From London, with Logic
Pancho Lara is back in town, and has weighed in quickly into the election debates. He asked me to post his critique of Prospero de Vera’s proposition that “endorsements by the INC and El Shaddai have become more strategic because of a potentially low turn-out in the automated elections.”
Francisco Lara Jr.
Research Associate, Crisis States Research Center
London School of Economics
Professor Prospero De Vera of the University of the Philippines College of Public Administration has posed an interesting thesis regarding the likely outcomes of the 2010 automated elections. He argues that the shift from a manual to an automated system in the current elections is prone to several problems that will most likely result in a lower voter turn-out. Prospero begins by citing evidence of the current national voter turn-out that averages 80% of the total voting population. He then speculates that a flawed automated system will likely reduce turn-out by more than a quarter of the previous voting average, consequently producing a lower turn-out ranging from 50-60%.
Prospero’s speculation about the likely impact of automation on voter turn-out is a compelling argument – even though he neither cites which aspect of the automation process will produce this sort of outcome, nor why turn-out can go as low as 50%. Why not 70 or 20 percent? Alas, Professor De Vera does not explain the basis behind his numbers.
Nevertheless, this is not the vital aspect of Prospero’s thesis. What is significant is that he then jumps to the conclusion that automation will undermine the importance of current survey results and trends, and accentuate the importance of the command votes that the Iglesia Ni Cristo and El Shaddai can deliver. Following Prospero’s logic, a command vote of more than 5 million will be daunting, nay decisive, even if the survey front-liner leads by about 12% in the current survey, which is roughly equivalent to 7.5 million votes of previous national turn-outs. De Vera then argues that survey results are not as awesome as they seem, and can be easily overwhelmed by the lucky candidate who gets the blessings of the INC and El Shaddai, and is in turn rewarded by the latter’s formidable vote banks.
I argue that this thesis is deeply flawed for at least two reasons.
One, Prospero’s argument actually operates on the notion that the lower voter turn-out that affects the population in general will exclude those who come from the INC and the El Shaddai. This can only happen if the poll precincts where their members vote are ring-fenced from the sort of automation problems that will impact on the rest of us. Are members of the INC and El Shaddai segregated from the rest of us? Are special voting booths available for them? Are their PCOS machines more efficient than the rest? If not, then the low voter turn-out for the population in general will produce the same low turn-out for voters coming from the INC and El Shaddai. Consequently, the strength of their respective vote banks will be dampened by the same problems that De Vera refers to.
Two, Prospero’s argument presupposes that the current surveys that show Noynoy Aquino leading by as high as 12% from the rest does not include any respondent that comes from the INC and the El Shaddai. If that were the case then the issue is not the impact of automation, but the validity and reliability of the survey results due to a flawed sampling design. However, both the SWS and Pulse Asia have acquired their credibility precisely because of their ability to predict voting outcomes with relative precision, which partly explains the sort of negative reactions from those who rate poorly in their surveys. As Professor De Vera, who teaches research methodology at the UP knows, a sample population should be able to represent the universe from which they are drawn. I argue that these groups are in fact represented in the survey, probably among the undecided if they actually operate as groups “in waiting” for the command of their leaders, which is how they are often described in the political literature.
Prospero’s logic is countenanced by several critical questions that need to be addressed. We need to consider whether the vote banks of the INC and the El Shaddai are equally strategic in determining member’s choices at both local and national electoral competitions. I raise this issue due to a single important factor – the difficulty of capturing the rewards from the choices made by their leaders at the national level, compared to the palpable incentives that members secure from a unified vote at the local level. In short, it is more difficult to sustain the allegiance of members to national, versus local choices.
It is also important to distinguish between the ability of the INC and the El Shaddai to compel obedience from its members, which is more apparent in the case of the former. It is clear at the local level the INC vote bank counts. Yet to actually prove the salience of the INC command vote at the national level one needs to look at the outcomes of their decisions. Here the data suffers from problems of endogeneity. There are few instances when the INC supported national candidates who were not popular to begin with, thus hiding the true value of their endorsement. In the single instance that I can recall when the INC went against the tide, their candidate Eduardo “Danding” Conjuangco lost.
So, it is extremely improbable to assume that INC and El Shaddai members have either made their choices already, or are as undecided as the rest of us? Will they bend in the same way to exogenous influences that do not carry the same coercive force at the national versus the local level? These are strategic questions, but they do not remove from the main argument of this article.
I argued that the INC and the El Shaddai vote will be equally affected by the automation-related problems that De Vera warns against; and are already adequately represented in the current survey results, either as partisans (of certain candidates) or among the undecided. The proposal that current survey trends can be overwhelmed by a combination of low turn-out and command votes does not hold water. Of course, these do not mean that the El Shaddai and the INC vote will be less important in shaping the results of the 2010 elections, only that this factor will not be the most decisive, even if the promise of automation turns out to be as flawed as Prospero’s logic.Explore posts in the same categories: Leadership, Popular democracy