Last update: 20-Dec-2013 2:48 pm
Friday, December 20, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Doing the maths for election of aldermen
In the wee hours of September 11, the Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill was passed after a marathon session in the Senate. Later the very same day, president Anthony Carmona assented to the bill to make it Act No 13 of 2013, whose long title is An Act to amend the Municipal Corporations Act Chap 25:04. The House of Representatives had passed the bill before that in the wee hours of September 7, after a marathon session as well.
As a result, there will be a new system for the election of aldermen. The tradition of electing councillors as they have always been elected for several decades during our independent history has not been altered. T&T has a history of free and fair elections under the first past-the-post system and the political culture of the country has been based on this electoral process.
At the same time, the manner in which aldermen have been elected in local government councils has been based on a process whereby the elected councillors would meet after their own election and choose aldermen who would be installed by majority vote among the councillors themselves. In cases where there was a tie among the elected councillors, the process for breaking the tie would have been reduced to the drawing of lots from a glass jar or urn of some sort.
In Trinidad (and not in Tobago), the principle of nomination traces its legacy back to the Crown Colony period of the nineteenth century, when the British Government made Trinidad its first Crown Colony in the region by not establishing any form of elected representation.
That process changed over time and elected representation was introduced in the parliamentary arena. As far as local government was concerned, the system that emerged in the post-independence era was one in which a mixture of elected and nominated members would sit side-by-side in a single chamber.
The new system
The introduction of a mixed system of election (first past-the-post for councillors and proportional representation for aldermen) into local government will allow the voters to continue to elect their councillors as they have always done. What will change is the method of election for aldermen as well as the announcement of their nomination. Previously, political parties were not required to declare their nominations for aldermen until after the local government elections.
As was seen last Monday, all political parties had to produce their lists of aldermen to the EBC on the nomination day for the councillors. That change has made nomination day an occasion of transparency for the electorate who are now in a position to see all of the potential nominees for aldermen alongside all of the candidates seeking to be councillors. The system of nomination for aldermen by the councillors has been abolished.
All aldermen will now be elected based on the will of the population and the directives of their parties after the Elections and Boundaries Commission calculates the entitlement of each party to a share of the aldermen in proportion to the votes cast by the electorate. After the election, the allocation of the seats of aldermen will be done by the EBC, and the political parties that are entitled to be allotted aldermen will choose such names as they see fit from their lists that were provided on nomination day.
The method of calculation will be based on the Hare method of proportional representation, which will use the total votes cast in each corporation for each party for their councillors to be tallied and then the allotment of aldermen to the various parties will be determined by the EBC.
Once the EBC has informed the various political parties of their allotments, those parties will then direct the EBC to extract the names of the people that the parties want to have appointed as aldermen. The EBC will then make the appointments of those people as aldermen.
How it works
An example of the system for calculating the election of aldermen can be gleaned from the votes that were cast in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation using 2010 electoral data and applying the new method as follows:
PoS City Corporation 2010 local government elections
Total valid votes cast = 12,202
Total PNM votes = 6,654 (contested 12 seats)
Total COP votes = 3,719 (contested eight seats)
Total UNC votes = 1,829 (contested four seats)
Seat allocation: PNM 8, COP 3, UNC 1
Aldermen allocation: PNM 4
A conversion of those 2010 results in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation would have revealed the following outcome under the Hare method of proportional representation:
PoS City Corporation 2010 converted
Total votes cast divided by the number of aldermen positions to be filled— 12,202/4 = 3,050.5 (disregard fractions)
This would yield a quota of 3,050.
Divide the votes earned by each party by the quota—
PNM 6,654/3,050 = 2.18
COP 3,719/3,050 = 1.21
UNC 1,829/3,050 = 0.59
All fractions are to be eliminated and only whole numbers are to be used without rounding up or rounding down for allocation of aldermen. In this case, the PNM would earn two aldermen, the COP would earn one alderman and the UNC would not be entitled to any aldermen. In order to allocate the one remaining position of alderman, it is necessary to multiply the quota by the number of aldermen earned by each party and then subtract that number from the votes cast for each of those parties.
PR allocation after calculation
PNM : 3,050 X 2 = 6,100
COP : 3,050 X 1 = 3,050
UNC : 3,050 X 0 = 0
PNM : 6,654 – 6,100 = 554
COP : 3,719 – 3,050 = 669
In this calculation, the COP would have the largest remainder of votes (669 is greater than 554) and, therefore, will be allocated the one seat that remained unallocated after the application of the Hare formula. The final allocation under the Hare method of proportional representation when compared to actual outcome using the system that obtained in 2010 would be as follows:
Actual outcome in 2010
PNM = 8 councillors + 4 aldermen (12)
COP = 3 councillors + 0 aldermen (3)
UNC = 1 councillor + 0 aldermen (1)
Revised outcome using the new system and applying 2010 data
PNM = 8 councillors + 2 aldermen (10)
COP = 3 councillors + 2 aldermen (5)
UNC = 1 councillor + 0 aldermen (1)
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.