BC Liberal leadership: counting the votes and the cheeseburgers

I’m getting quite a few questions on how voting works for the BC Liberal leadership convention.

If you’re a member of the BC Liberal Party, and haven’t registered to vote, you can go here: https://www.bcliberals.com/Leadership/

Voting begins on Thursday morning at 9am (PT) and ends at 5pm (PT) Saturday. FAQs at the Party website.

 

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Six candidates: but in what order?

The complicated part is the counting.

It’s a preferential ballot meaning that you only vote once and you have the opportunity to rank your choices. There are six candidates. There is no downside to filling out your ballot from 1 to 6 – it doesn’t hurt your preferred candidate. In fact, it ensures your vote will count right through to the final ballot if your preferred candidate is eliminated.

In the old days when leaders were picked at delegated leadership conventions, voting delegates in the hall would vote for their candidate. The results of the first ballot would be announced then if no candidate had a majority, there would be a second ballot and everyone would line up again to vote. The bottom candidate would be eliminated.

If you supported the bottom candidate, you could stay in the hall and vote for someone else on the second ballot. Or you could walk out the door, go to McDonald’s, have a cheeseburger, and go home to bed.

That’s what happens if you don’t fill out your preferential ballot. If your #1 preferred candidate is eliminated, and you do not fill out your ballot in terms of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th choices, then you might as well be out having a cheeseburger when everyone else’s vote is being counted to determine who will be the next leader.

My Dad went to the 1968 Liberal leadership convention. He went there supporting Eric Kierans, who was eliminated on the first ballot. He didn’t go to McDonald’s for a cheeseburger; he stayed and ended up voting for Pierre Trudeau on the fourth and final ballot.

Some folks wistfully remark that it’s not as exciting as the good old days. The preferential ballot lacks the drama of candidates walking the floor between ballots to endorse a rival. In 1976, Sinclair Stevens surprised delegates when he walked over to endorse Joe Clark, creating momentum for his eventual winning candidacy. In 1984, Bob Skelly prevailed amidst complicated floor dynamics to win as a compromise candidate for the BC NDP leadership. In 1986, Bud Smith cemented Bill Vander Zalm’s win when he walked past Grace McCarthy and Brian Smith to endorse the man who many of his supporters preferred as their second choice. Gerard Kennedy delivered mightily for Stephane Dion in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership race propelling Dion to a final ballot victory over Michael Ignatieff.  Hey – delegated conventions elected Joe Clark, Bob Skelly, Bill Vander Zalm, and Stephane Dion. Excitement hardly guarantees long-term success.

In that 1968 Liberal convention that my Dad attended, Paul Hellyer should have walked after the 2nd ballot and waited one ballot too long to influence the outcome despite supporter and cabinet minister Judy LaMarsh imploring him to stop Trudeau: “you’ve got to go to Winters. Don’t let that bastard win it, Paul—he isn’t even a Liberal.” As seen on live TV.

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Judy LaMarsh and Paul Hellyer: nice hats!

The federal NDP has had its share of convention floor drama. In the 1989 federal NDP contest, CBC mic’d up candidate Simon de Jong, who forgot he was wearing it, exposing viewers to bareknuckle backroom discussions with BC’s Dave Barrett. It was reported that de Jong leaned over to his mother asking, “Mommy, what should I do?” Audrey McLoughlin went on to win. Then there was Svend Robinson who led after the first ballot in the 1995 NDP federal leadership convention. He realized he couldn’t win and dropped out, endorsing the second place candidate Alexa McDonough, who became leader.

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1995: Svend concedes despite finishing first

Sure, old-style conventions could be dramatic, but not necessarily democratic. There’s no perfect system, but at least the current system of universal voting for members allows people from all over BC to participate without barriers of cost and travel. Every member is equal, rather than select delegates wheeling and dealing their votes to the highest bidder.

Another key part of the voting system is that ridings are weighted. Each riding is equal to 100 points for a total of 8700 points (87 ridings * 100). This prevents one region of the province from swamping another. A point is basically the same as the percentage of the vote in that riding. If 200 people vote in the riding of Sasquatch-West and Candidate X gets 70 votes, X will get 35 points (35%).

