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PEOPLE & THINGS: None of the above II

Peter W. Wickham

PEOPLE & THINGS: None  of the above II

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The continuation of the national discussion initiated in People and Things last week now moves to the local level where an attempt will be made to assess the impact of the low voter turnout on individual constituencies in this historic election.
In this instance the analysis is assisted by a table which lists the constituencies and for each presented the electoral turnout, the increase in registrations and increase in DLP popularity. The listing is presented in the order of constituencies which reflected the greatest increases in voter registration.
The peculiar nature of the 2013 election is such that an analysis of simple electoral turnout does little to illuminate the extent to which this factor impacted on the outcome of the election in any constituency.
The margins of victory in 2013 were historically thin and as such a comparative percentage point drop between years (which can represent hundreds of voters) does not reveal the potency of voter turnout on this occasion. In addition to this, the turnout across constituencies was uneven and ranged from an increase in participation in
St James North of six per cent to a decline in participation in Christ Church West Central of -7 per cent.
Popularity increase
In an effort to simplify the analysis, attention is paid to the percentage increase in registrations between 2008 and 2013, the simple electoral turnout and a CADRES formulation referred to as “Increase in DLP Popularity”. This latter statistic tracks the improvement in the DLP’s ability to penetrate the pool of registered voters and usefully combines the critical voter turnout, party support and registration increase statistics.
Significantly, St Philip appears to have recorded the highest increase in voter registration since 2013, with St Philip North leading by registering an additional 1 115 voters and the three cumulatively registering an additional 3 153 voters or 23 per cent of all new voters nationally.
This large chunk of new registrations is politically significant since it effectively meant that there were more voters available to both political parties and while the margins in St Philip North and West were sufficiently generous that this shift would have made little difference, in South the margin of 400 could easily have been influenced by the 1 100 new voters that moved there, especially since the reduction in the DLP’s popularity there was only -1% compared to the national average of -5%.
The inferences appear complex, but simply put, in 2008 65 per cent of voters in St Philip South voted and the DLP won by 285 votes, while in 2013 with an increase of 1 100 voters, participation fell to 62 per cent but the DLP benefited disproportionately more from new voters there than it did nationally and this helped it to increase its margin to 400 votes.
New voters appeared selective about DLP candidates, producing anomalies like that of St Lucy where the DLP’s popularity fell by -13 per cent, while in St Michael North West its popularity rose by a whopping 18 per cent.
In these extreme instances this selectivity made little difference on account of the margins involved; however, in constituencies like St Philip South and St Michael West Central the increase in voters plus the comparatively higher level of support for the DLP among these voters and an otherwise low voter turnout clearly influenced the outcome in these instances.
The foregoing analysis should not be interpreted to suggest that uneven movements among voters in different constituencies are unusual, nor it is abnormal that voters in some constituencies are more motivated than others.
The 2013 election was, however, peculiar since there were really not discernible trends that presented themselves in the data and this combined with the toxicity of a low voter turnout to produce the closest election in our history.   
 Peter W. Wickham ([email protected] is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services.