. We have raw data from the Elections and Boundaries Commission dating back decades. That data deals with a specific political model called the first-past-the-post model. That is the current model that is in existence now,” Legall said.

“We can test the run-off model using that raw data to anticipate whether in a run-off system had it existed then how would the result change, how would it impact parties, how would it impact the representative nature of the votes cast, so we could actually do that forecasting,” she said.

Legall suggested forecasting be used to determine the best model for this country.

“I will propose that we can do that kind of forecasting to test one model against the next and we can throw in the model that we seem to be favouring, proportional representation, so we can compare all the models using the raw data provided by the Elections and Boundaries Commission and that is one way we can localise the information,” Legall said.

“So we can say under the first-past-the-post system these were the results, under the proportional representation system these could be the results, and under a run-off system these could be the results,” she said.

“Democracy is both ideal and process we have to identify what are the ideals of our democracy, they are not necessarily unique to us but we can identify what those ideals are,” Legall said.

“I would offer that one ideal is participation and participation is effected through voting and whatever proposals we seek to implement or advocate we must test those proposals to determine whether they advance our ideals, our idea of what a democracy is,” she said.