Monday, November 3, 2008

Suppress the vote (5)

In previous posts on this subject I have compiled some of the evidence that the Conservative election strategy was focused on suppressing potential Liberal voters as much or more than it was intended to convince people to vote Conservative. If this were successfully undertaken they could, as the Republicans have done in previous American elections cycles, ride their "base" vote to victory. I have been thinking that the next step in demonstrating the effectiveness of the vote suppression strategy for the Conservatives would be to show the effect individual ridings.

To do this on an individual riding basis the following pattern would have to be demonstrated:
  1. The defeat of an ostensibly popular Liberal incumbent,
  2. A decrease in the overall vote totals from historical levels,
  3. A drop in Liberal vote in line with this decrease (indicating a poor Liberal voter turnout),
  4. A change in Conservative vote that is not commensurate with the drop in vote totals (indicating a reliance on their base support) and
  5. A relatively minor variation in the non-Liberal voters indicating that the suppression of the Liberal vote was effective)
Yappa Ding Ding has an interesting post on the 17 vote loss by Andrew Telegdi in Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W). YDD describes a number of reasons that might have led to the loss. I believe this may be better explained by the effects of voter turnout suppression. It also highlights the flaw in looking solely at percent of the popular vote in a time of declining (or suppressed) turnout.

First the numbers as supplied by YDD:
So let us look at the criteria on a point by point basis:
1. It appears that Mr. Telegdi was a popular incumbent based on the previous voting patterns and is therefore a good candidate for this type of analysis.

2. As seen from the plot below, there was a steady increase in K-W voter turn-out until this last election. Further to YDD's point that the vote total had increased by 15% from 1997 through 2008, it is noteworthy that the vote increase from 1997 through 2006 was 26.2%. This is very much in keeping with the 22% increase in population mentioned in the original post. This makes the drop in turnout for 2008 very striking.
3. As can be seen below, the Liberal turnout was increasing in proportion to the voter turnout until this last election. Then it followed the trend of the overall turnout. The percent change is, as would be expected, exacerbated by the drop in turnout being concentrated in Liberal core support.

4. As the following graph indicates, the overall Conservative vote totals and percent of the overall vote shows minor growth in line with the growth in population of the riding overall. It would appear that 20,000 votes is a good approximation of their base in the riding. The 2008 Conservative vote is only 8.9% above the average of the previous totals. It does not signal an electorate keen to oppose the Green Shift. This is an indicator that their core vote has likely peaked. This is also indicated by the drop in Conservative popular vote as the riding population increased.
5. The graph below shows the relative effects on voter turn-out for the Liberal and non-Liberal vote. It would be expected that a campaign strategy aimed at suppressing Liberal voters would impact the other parties somewhat but it is apparent that the brunt of the suppression was borne by the Liberals.
The result in Kitchener-Waterloo provides evidence that the Conservatives were able to defeat a popular Liberal incumbent in a "safe" seat through the use of voter suppression tactics. Unlike the application of this strategy in the U.S., there are no indications that illegal means were used*. The point is that if they were successful this last time, we can expect them to follow up with more of the same. If the Opposition parties try to engage the Conservatives in a conventional debate during the next election there is no reason to expect different results. A strategy to counter-act voter suppresion tactics must be developed to defeat the Conservatives. Particularly in "battleground" ridings.

Update: Misspelling of Mr. Telegdi's name corrected. *Unless evidence connecting the Conservative campaign to the vandalism and brake line cutting comes to light. There is none at this time. If there is a connection, I will not be surprised. Targetting a few members of a group to cow the entire group is a well known intimidation tactic.Recommend this Post


Deb Prothero said...

Excellent analysis. Can you describe the exact voter suppression techniques used by the Conservatives? How could these be effectively countered? I don't disagree with the analysis at all but wonder how to strategize for the future.

Constant Vigilance said...

Thanks Deb. I am happy to hear you found it useful.

I was hoping that by pointing this out as a possible Conservative strategy it might engender some discussion of ways to counter it. I made some suggestions in an earlier post.

If I think of anything else, I will post it.

Bluegreenblogger said...

Interesting series of posts on voter suppression. I do not think that you can parse the numbers that way on a riding by riding basis. There is too much `noise`in a campaign, and too many factors at play to point and sya: `THIS one here is voter suppression in action.` But I agree that the CPC strategy has been fundamentally centred on squeezing a majority out of 30% of the popular vote.
Far more interesting to me is the mechanics of voter suppression at the doorstep, and at the poll level. Retail voter suppression is a fine art, and if you want to counter such a campaign, you have to be working at that level. GOTV needs to be elevated to a whole other plane.