(In 1993, the BC Liberals chose Gordon Campbell on a purely one member-one vote system. The Executive of the Party proposed the system. Contender Gordon Gibson opposed it and sought changes to make it more regionally balanced. Campbell’s campaign, of which I was the Campaign Director, backed the Executive and the rules passed the two-thirds vote required by one vote. Amazingly, there was no demand for a recount as people were shocked. Six weeks later, Campbell went on to win the leadership vote decisively with about 65% on the first ballot, and would have won under either system, frankly.)

Back to the voting system this weekend, it remains to be seen how many members will ‘leave the hall’ by not completing their ballot. If members only rank their first and second choices, there may be thousands of members that miss the final vote. What happens in that case is that those ballots are removed from the pile.

Using the example above, if the rival Candidate Y received 60 votes in Sasquatch –West, he or she would garner 30 points on the first ballot. But what if Candidate Y was eliminated thereafter from the ballot and his or her supporters did not record second choices? That would reduce the pile of votes in Sasquatch-West from 200 to 140, and, now, Candidate X (still in the race) would go from 35% (70 votes out of 200) to 50% (70 votes out of 140). A candidate doesn’t need to increase his or her support in raw votes to see an increase in his or her points because support would be increasing as a percentage of the overall pile, due to the pile shrinking. Did you get that?

No matter what, there will be 100 points per riding and the winner will need at least 4350+1 votes to win on the final ballot (8700 points divided by half, +1).

Voting ends at 5pm Saturday. Results should be broadcast soon thereafter and they will come in rapidly, count by count . It won’t take long. There will be drama, just not the way it used to be. Instead of hours upon hours of speculation, Saturday’s drama will be very concentrated within a relatively short period of time.

How many counts will it go? The federal Conservative race that elected Andrew Scheer had 14 candidates and went 13 counts. The winner needs a majority. This weekend, if the winner gets a majority while two or more candidates split the rest, it may go four counts or less. It is more likely that this process will require a full five counts to determine a winner.

We’ll see what happens when the votes, and the cheeseburgers, are counted on Saturday night.

 

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Trump can win, but Hillary will win (not!)

UPDATE, The Morning After:

After laying out all the reasons why Trump could win (for months and months), I blatantly ignored that evidence and confidently predicted (below) a decisive Clinton victory.  The power of conventional wisdom and the ‘echo chamber’ was never greater than the past week in US election politics, only to be overcome by the voters who ultimately decide.  For a matter of minutes, each voter is in charge – in the privacy of the voting booth. Each voter is equal – a single mother in Michigan or retiree in Pennsylvania has the same weight as a Hollywood celebrity or Wall Street trader.  And the voters have proved, again, that they are very much in charge.

ORIGINAL POST:

Can Trump win?  That’s the question on everyone’s mind.

Yes he can – he has a pathway.  But I’m betting that Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States and it won’t be that close.  In fact, I have put my money where my mouth is by betting $5 through BC Lottery Corporation’s online election pool (expires at 4pm Tuesday).

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45th and 42nd Presidents of the USA

First, a few starting points to consider when watching the results:

  1. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.  Just because a candidate wins the popular vote doesn’t mean they win the electoral college.  Clinton gaining a higher popular vote in Texas or running up the margin in California is meaningless in terms of electoral votes.  She needs to win states.
  2. There has been a lot of early voting in places like Florida, where early turnout was much higher than 2012 and mostly before the FBI bombshell.  That mitigates late-campaign swings to some extent.
  3. The electoral map is always in a state of flux.  In 1960, the GOP won California and Washington and the Democrats won Texas and most of the South.  This election, we will see some states switch allegiances (in both directions) compared to recent elections.
  4. No candidate in recent memory has been as much of a disruptor as Donald Trump.  He is using social media as blunt-force trauma compared to Hillary Clinton’s better-resourced, data-driven approach.  Trump has ‘macro-targeted’ and his winning scenario is moving non-university degree white voters en masse.
  5. How many times have we been surprised lately?  Justin Trudeau’s majority, NDP in Alberta, Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader (twice), David Cameron’s majority then Brexit, the rise of Bernie, and the rise of Trump.  The people will make up their own mind, thank you very much.  Many voters simply don’t cooperate with polls.  Will ‘cranky won’t says’ make the difference?  That would be good for Trump.

