Elections make for some fascinating number analysis. As readers from a while back might remember, I love the statistics of elections. Australia has a preferential voting system, whereby voters list the candidates by order of preference. As opposed to the first past the post system used in Britain, the winner is not decided by who receives the most primary votes, but rather who is the most preferred candidate. Sometime soon I will write a post on the various voting systems used worldwide - see Plus for a great introduction to various voting methods - but for today we ask the question, what would happen if we used the Big Brother voting system?
Big Brother, for those who have been living under a rock, is a TV show in which around 15 house-mates are watched around-the-clock by TV cameras, which broadcast the show live to viewers who, at the end of each week, vote someone out of the house until there is only one contestant left. What if, instead of voting in political parties, we voted out the parties we didn't like?
Let's run an example on my local electorate, Grayndler. At the time of writing, the primary vote distribution looked like this (~70% of the total vote has been counted):
|James Michael Cogan||Socialist Equality Party (SEP)||849|
|Pip Hinman||Socialist Alliance (SAL)||879|
|Alexander Dore||Liberal Party (LIB)||16691|
|Anthony Albanese||Australian Labor Party (ALP)||32406|
|Sam Byrne||Greens (GRN)||17633|
|Perry Garofani||Australian Democrats (DEM)||851|
Under the current voting system, it looks like the Labor Party may win the seat, although there is still some uncertainty about this as Liberal party preferences will mostly flow to the Greens, meaning that on preferences there is some small chance that the Greens will win the seat. But what about under our new Big Brother system?
To test out this system, we need to make a few assumptions regarding preferences. We have no idea how voters listed their preferences - whilst, for instance, most Greens voters will preference Labor over Liberal, and many Socialist Alliance voters will preference the Greens over Liberal, I simply don't have the data. Anecdotally, many voters follow party "how to vote cards", meaning that they order their preferences how their favoured parties tell them. So let's assume, for the sake of this analysis, that every voter does this. Taking the party preferences from their senate preference flows list, we see that the parties list their preferences in the following way:
|Socialist Equality Party (SEP)||SEP||GRN||SAL||LIB||ALP||DEM|
|Socialist Alliance (SAL)||SAL||GRN||ALP||SEP||DEM||LIB|
|Liberal Party (LIB)||LIB||DEM||GRN||ALP||SEP||SAL|
|Australian Labor Party (ALP)||ALP||GRN||DEM||SEP||SAL||LIB|
|Australian Democrats (DEM)||DEM||SAL||SEP||GRN||ALP||LIB|
It was difficult to come up with the SEP list of preferences as they have three preference lists for the Senate and didn't actually make any effort to order the other parties in terms of preference but rather simply numbered their preferences down the page according to where the parties were written on the ballot. Weird. I suspect that because of this I have their preferences incorrect, but this is simply a worked example so don't hold it against me!
Let's now cross to Gretel Killeen at the Big Brother house.....
After battling it out with a number of pointless challenges and staying up late because they had nothing else to do, the first eviction saw an overwhelming majority of voters evict the Liberals. Using the vote table above and counting up the number of times a party was put as last preference on the ballot, the number of votes for eviction were as follows:
|Socialist Equality Party (SEP)||0|
|Socialist Alliance (SAL)||16691|
|Liberal Party (LIB)||51769|
|Australian Labor Party (ALP)||0|
|Australian Democrats (DEM)||849|
A dancing-doona between the two socialist parties was the highlight of week 2. With no Liberals to evict, most voters had to turn to their second least-liked party. The Socialist Alliance pulled in an extra 32406 votes - for those playing along at home, these are all the voters who put Labor at number 1 on the ballot box and the Liberals at number 6, whilst the Socialist Equality Party, the ALP and the Democrats also picked up extra eviction votes. It's time to go.... Social Alliance.
|Week 1||Week 2|
|Socialist Equality Party (SEP)||0||17633|
|Socialist Alliance (SAL)||16691||49097|
|Liberal Party (LIB)||51769||-|
|Australian Labor Party (ALP)||0||851|
|Australian Democrats (DEM)||849||1728|
The following weeks saw an attempted turkey-slap by Labor on the Greens and an impressive Bum Dance by the Democrats. However, in the final week of the show, The Greens took out the seat of Grayndler using the Big Brother eviction rules.
|Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
|Socialist Equality Party (SEP)||66730||-||-|
|Socialist Alliance (SAL)||-||-||-|
|Liberal Party (LIB)||-||-||-|
|Australian Labor Party (ALP)||851||35175||-|
|Australian Democrats (DEM)||1728||34134||51767|
75% of voters preferred the Democrats to be evicted in the final round.
There are other ways in which one could run a Big Brother-style election and generally these methods would be likely to find the least offensive, rather than most preferred, party. I'd love to see this method run across the whole parliament!