Thanks to those who played our games. Now that we have at least the full preliminary results, we can answer the questions:
- Swing Votes: The Liberals ended up winning 50 seats and the NDP 33. A majority government requires 43 seats, so the Liberals would have to have lost 8 seats to have won only a minority government and the NDP would have to have picked up 10 seats to win a majority themselves. How many votes would it have taken to do that? Looking at the 8 ridings where the Liberals won their tightest races (starting with Coquitlam-Mallairdville with 105 votes and ranging up to Fraser-Nicola with 754 votes), we find that the Liberals were 3548 votes above the NDP. If just over half these voters had switched their votes to the NDP (ie, 1782 = 3548/2+8), then the NDP could have won these seats and the Liberals would have been reduced to a minority. Adding in the next two closest ridings (Burnaby North and Boundary Similkameen) would bring us to 5578. Again, dividing by 2 and adding 10 = 2799 vote switches needed for an NDP majority. These numbers correspond to 0.11% and 0.17% of the popular vote, respectively, so in principle, despite the fact that the Liberals had a 5% lead in the popular vote, a swing of barely one fiftieth of that lead in certain key ridings could have denied them their majority, and less than a twentieth of that lead could have given the NDP a majority themselves. Congratulations to the one-fifth of our respondents who guesstimated an answer of <0.5%!
- Orphaned Voters: This is a little easier to work out – if we add up the votes for the winning candidate in each riding and divide by the total number of votes cast, we get 51.1%, which means 48.9% of the voters are orphaned (ie, don’t have an MLA they voted for). This is typical with our current voting system. A preliminary analysis of what would have happened under STV shows that a minimum of about 87% of voters would have an MLA they had voted for, and likely higher as voters would be able to vote honestly under STV. Almost a quarter of our respondents got this one right, although nearly two-thirds of you were either right or more pessimistic! We’re pleased to see that very few people believe that there aren’t many orphaned voters – properly understanding the problem is a key step towards addressing it.
Thanks to all those who played.
1. Swing Votes
Electoral reform advocates know that our Single Member Plurality voting system means there’s often very little relationship between the amount of support a party has and how many seats they win. In 1996, the Liberals lost to the NDP, despite having 3% more of the popular vote. Many of the seats in the province are safe seats – in Rafe Mair’s memorable phrase, a “fencepost with hair” could win in certain places if the right party label is beside the candidate’s name.
Conversely, some ‘swing’ ridings are close enough that no-one can predict the outcome in advance and very small swings in the vote can produce completely different outcomes. So, our first question is, how close is tonight’s election really? We know that the NDP has a lead of about 8% in the polls. But how many voters would have to change their minds to change who wins government?
2. Orphan (Unrepresented) Voters
We all know that SMP means that many voters don’t end up being represented by someone they voted for. Fair Vote Canada calls these ‘orphan voters’. Guess how many orphan voters we’ll end up with tonight.