The best available information

Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina says the Democrats have run 63,000 simulations every night since Obama’s first run for president.  The data available to the Democrats and the GOP is the product of hundreds of millions, if not, billions of dollars of investment.  The public polls may be indicative but, obviously, not wholly reliable.  This is why we mere mortals often get surprised.

Let’s take a look at the work of those trying to figure this out.

> Nate Silver 538 “Odds in HRC’s favour”

Nate Silver’s 538 website has closely tracked public polls.  He puts the odds at 71.9% Clinton, who he predicts will win about 302 electoral votes.  The New York Times ‘Upshot’ has Clinton’s odds at 84%.

In Silver’s winding road to victory graphic, Clinton crosses 270 in New Hampshire and pads the margin with Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, and the Maine 2nd district.

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> Real Clear Politics “Uncomfortably Close”

Real Clear Politics has Clinton at 203, Trump at 164, and Toss-Ups at 171.  When pushed into a “No Toss Ups” map, RCP has the margin at an incredibly close 272-266.

Huh?  Isn’t Clinton supposed to be further ahead?  RCP has Trump edging Clinton in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and Arizona.  New Hampshire is in RCP’s Clinton column but has been flipping and flopping all week like a halibut sun bathing on a Boston Whaler.

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Here is the most recent State polling data on Real Clear Politics:

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> USC/LA Times Poll “The Outlier”

This nightly tracking poll (via online panel) has been a consistent outlier for months.   If Trump wins, they are geniuses – they have been about 4-5 points to Trump’s favour consistently compared to most pollsters.  This poll does provide a view of campaign momentum.  The RNC convention (7/25), subsequent self-induced Trump collapse (8/12), Clinton health scare (9/17), Billy Bush tape (10/17), and post FBI surge (today).

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Trump’s pathway

Building on my blog post last week (“Can Hillary lose? Not easily“), here are my revised prognostications going into Tuesday night.

The pathway for Trump to win 270 electoral college votes is not easy.  It would look something like this:

  1. Win all of Romney’s states (206).  Right now, he is forecasted to do that but has been vulnerable in North Carolina (15) and Arizona (11).  He seems to be pulling away in Arizona but NC is a toss up.  Utah is another wildcard where independent Evan McMullin has been in shouting distance of Trump.
  2. Consolidate consistent leads in Obama states (24).  Trump has been leading for a while in two states where Obama triumphed in 2012 – Ohio (18) and Iowa (6).  Now he’s up to 230 total votes with steps #1 and #2.
  3. Win Florida (29).  It would be very, very hard for Trump to win the White House without this state.  The polls are close.  Running total: 259.
  4. Find (11) votes from the following: New Hampshire (4), Maine 2nd district (1), and Nevada (6).  That’s 270 right there in Steps 1-4.  This is very similar to the RCP map above that has Trump at 266 – it’s just missing New Hampshire.
  5. Hail Mary scenario – If Trump’s carpet bombing of previously considered safe Democrat states succeeds, it changes the calculation: Pennsylvania (20) and Colorado (9) could add to or replace Florida’s 29 votes; Michigan (16) or Wisconsin (11) would replace or add to the smaller states in #4 above.  This would be white voters (college education or less) turning out “big time”.  This scenario is a tall order, indeed.

My prediction

I have unreliable data like the rest of you.  So this comes down to a gut feeling. Trump will not win all of the Romney states.  I believe he will lose North Carolina due to my perception of Clinton’s organizational advantage.  I’m shaky on that prediction, but I’m going with it.

Further, I believe Clinton will win Florida due to early voting and organization.  Nevada should also be in Clinton’s column.

