The Gerrymander By the Numbers

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Yup, I get pretty obsessive when it comes to election-related data. At great cost to my sleep rhythms, marital peace and general hygiene, I’ve spent the last 48 hours trying to make some projections for September’s elections to the National Assembly.

Specifically, I was keen to try to get a specific, circuit-by-circuit estimate of the effects that gerrymandering is likely to have on September’s election. We all know CNE set out to screw us by redrawing the AN’s circuits’ boundries, but how well did they succeed?

Here’s the gist of it:

As expected, the map is rigged. The circuits CNE came up with mean the opposition would need to get north of 52.7% of the popular vote to get a simple majority in the National Assembly. In fact, there’s a very real chance that the government will keep control of the Assembly on the basis of a minority of the popular vote. Lindo, ¿no?

Assuming the proportion of chavistas-to-oppositores within a given parroquia is relatively stable over time, I estimate that if the opposition wins a 50%+1 vote majority of September’s popular vote, the government would still win a whopping 35 seat majority in the AN: it’d be 100 chavistas to 65 opositores. And the government could get a 3/4ths parliamentary supermajority on as little as 55% of the popular vote.

So the map’s certainly rigged, but then the country as a whole is rigged, so that’s not really news. To my mind, what’s interesting is that CNE wasn’t really as aggressive as they might have been. If they’d really put their minds to it – if, say, they’d carved up crazy circuits that cross state lines or split parroquias in two – they could’ve done much better…by which I mean much, much worse.

As it stands, it’s not unimaginable that the opposition could turn the system’s quirks to its advantage. As we’ve discussed before, the socio-economic fundamentals are just plain awful for the government this year: I mean, you know Chávez has it tough when the country’s going through stagflation and that’s not even one of the three strikes he’s ponchao for. So it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the chavista machine could sputter,  chavista turnout collapses, the protest vote runs away with it, and the opposition turns 56% of the popular vote into 63% of the seats in the AN. Imagine that?!

Neither can I.

Anyway, there’ll be much more Excel-based election tomfoolery in the days ahead…I’m on a roll here…

Oh, and if you want to look over my shoulder as I make these estimations, you can download the Excel sheet I’m using here. It’s…um…not for the faint of heart.

[These scenarios are on the basis of the lovely 2007 voting-center-level dataset amieres was good enough to get for me all those years ago…so hat tip amieres!]

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