Posts Tagged ‘reapportionment’

bill to stop reapportionment

May 29, 2010

A bill has been introduced into the legislature to freeze the reapportionment process in legislative elections.  If the bill passes, reapportionment will only occur once every ten years, with the next round in 2020.  Changes in population and/or the redrawing of administrative boundaries will not affect the distribution of seats in the interim.

In the first reading, the bill was sent through directly to the second reading.  Normally, the first reading assigns a bill to a committee, and the bill does not reach the second reading until after it is reviewed in committee.  About 10% of bills (I should know the exact percentage off the top of my head, but I don’t) bypass the committee stage, and these bills are much more likely to eventually become laws.  In other words, we must take this bill seriously.

The bill was introduced by the caucus of independent legislators, rather than by the KMT or DPP.  Specifically, the bill originated from Li Fuxing 李復興, an independent legislator from Kaohsiung City who was elected as a KMT candidate.  The DPP immediately accused the KMT of being behind the maneuver.  The partisan motivations are obvious.  The KMT currently holds six of nine seats in Kaohsiung, which would lose a seat, and zero of five seats in Tainan, which would gain the seat.

The bill is currently not scheduled for floor time in the legislature.  Speaker Wang Jinping 王金平 has instead said that the bill will go to interparty negotiations to seek a consensus.  I doubt they will find one there.  In addition to the obvious conflict in partisan interests, Wang’s ability to broker a deal is compromised by the fact that he is from Kaohsiung County and is still deeply involved in local faction politics there.

Personally, I think this is a naked power grab and an obvious violation of the accepted democratic rules.  People in favor of the change are pointing to the American practice and the desirability of having stable districts.  Taiwan, unlike the United States, has never based its reapportionment process on the decennial census.  Taiwan’s population statistics, which are so good that the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center used to use them as its ideal case, give an accurate count of the population at the end of every month, whereas the USA really never knows exactly what its population is except for once every ten years (and even that number is shaky).  Taiwan has always reapportioned seats at every election, and a decision to stop doing this right now needs a very good reason and a political consensus.  Otherwise it is a deinstitutionalization of accepted practices.  If you can rearrange these rules for partisan gain, what else is up for renegotiation?  In one sense, democracy is nothing more than a set of accepted rules for resolving conflict.  Sometimes the difference between a technical exercise and partisan warfare is simply a notion that the process is fair because it is the one that is always used and the losers this time could easily be the beneficiaries next time.

The USA logic is also based on the notion that the USA is a federal country, and the various states are “sovereign” governments with certain inviolable rights.    So the proposed change doesn’t make sense in two ways.  For one, Taiwan is a unitary state and has no need to pretend that its subordinate administrative units have inviolable rights.  For another, if you redraw the lines (as has been done with Tainan and Kaohsiung), the administrative units that are supposed to be respected no longer exist.

Redistricting is an inherently political process, and so it doesn’t bother me too much when parties try to extract the maximum possible partisan advantage.  Reapportionment in Taiwan in 2010 should be a purely technical exercise.  Efforts to politicize it really get me riled up.

More on redistricting

May 26, 2010

I found two very interesting documents on the CEC website today that add quite a bit of flesh to the redistricting stories from the three previous posts.

The first document is a transcript of the public hearing held on April 26, 2010.  There are several interesting things from this document.

I had speculated that there were KMT factional reasons for putting the two villages from Dali City back in with the rest of Dali City in the new Taichung District 7.  In fact, the original CEC plan was to leave the districts unchanged.  At the public hearing, DPP legislator Jian Zhaodong 簡肇棟 (who represents Dali City) suggested that the change be made.  He also said that all factions and parties supported this move.  So the faction speculation seems to be ungrounded in this case.

(Note: The document with the CEC’s redistricting plan that I have been discussing is dated May 4, 2010.  So it is the plan including adjustments made after this public hearing.  There was apparently a different draft before the public hearing.)