Therefore, Trump has 191 Romney votes, plus gains in Ohio (18) and Iowa (6), and I will throw in New Hampshire (4) for a total of 219 votes to Clinton’s 319.  My sense is that the FBI-induced fever that plagued Clinton over the past week broke over the weekend.  Her campaign’s inherent strengths and Trump’s weakness with non-white voters will be a deciding factor in close races.  It will take an uprising in states where there is a higher proportion of white voters to elect Trump, IMHO. I’m betting the surprise on election night will be the size of Hillary Clinton’s margin of electoral votes, not a Trump win.

On Election night, channel flip over to Global TV’s BC1 news channel.  I will be speaking to results with Global’s Keith Baldrey throughout the evening.

The Rosedeer Prediction Map:

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Trumping Clinton: 7 days of momentum

USC is running a rolling track poll where they interview 300-400 people a day (online) right through to Election Day.  This is a serious poll with serious methodology.  The numbers shown daily represent seven days of tracking. Each day, the daily results from 7 days ago drop off and the current day is added, making it a rolling track.  This smooths results and shows more of a trendline rather than sudden shifts.  So, if there is a big move, it might not become fully apparent for several days.

For the past 7 days, Donald Trump’s support has increased to, now, a 7 point lead.  This includes several days now of the Democratic National Convention.  Trump certainly had an RNC  Convention bounce but yet to see a Dem bounce.

Chart 1: Election forecast (n=2150)

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Some Democratic pundits have cautioned against “bedwetting”.  Yes, it’s July.  There’s a long way to go.

The issue the Democrats have to confront, however, is that Trump can win.  There has been a lot of commentary about how it’s impossible for Trump to win because of lack of support among Hispanics, Blacks, women, etc.  However, he is crushing it with whites and males.

 

Here is a breakdown of the numbers to show how Trump is rising:

Chart 2: Predicted Winner

While Hillary Clinton is still seen as the likely winner by 49% to 45%, that gap has narrowed from 13 points to 4 points in the past 17 days.  More Americans are believing in the possibility of a Trump presidency – will that help or hurt Trump?

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Chart 3: Intention to Vote

Trump and Clinton supporters are virtually tied when it comes to whether they intend to vote.  They have leapfrogged on this.  Trump’s turnout numbers are likely helped because he has strong support among older voters; Clinton’s turnout numbers are likely helped because Trump is highly polarizing and antagonizing.

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Chart 4: Seniors 

Trump has a big lead (55% to 38%), and seniors typically vote at a higher rate.  Trump leads 18-34s too, right now.

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Chart 5: Whites

Trump leads white Americans 57% to 31%.  African-American voters are 81% to 4% for Clinton.  Hispanics, though, are reported at 50% to 37% for Clinton.  This is where one might wonder if the poll has a large enough, or representative, sample of Hispanic voters.  Or maybe that’s reality – are gender and age are ‘trumping’ race among Hispanics?

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Chart 6: Men

Trump leads Clinton by 17 points among men (53% – 36%) while Clinton has a two-point lead among women.

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What does it all mean?

Trump can win.  If you can rack up a 7 point lead, you can obviously win.  Even if this poll is inaccurate, other polls are showing Trump is leading.  Even though Hillary has a small lead in Ohio, Trump has a small lead in Florida.

The challenge for Democrats is to approach the race for what it is – a very unconventional campaign.  Trump is attracting voters who are very anti-establishment including alienated Democrats.  How many more examples do we need to see – Rob Ford, Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and Trump himself – to understand that there is a very large constituency for those who tap into the vein of frustration, resentment, and anxiety?

This rise in Trump support may be short-term.  It may be illusory.  It may be overstated.  But it proves that Clinton is no shoo-in.   The presidential campaign has been very unkind to her personal popularity and favourables.  Bernie Sanders did a lot to soften her support and drive votes away.  She has gone from a plus 10% to minus 17% in two years.  At her peak back in 2008, she had 69% favourable rating.

Chart 7: Hillary Clinton’s favourables over past two years.

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So, the first thing Democrats have to face is that they have a problem.  Now, deal with it.  If the DNC Convention does not move the dial, then it’s time for Plan B, whatever that is.

 

Interpretations of the Calgary-Greenway By-election

Yesterday’s provincial by-election in Calgary-Greenway has contradictory interpretations.

