"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mapping the way to 2012

Quebec's Commission de la représentation électorale tabled its final report this past week, setting out the new electoral boundaries by which the next provincial election will be fought in the province (unless it is called before January 21st).

There's lots more information here, and the Commission, as it did in the last redistribution, has created a wonderful interactive mapamajig that you can play with, comparing old and new boundaries. If your province's electoral office doesn't already do this, it's not to early to nag them into doing so.

Of the 125 new electoral districts in Quebec, 39 are entirely unchanged from the former electoral map, including most of those in central and eastern Montreal. Some of the unchanged districts include Pointe-aux-Trembles, both of the Beauces, Crémazie, Mirabel, and Gouin.

Another 10 have boundary changes that are entirely cosmetic, which involve no transfers of population from one district to another (Ungava, Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Dubuc), or which involve only a tiny handful of electors (Saint-Henri–Sainte-Anne in central Montreal gains a chunk of territory, but only 9 electors, from neighbouring Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.)

There are a further 19 former electoral districts which are transposed intact into new electoral districts, by the addition of polls from neighbouring districts. In some cases, the tinkering is minor, as in Bonaventure, which, otherwise unchanged, gains the municipality of Chandler from the former Gaspé. Similarly, Abitibi-Ouest gains a few polls from Abitibi-Est, or Groulx from Blainville. Other additions are much more substantial: all of the former Montmagny—L'Islet is rolled into the new Côte-du-Sud, along with a large chunk of the former Kamouraska—Témiscouata; the rest of the latter is combined with a bit of the former Rimouski and all of the former Rivière-du-Loup into the new Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata. All of old Matapédia is combined with most of old Matane into Matapédia—Matane; the rest of old Matane is rolled into the redrawn Gaspé.

(If you're thinking a lot of these examples are from the Bas-Saint-Laurent/Gaspésie region, you're right: what was nine districts on the old map, has been condensed to seven, continuing a trend that has persisted since Quebec instituted an arms-length electoral boundaries commission decades ago.)

This leaves 57 electoral districts which have been cobbled together by combing mismatched parts from neighbouring former districts. In most cases, there is enough kernel left of one of the old districts that it has a successor in name and geography in the new map. However, there are several of these redrawn districts which have to be considered as entirely "new": Drummond–Bois-Francs, Granby, Lotbinière–Frontenac, Montarville, Saint-Jérôme, Sainte-Rose, and Sanguinet.

As an exercise, this corner has transposed the results of the 2008 election into the new boundaries, according to the following logical rules:
  • Where a former riding is left intact, or almost entirely intact, all of its votes, including early votes, are attributed to the "new" riding.

  • Where a former riding is left intact but combined with polls from a neighbouring former riding, all of the intact riding's votes, including early votes, are attributed to the new riding, along with all of the regular polls that are transferred from the broken-up riding.

  • Where a new riding is comprised of portions of two or more former ridings, the new riding's vote is the sum of all of the regular polls that were combined to make the new riding. For the purposes of this exercise, advance and special ballots are discounted.
For all rural and many urban riding changes, Elections Quebec's practice of grouping polls into "Secteurs", which respect municipal boundaries, makes it easy to transpose votes from the 2008 to the 2011 electoral boundaries. For 35 of the new electoral districts, involving changes in urban and suburban areas, GIS software made it possible to transpose votes on a poll-by-poll basis. In a small handful of cases (about five or six) estimates instead of exact counts were required, where new electoral boundaries split a former polling division between two electoral districts.

Using these methods, the 2008 vote transposed into the new boundaries would yield 63 Liberal (PLQ) MNAs (-3 from 2008); 53 Péquistes (+2); 8 Adéquistes (+1); and one Québec Solidaire member (no change). This is assuming all things are equal. Of course, in Quebec these days, they are not. But please play along.

The provisional exclusion of the harder-to transpose advance and special ballots would change the outcome in a number of districts which were closely-fought if you look at the regular polls alone. However, early voters in most parts of Quebec tend to skew quite strongly towards Liberals compared to the overall vote or the vote in regular polling divisions. Caveat lector.

All of the intact districts, obviously, would stay in the same column if the 2008 election re-ran on the same boundaries. Similarly, all of the new districts comprised of an intact former district plus parts of former districts would notionally stay with the party which won the former district at the core of the new one. (For example, the old Matapédia voted PQ, as would the new Matapédia–Matane.)

These are the modified districts whose outcome notionally changes hands with the transposition:

Abitibi-Est: Tilts from narrow PLQ to narrow PQ on the transposition; would probably tilt back to the PLQ column with the inclusion of early voters.

Jean-Lesage: A narrow PQ gain from the PLQ in the transposition of regular polls, as it loses some Liberal polls in the east, and gains some PQ polls in the west, but this is another riding where Liberal-heavy early voting would easily make a big difference in a real election.

Montmorency: The suburbanification of this riding narrowly favours the ADQ over the PLQ in the transposed regular polls, but could easily turn around once Liberal early voters are included.

Trois-Rivières: Trois-Rivières swaps some electoral spit with Maskinongé to the west, with each riding giving up some polls to the other. The net effect, however, favours the PQ. This is also a rare case where early voters bucked the Quebec trend, and where the PQ more evenly matched the PLQ among advance and special ballots voters.

Vanier–Les Rivières: Notionally tilts to the ADQ after its boundaries are rejigged, but solidly-Liberal early voters would give the advantage back to the PLQ.

And here's the breakdown of the truly "new" districts:

Drummond–Bois-Francs: A PLQ win over the PQ.

Granby: An ADQ win, carved out of the former Shefford. The area around Granby was one of the few in Montérégie to survive the splintering of the 2007 breakthrough ADQ vote to the PQ and PLQ a year later.

Lotbinière–Frontenac: Despite the ADQ strength in the former Lotbinière, this district transposes to the PLQ, based on the Liberal strength in the former Frontenac polls around Thetford Mines.

Montarville: One of the new South Shore suburban ridings, it is a narrow (2%) PLQ win over the PQ in the transposition, but a more comfortable PLQ victory when early voters are included.

Saint-Jérôme: A new riding carved out of a rapidly-growing, solidly PQ northern Montreal exurb.

Sainte-Rose: A new Laval riding, narrowly Liberal on the transposition, more solidly Liberal once early voters are factored in, but likely to be one of the new Laval belwethers. Laval ridings have a long history of mirroring the federal and provincial outcome in Quebec.

Sanguinet: The South Shore answer to Saint-Jérôme, another new riding carved out of a fast-growing, PQ-trending suburban area.



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