Xu Yangming 許陽明, a former DPP legislator and former Vice-mayor (of Kaohsiung?), complained that the legislative districts keep changing.  The 6th LY had the old system, the (current) 7th LY changed to the new system, the CEC is currently rearranging districts in the new direct municipalities for the 8th term, and, after the new mayors redraw administrative district lines in the new direct municipalities, they will have to redraw legislative districts for the 9th term.  OK, I don’t really care that the districts keep changing.  The interesting part of this is the idea that one of the first tasks at hand for the new mayors will be to redraw the administrative district lines.  It is a reasonable task.  There are vast population differences between the various townships, and, without mayoral and town council elections, they won’t really have independent legal identities anyway.  Beyond that, though, this is also a response to the KMT’s plan to appease its grassroots supporters.  If you remember, a few months ago, the legislature passed a law to appoint current township mayors (who have not already served two terms) as new district heads and current town councils as new advisory council members.  The KMT dominates these grassroots offices, and it wanted to take care of its people (who should return the favor by working hard in the 2012 election).  The DPP response is to simply redraw the lines!  Ok, maybe the law made you head of the old district, but that district no longer exists.  As for the new district, since the office is vacant, I’ll appoint my own person.  Nice!

There was a lot of discussion of Tainan Districts 5 and 6, as I suspected.  Apparently the original draft split the East district, putting part of it into each of the two districts while putting the South into District 6.  You might recognize this as the alternate plan I suggested if crossing administrative lines were allowable.  A few people spoke in favor of changing the scheme.  NCKU professor Zhou Zhijie 周志杰 was the principal proponent, giving four broad reasons for the change.  First, the original plan split an administrative district, presenting difficulties for representation, constituency service, and administration of elections.  Second, the South district is closer to the four townships in terms of level of urbanization, economic development, and transportation links (citing Expressway 88).  Third, the East district is characterized by the education and service sectors, while the South district is more of a manufacturing and industrial area.  This makes the South a better match for the largely agricultural four townships.  Fourth, population growth in Tainan is concentrated in Yongkang and the East district.  As such, these areas should be supplemented with other townships/districts to meet the necessary population requirements.  In the future, they might be large enough to be a legislative district without any supplements.

Notice that these arguments make no reference to politics.  Partisan advantage might be the underlying reason for wanting the change, but it is not a legitimate consideration in this forum.  You have to make your argument in terms of “technical” criteria.  I don’t know if the technical arguments will be the real deciding factors or not.  It could be that the real decision is made behind the scenes and they simply use this technical language to justify the political decisions.  However, we should not dismiss the possibility that the CEC really is a neutral decision-making body, and the technical arguments are the decisive arguments, at least at this stage.  After all, there is little reason for the CEC to be too overtly political; the political horse-trading will have plenty of opportunities to change the plan when it goes to the legislature.

That said, I’m interested by Zhou’s arguments.  To me, the fourth argument is silly.  If anything, you should give less, not more, priority to fast-growing areas.  After all, you have little idea what they will look like in the future.  They could require a number of different adjustments.  Moreover, I am not aware of any ideal for an administrative district to be an electoral district by itself.  Besides, if the administrative lines are redrawn, today’s East district probably won’t exist in the same form tomorrow.  I think the second and third arguments, about cohesiveness are potentially much better.  However, I would dispute the argument about transportation links.  The road that Zhou cites, Expressway 88, is a brand new road.  There is not much development along it.  Except for this road, Rende Township is basically cut off from the South district by the airport.  The older, more established roads going from Rende Township into Tainan City all go into the East district.  Since the transportation links clearly connect Rende and East, I’m guessing that all the other economic relationships are also closer.  In other words, I think that politics was probably driving the effort to revise the proposal.

The final interesting point from the public hearing involved Kaohsiung’s loss of a seat.  Lots of people complained about this.  The CEC official answered that the formula in use has not change since legislative elections began in 1969.  I found the document discussing reapportionment on the CEC’s website, dated Jan. 15, 2010.  That document has one nice table, but the formatting limitations of this blog keep me from just copying it.  So I’ll cut it into several pieces.