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Interpretation of Calgary-Greenway is not straight-forward

It was a four-way race ranging from 27.7% for the winning PC candidate to 20.2% for the fourth-place NDP.  It’s rare to see four candidates place above 20%.  I could not find one such example in the 2015 federal election, unless you count Nanaimo-Ladysmith where the four-way race had the 4th place Greens at 19.7%.

In Calgary-Greenway, when only 7.5% separates 1st and 4th, it’s hard to see it as Earth-shaking.  Nevertheless, the PCs won and a win is a win.  Therefore, interpretation #1 is that the PCs are alive, that they must still be reckoned with, and the NDP’s relegation to fourth is a sign of their demise.

Interpretation #2 is that the Centre-Left (NDP/Liberal) has made major gains in this riding since 2012 and further reduced the PC-Wildrose combined vote from 2015.  In 2012, the NDP-Liberal vote in this riding was a combined 15.5%; in yesterday’s by-election it was 42.8%.  It rose from 36.2% in 2015 and given that that was solely the NDP vote, one can see how the NDP benefit from no Liberal in the race.

Table 1: Popular vote of parties in 2012 General Election (GE), 2015 GE, and 2016 by-electionScreen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.42.06 AM.png

As Table 1 shows, the NDP was actually five times higher than its 2012 vote and the Liberals have doubled from 2012.  There is a lot of talk about PC-Wildrose cooperation, but the centre-left should probably be viewed in the same way.  Not that there is an imminent merger, but there is a competition for like-minded voters.  The Liberals bothered to show up to the by-election after missing the 2015 GE and their impact was significant.  That may be in part a result of local candidate influence, but I’m not sure how many saw the Liberals competing to win the seat.

Table 2: Raw vote of parties in 2012 GE, 2015 GE, and 2016 by-electionScreen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.42.15 AM.png

The 2012 GE and 2016 by-election are interesting comparisons because the overall number of voters is very similar.  It shows the overall reduction in votes for the PCs and Wildrose (centre-right) and the significant increase for the NDP and Liberals (centre-left).  Let me nail this point a little harder in Chart 1 below:

Chart 1: Combined popular vote of PC-WRP (blue) and NDP-Lib (red)Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.02.12 AM.png

Unlike the recent BC by-elections in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant, turnout in Calgary-Greenway as a percentage of the previous election was relatively high, and as noted, about the same as the 2012 GE.  The by-election turnout was about two-thirds of the 2015 GE turnout while the BC by-elections were about 40% of the previous GE.  That indicates a higher interest and engagement in the outcome and its possible impact on the next election.

If I was a PC or Wildrose strategist, I would interpret this result with some nervousness.  The pool of centre-left voters in this by-election was almost evenly split.  The voter pool that existed in 2015 massively went toward Rachel Notley’s NDP.  This is basically the Justin Trudeau/federal NDP vote bloc.  The Stephen Harper vote bloc was much larger provincially, but is also split.  A consolidated centre-left offering (whereas those voters group behind one strong alternative) appears still able to defeat a split PC/Wildrose offering.

In reality, it is more complicated than described above.  Voters move around between parties with more fluidity – a Liberal may never consider NDP and a PC may never consider voting Wildrose, and vice versa.  But the by-election does show that the situation has become more, not less murkier as a result of Tuesday’s outcome.  It’s too early, much too early, to write off the Alberta NDP.

Finally, it must be noted that – probably for the first time in Canada – there was a competitive four-way race between four South Asian candidates.  This may well have created a dynamic that disrupted prevailing provincial political currents.  I’m not close to the ground so I defer to others and invite comments.  Regardless, the fact remains that the market share for the Centre-Left in this riding has increased sharply since 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A deeper dive on BC By-election turnout

My post on by-election turnout earlier this week was picked up in the Vancouver Sun and Globe & Mail, proving that there’s a lot of interest in apathy.

In my earlier post, I stopped at 2004 in terms of comparing turnout to past BC by-elections.  Because I couldn’t help myself, I have now gone back to 1981 to see how engaged BC voters have been when it comes to mid-term voting.  If you’re not a political junkie, avert your eyes.  This is really geeky stuff.

