There are 65 seats in the National Assembly. Twenty-five of these seats are allotted to the ten geographic constituencies; and the remaining forty are in respect to the national top- up lists.
As such, two sets of calculations are required in order to determine the overall results of general elections. The first is the allocation of the 25 seats for the geographic constituencies. This is done using the largest remainder Hare quota formula.
That is a long name for a simple formula. The total number of votes cast in a geographic constituency is divided by the number of seats to be allotted for that constituency.
Different geographic constituencies are allotted different numbers of seats. For example, Region One is allotted two seats; Region 9 is allotted one; Region 4 is allotted 7 seats and Region 6 is allotted three seats.
When the total number of votes cast is divided by the number of seats, this gives the total number of votes required to win a seat. If, for example, there are 35,000 votes cast and the total number of seats is 10, it means that for a party to win a seat it needs at least 3,500 votes.
Using this example, let us assume that three parties contest an election. Party A gets 13,000 votes; party B gets 12,000 and party C gets 10,000 votes. The votes that each party obtains will be divided by the electoral quota of 3,500 votes. This gives 3.71 to party A; 3.43 for party B, and 2.86 for party C.
What this means is that automatically party A gets three seats, party B gets three seats, and party C gets two seats. This gives a total of eight seats. But there are ten seats to be allotted. So how are the final two seats to be determined?
Under the largest remainder Hare quota method, the allocation of the two other seats is based on the largest remainder. As can be seen, the remainders are 0.71, 0.43 and 0.86 for parties A, B and C respectively. Under the largest remainder formula, party C has the largest remainder, 0.86. It is followed by party A 0.71 and then party C, 0.43.
Despite the fact that party B gained more votes that party C, under the largest remainder formula, party C gets the first remaining seat and party A the second. As such, the final allocation of seats is as follows: party A four seats; party B three seats; and party C three seats.
I have used this example to illustrate the formula in action. It is a simple formula that only requires knowing the total votes cast, how these votes are broken down according to parties, and the total number of seats being competed for. In effect, only two factors are used – votes cast and number of seats.
It is therefore astonishing for it to be alleged that in calculating the number of seats for each party in the 2011 elections, a different factor was used in the formula. How can a different factor be used when the only factors required are votes cast and seats?
I put it to those concerned that if one party was to gain a seat which it was not supposed to have, this could only be because of a mistake in computing the total votes cast or computing the remainder. And for either to happen there has to be a calculation mistake.
What other wrong factor could have been used that would have given one party an unearned seat without affecting the other parties? What other factors apart from votes and seats are we dealing with in this formula?
If the cause of the initial mistake was because of the remainder, this could only be a calculation mistake.
Now if that mistake was deliberate, it is to be expected that swift and condign action should have been taken immediately by the Guyana Elections Commission, not belatedly as is now being done because someone’s contract is up for renewal. If on the other hand the calculation mistake was accidental, then a stern warning should have been instituted, not dismissal.
There was also a mistake in the allocation of seats in 2006 election. A seat which should have been for the AFC was given to the PPP instead. But that had nothing to do with the formula. It was because the results for certain polling stations were left out.
It is therefore not correct to say the same mistake has repeated itself. In 2006, the total votes cast would have been affected; in this instance it is assumed that either the electoral quota or the remainder was miscalculated.
The mistake made in 2011 was corrected before it became fatal, because the final results have to be certified by the commissioners before release. The issue of whether this safeguard was intended to be preventative or curative does not arise.
That system was put in place because of what happened in 1997 when the then Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission declared the official results without convening a meeting with the other commissioners, one of whom broke down in tears upon learning that the results had been declared without that person’s knowledge.
The system that was put in place subsequently was to ensure that the commissioners were not sidelined in the announcement of the results, and had nothing to do with preventing mistakes or curing a mistake.
The ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the results and the declaration rests with the Commission and they detected a mistake and fixed it before it became official.
The question to be asked is why is there, now, a belated attempt to lynch the Chief Elections Officer. Why was this matter not investigated and pronounced upon earlier?
P.S. If in the above examples any calculation mistakes were made, they are by no means intentional and should be corrected by the reader.
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