First, we start with the population of each county/city in November 2009 (one year before the election).  If you divide the total population by 73 (the number of single seat districts, SSDs), you get 309662.  All counties that have fewer than 309662 people get one seat.

county population Under 309662?
Xinbei 3,822,431
Taipei 2,594,795
Taichung 2,607,331
Tainan 1,869,627
Kaohsiung 2,741,677
Ilan 446,436
Taoyuan 1,919,370
Hsinchu County 490,791
Miaoli 551,119
Nantou 502,855
Changhua 1,307,586
Yunlin 721,093
Chiayi County 542,037
Pingdong 826,023
Taidong 152,454 Y
Hualian 250,396 Y
Penghu 95,671 Y
Jilong City 379,865
Hsinchu City 408,115
Chiayi City 273,105 Y
Jinmen 92,712 Y
Lianjiang 9,785 Y
Total 22,605,274 6

Eliminate those six districts.  This leaves us with 67 seats and 21731151 people, or 324345 per seat.  Each 324345 people make one quota.  Calculate how many full quotas each county gets and the remaining population left over.  There are 60 full quotas.  Since there are 67 seats that need to be filled, the seven largest remainders get the last seven seats.  So Nantou and Pingdong got the last two seats, while Hsinchu County and Pingdong are the first losers.

county population quotas remainder Plus one? Total
Xinbei 3,822,431 11 254,636 1 12
Taipei 2,594,795 8 35 0 8
Taichung 2,607,331 8 12,571 0 8
Tainan 1,869,627 5 247,902 1 6
Kaohsiung 2,741,677 8 146,917 0 8
Ilan 446,436 1 122,091 0 1
Taoyuan 1,919,370 5 297,645 1 6
Hsinchu County 490,791 1 166,446 0 1
Miaoli 551,119 1 226,774 1 2
Nantou 502,855 1 178,510 1 2
Changhua 1,307,586 4 10,206 0 4
Yunlin 721,093 2 72,403 0 2
Chiayi County 542,037 1 217,692 1 2
Pingdong 826,023 2 177,333 1 3
Taidong 0 0 0 1
Hualian 0 0 0 1
Penghu 0 0 0 1
Jilong City 379,865 1 55,520 0 1
Hsinchu City 408,115 1 83,770 0 1
Chiayi City 0 0 0 1
Jinmen 0 0 0 1
Lianjiang 0 0 0 1
Total 21,731,151 60 7 73

In jargon, this is a Largest Remainders System.  There are different versions of this system which would yield slightly different results, but this system is perfectly defensible.  Anyway, the most important thing in judging the fairness of the apportionment system is perhaps not the system itself, but whether it is seen as a politically calculated method that systematically advantages one side or whether it is simply a technical exercise.  This method has been in use for forty years, and the first loser always complains.  However, since there hasn’t been any real pattern to who loses over the years, I don’t see much legitimacy to these complaints.

Stealth Reapportionment

February 23, 2010

One of the consequences of redrawing the administrative lines by creating direct municipalities is that the Central Election Commission will have to recalculate how many seats each county or city gets.  By my calculation, the new Tainan City will get another seat and Nantou County will lose one of its seats.  In the past, the CEC has reapportioned seats every election cycle, so I see no reason that they would not do so again for the next election.

I’m pretty sure that Taiwan uses a largest remainder system to apportion its seats.  In the 2008 election, there were 16,586,854 eligible voters[1] in the nominal tier, or 230,912 for each of the 73 seats.  However, you can’t directly use this as the quota since every county is constitutionally guaranteed a seat.  If you only consider the counties with more than 230,912 eligible voters, you have 67 seats to apportion to 16,199,125 voters.  Dividing 16199125 by 68, the quota is 238222.  There are 58 full quotas, and the remaining 9 seats are apportioned to the counties with the largest remainders.  The last seat goes to Nantou County, which has 1.62 quotas. Nantou County thus gets two seats while Tainan County, which has 3.56 quotas, only gets three seats.  However, Tainan City is also underrepresented, with 2.40 quotas.  If you combine Tainan County and Tainan City, the new entity has 5.96 quotas.  Since .96 is larger than .62, Tainan, not Nantou, would get the last seat.

This change would almost certainly have partisan consequences, since currently the KMT holds both Nantou seats while the DPP holds all five of the Tainan seats.  It’s also a little reminder that the institutional rules have consequences.  Even without changing a single vote in the electorate or having anyone move from one address to another, we can, by simply erasing a line, change the balance of power.


[1] I’m not sure if they use eligible voters, actual residents, or registered population to apportion seats.  I don’t think there would be much difference.