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Bill Bennett was successful in electing a government member in the 1981 Kamloops by-election.  It hadn’t happened since 1966 and it hasn’t happened since, unless the candidate’s name was Christy Clark.

This week, turnout in the two by-elections was less than 22% of eligible voters.  Put another way, the turnout was only 39% and 41% of the voters who voted in the 2013 general election.  In Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, less than 8,000 voted in the by-election compared to about 20,000 in 2013.My review of 15 by-elections between 1981 and 1999 shows a much higher turnout by comparison.

Only one by-election had less than half the voters of the previous general election – that was in Vancouver-Quilchena in 1994 when Gordon Campbell was elected to the Legislature for the first time.  He won in a cakewalk so arguably voters didn’t see a lot of reason to vote.

Table 1: Turnout in by-elections compared to preceding General Election.  Asterisks (**) indicate a two-member seat.  Until 1991, BC had some riding that had two members with voters having the choice to vote for two MLAs on their ballot.

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The other 14 by-elections saw a turnout of at least 63% of the previous general election.  Most of these races had a compelling storyline.

1981 Kamloops – The Socreds fought to hold their seat at a time when the margin in the 57(!) seat BC Legislature was razor-thin.  1984 Okanagan North – the then-unpopular Socreds succumbed to the NDP in a strong Socred seat.  The Socreds regained the seat in 1986.  Both of these by-elections had a turnout rate of about 80% of the previous election.

During the Vander Zalm years, there were six by-elections created by the departure of four Socreds and two NDPers.  The NDP took all six by-elections.  Turnout was high relative to current-day by-elections.  At the height of Vander Zalm’s unpopularity, almost as many people voted in by-elections in the Cariboo and Oak Bay as voted in the preceding general election.  They showed up with their pitchforks!

Turnout was at 65% to 70% of the previous election in three Fraser Valley by-elections between 1994 and 1997.  While the governing NDP did very poorly, they were not really at issue in these by-elections.  It was a brawl-for-it-all for the Free Enterprise mantle between the BC Liberals and the Socreds (1994), and the BC Liberals and Reform (1995 and 1997).  There was a lot at stake and voters, for the most part, turned out.

The Parksville-Qualicum 1998 by-election was more of a BC Liberal-NDP fight with Judith Reid eclipsing former (and future) MLA Leonard Krog.  This by-election was a verdict on Glen Clark at the time and had a turnout that was double of this week’s Coquitlam by-election.  Pitchfork time again.

In 1999, it was another BC Liberal-Reform fight when Bill Vander Zalm mounted his political comeback.  The BC Liberals rallied to win 2:1, with about twice the turnout of this week’s Coquitlam by-election.

The 1981-99 era had a lot of by-elections with high stakes and high turnout.  Even the low stakes by-elections had higher turnouts.  Why is it different now?  Perhaps voters are harder to get in a distracted world.  Media sources are more fragmented.  Voters are not herding toward BCTV (sorry Keith) like they used to, nor are they all opening the door in the morning to retrieve the morning Sun and Province like days gone by.  Fragmentation aside, the mainstream media seemed to great the by-elections with a collective yawn this time.  With less media interest, there is inevitably less chatter about politics at coffee-time and over the backyard fence and, ultimately, less turnout.

This all serves to reinforce my view in the earlier post that, unlike the Zalmy 1980s and Parksville in 1998, this week’s by-elections were not pitchfork-carrying affairs.  Low turnout indicates a lack of urgency and lack of consequence.  The turnout, and margin of loss, in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain was lower than in the neighbouring Port Moody-Coquitlam 2012 by-election.  The BC Liberals regained that seat, so there’s no reason to suggest they can’t do the same next year.  We’ll see.

 

 

 

Turnout goes underground in BC by-elections

Tuesday’s by-elections were remarkable for one key factor – rampant apathy.  It was fitting that the by-elections took place on Groundhog Day – the voters were underground.

apathyCompared to the turnout in the preceding general election, both Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver Mount Pleasant had the lowest turnouts of any BC by-election since 2004.

