Sunday, February 03, 2008


"The lumper/splitter problem occurs when there is the need to create classifications and assign examples to them....." -- Wiki

More gray, ugly, cold, rainy days courtesy of Taiwan in the winter, giving me plenty of incentive to sit in front of the computer, where there's a steady flow of both information and warm air.

The chart above ranks the legislative districts from most to least by number of registered voters. It is not finished because I lack data in many cases to make firm judgments about which way districts should have broken. Here are some things to keep in mind:

The CEC proposed the districts and the two parties negotiated; where they disagreed, the boundaries were selected by lot. By law, they must be drawn based on city and county boundaries -- but remember that the legislature can make and unmake the law.

Looking at the district sizes nothing really stands out at first glance; as I've observed, the effect of the districting is subtle. I have two figures up there as "average." The lower number is the mean size (total vote divided by 73 election districts), the higher number (average -4) is the average without the four smallest districts (divided by 69).

Feast your eyes on Taoyuan and Tainan first. In Taoyuan there are 6 districts, the largest of which is 232K voters. Note that the average number of voters per district for the entire nation was 230K; thus, all the Taoyuan seats are at or below that figure. In Tainan city and county there were five districts, the smallest of which was 273K voters. Thus, in Tainan, 1,419,374 registered voters shared 5 seats for 283,874 voters/seat, the same figure for Taoyuan was 225,039. Using the Taoyuan average for Tainan, one would predict 6.3 seats. Either Taoyuan has at least one seat too many, or Tainan one seat too few. Though faction riddled, Taoyuan is reliably Blue, just as Tainan is reliably Green.

Similarly, in Taipei City, 8 districts totaling 2,014,438 registered voters yields an average of 251,804 for each district. At that average Tainan gives 5.6 districts. Again, the largest Taipei City district (280K) is only slightly larger than the smallest Tainan district (273K).

Taipei County gives an average district size of 235,071 registered voters for 12 seats and a total of 2,820,852 voters. The effect is more striking here: using the Tainan district average of 283,874 voters, we get 9.9 seats. Again, the largest Taipei County district is 10K smaller than the smallest Tainan district.

Elsewhere in the south, in Kaohsiung city and county the similar average is 231,344 for each of 9 seats and 2,082,103 registered voters. At first glance that seems quite low, but recall that Kaohsiung, which has a largely Blue city council and is split quite close in the mayoral election, the five districts average only 229,256 voters each. Three of those districts went KMT, as did 3 of 4 county districts.

Pingtung County has three very small districts, of 202K, 209K, and 223K. The largest of these, District 1, was allegedly created, little birds have told me, to make a safe district for a non-aligned KMT ally, the only case where the borders were alleged to have been drawn to save a particular legislator. The DPP won there despite that, ironically. The other two districts were split.

By size, strikingly, all but two of the twenty smallest districts (by registered voters) went Blue. The DPP probably would have won Chiayi city as well, but split the "Green" vote with the TSU (the DPP candidate was also quite weak, I've heard). By the same token, of the 15 largest districts, 5 broke for the DPP; arguably I-lan, long a DPP stronghold, should have been a DPP capture as well.

The three largest districts -- Keelung was probably just a bit too small for two seats; Hsinchu County and I-lan arguably should have been split, since Nantou -- reasonably Blue -- was split to create two very small districts, including one of just 183K voters, as was Blue-leaning Miaoli (411K voters). Hsinchu County, based on the 2004 election, would have gone Blue. Using the "Nantou/Miaoli standard" Yunlin, with more than 700K voters, should obviously have been split into three seats (it has more voters than Pingtung with three seats), though it's anyone's guess how they would have turned out -- the two sides got roughly the same vote totals there in 2004.

Another way of looking at it is to examine the districts that were created by active decision-making. For example, Keelung, Hsinchu, and I-lan were not chopped up but left as single election districts. Looking at the largest districts created by conscious decision making, we have:

Tainan City 1...........290415
Tainan County 3.....288704
Tainan County 2.....285274
Taichung City 2......282102
Tainan City 2..........281576

Four of the five largest created districts are in Tainan! Further, seven of the top ten biggest districts whose boundaries were drawn to cut up a county are located in the south: two in Yunlin -- and all five Tainan districts.

In sum, looking at Taipei city and county, and Taoyuan county, all reliably Blue for the most part, there are probably three-four seats that should not be there. On the flip, Tainan is certainly short at least one seat, and Yunlin should have had an additional seat as well. The total effect of districting choices appears to be at least four seats in favor of the KMT/Blues, perhaps as many as 6. Somebody in the DPP did not do their homework when these districts were laid out; as I am wont to say, the DPP has too many academics and scholars, and not enough machine politicians and voter mobilization geeks.

Thus, counting safe seats -- Keelung (1), Taichung County district 2 (Yen Ching-piao)(1), Nantou (2), Taoyuan (6), the islands (3), the east coast (2), Miaoli (2) -- yields 17 seats. Toss in Taipei City and County, with 20 seats in total, of which the KMT took 18, and the number of safe seats for the KMT is more or less half the legislature. If the KMT gets half the remaining seats, it reaches a 2/3 majority with no problem at all.

The DPP has its work cut out for it.

UPDATE: Yup. Someone can't count: Taoyuan was drawn up by the DPP, reported A-gu last year:

"As far as the 8 districts that hadn't been agreed on, Wang Jin-ping (KMT) and Su Chen-chang (DPP) yesterday came to an agreement by drawing straws. The result was that Taipei city, Miaoli county, Chuanghua county, and Taichung city were drawn in accordance with the CEC's original draft. Kaohsiung City was drawn according to a legislative concensus, Taipei county along the TSU's draft bill, Taoyuan County according to the DPP's draft, and Pingtung County according to the draft brought by the Nonpartisan Union/PFP/KMT/TSU."

I have no clue why the KMT objected to the Taoyuan plan; it is hugely favorable to it. Tainan and Yunlin were done by the CEC, AFAIK (final ratified proposal). If there is a next time, the DPP needs to sit down with a calculator.....

UPDATE II: The CEC's original proposal is here. The idea to cut the north into 26 smaller districts originated with the CEC:

The DPP was not responsible for the number of districts in Taoyuan, that was the CEC. Idiotically, in 2006 the DPP rejected a proposal to increase the number of legislators to 164 and institute multi-member districts. Yet even Wang Jin-pyng, KMT legislative speaker, thought the legislature was too small. The DPP dug its own grave....


Anonymous said...

Yep, I really think the new ly is completely screwy... it's size is surely too small for a country of 24 million people. If you use UK averages, the LY should be over 40% of 650 which would be nearly 265 seats. nearly 2.5 times the current size.

Of course, one feels that separation of the LY into 2 levels would help stabilize the government: upper/lower house or whatever.

skiingkow said...

And then we have this headline in today's TT...

DPP says it will combat corruption in legislature


Anonymous said...

So why have you in the past accused the KMT of gerrymandering when it was actually the DPP which drew up and then subsequently agreed to these districts?

Michael Turton said...

Careful. When did I accuse anyone in particular of gerrymandering? I've tried to be careful not to do that! I observe that the districting favors the KMT, strongly. The DPP drew the boundaries for Taoyuan, but the key is not the boundaries -- but the number of districts. Once you decide to put six districts in Taoyuan, 12 in Taipei County, and 8 in Taipei city, you've created at least 1-4 extra seats in the north, depending on what standard you use. Once you decide to put 5 districts in Tainan and 2 in Yunlin, you've removed 2-3 from the south. The district size is more important than the shape, the a couple of the Taichung county districts look a bit funky.