In both ridings, less than half that voted in 2013 showed up to vote in the by-election.  In Coquitlam it was 39%, in Mt. Pleasant 41%.  That’s not 39% turnout, that’s 39% of the turnout of the last election so the overall turnout was barely 20%.

Compare that to turnouts in other by-elections, again, comparing to the previous election:

  • Vancouver Fairview (2008):  44%
  • Vancouver Burrard (2008): 49%
  • Port Moody-Coquitlam (2012): 60%
  • Vancouver Pt. Grey (2011): 70%
  • Surrey-Panorama (2004): 77%
  • Westside-Kelowna (2013): 77%
  • Chilliwack-Hope (2012): 85%

Voters, especially BC Liberal voters, just didn’t seem motivated to vote.  Why?  There was not a lot of media attention and there was not a lot at stake – the government is not going to fall.  It is not unlike the 2008 by-elections where there was not a lot driving the public debate and thus turnout was low.  I lived through the 2012 by-elections, which were critical in terms of clarifying the free enterprise option for the 2013 election.  As poorly as the BC Liberals fared relative to the preceding election, they fared well enough to survive another day and helped to ultimately resolve matters with many potential BC Conservative voters.

Say, what do Jenn McGinn, Gwen O’Mahoney, and Joe Trasolini have in common?  They were NDP MLAs elected in by-elections one year prior to a general election.  In all three cases, they were defeated in the general election.  When turnout returned to its usual levels, BC Liberals prevailed at the polls.  That’s not to assume it will happen in 2017 in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, but it will be a much different fight with many more voters voting.

Let’s take a closer look at the by-election results in Coquitlam:

In 2013, the BC Liberals had 49.9% of the vote and the NDP 37.4% – a 12.5% spread.

In the by-election, The NDP won 3,562 votes (46%).  In 2013, their candidate received 7,315 votes, so the by-election candidate scored about half as many votes.

Of course, the BC Liberal dropped further, from 9,766 votes to 2,936 votes (38% of the popular vote).

Compared to 2012 by-election in the neighbouring Port Moody-Coquitlam riding, the BC Liberals did much better.

In 2012, the BC Liberals dropped from 52% to 30% while the NDP gained from 40% to 54%.  The BC Libs dropped 22% and the NDP gained 14%.  In this week’s by-election, the swing was less – the BC Libs dropped 11% and the NDP gained 9%.

As mentioned, the turnout in Mt. Pleasant was also very low with the NDP losing market share dropping about 5 points while the BC Liberals dropped further by about 8 points.  The Greens gained at both party’s expense.

What does it all mean?  By-elections are a tough place to turn out voters and BC’s history shows that Opposition parties usually prevail.  The last time a government MLA won a by-election – who was not the Premier of BC – was 1981 in Kamloops.

When stacked against the by-elections of 2012, the government fared much better in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

Congratulations to the NDP and the newly elected MLAs.  A win is a win, no matter how you slice it.  See you in 2017.

 

 

 

Conservatives held their vote but lost market share

Did the Conservatives crash?

No. They had 96% of the votes they received when they won a majority in 2011.  Had the number of voters stayed the same, they would have received 36% of the popular vote.

However, the market expanded.  An additional 2.7 million Canadians voted, pushing voter turnout from 61.1% to an estimated 68.5%.

Chart: Total votes by party from 2006 to 2015

2006 2015 votes

The blue line is remarkably consistent over four elections, ranging from a low of 5.2 million (2008 minority CPC government) to 5.8 million (2011 majority CPC).  The total number of CPC votes in 2015 was higher than minority governments in 2006 and 2008.

The absolute number of votes for the Greens has declined and levelled off.  The Bloc continues its decline in overall voters.  More seats this time, but that was thanks to a four-way fight in Quebec.

The NDP can take some solace that they had the second most votes in the history of their party, almost a million more than Jack Layton’s campaigns in 2006 and 2008, but over a million less than the breakthrough 2011 campaign.

Then there’s the Liberals.  After successive declines, 2015 blew the roof off of their support eclipsing the steady Conservatives.

On the surface, the 250% increase in Liberal support can be attributed to stealing market share from the NDP but moreso in terms of increased voter turnout overall.