REDELINEATION : Definition & Effect (WORK IN PROGRESS)
Redelineation is a constitutional process in delimiting electoral boundaries to ensure electors (voters during elections) receive fair representation of their voting preferences. It is a fundamental right that we as electors or voters are treated equally irrespective of our geographic and demographic background.
In Malaysia, the principles of redelineation are guided by 13th Schedule. Redelineation ought to be done to ensure our state and federal constituencies are drawn to comply with principles of 13th Schedule. (Based on our constitution, there is a distinction of the creation or reduction of seats with the standard redelineation process)
Fundamental Points within 13th Schedule for Redelineation
“(a) while having regard to the desirability of giving all electors reasonably convenient opportunities of going to the polls, constituencies ought to be delimited so that they do not cross State boundaries and regard ought to be had to the inconveniences of State constituencies crossing the boundaries of federal constituencies;
(b) regard ought to be had to the administrative facilities available within the constituencies for the establishment of the necessary registration and polling machines;
(c) the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies;
(d) regard ought to be had to the inconveniences attendant on alterations of constituencies, and to the maintenance of local ties.
Election Commission who is in charge of the redelineation shouldn’t conduct redelineation in a manner that undermine public confidence on EC and violate equality of voters. In this section, we examine two systematic violations that have occurred when the redelineation was conducted from 2016 to 2018
Gerrymandering is the outright manipulation of election boundaries (either of creation of seats or redrawing of existing seat) to give an upper hand for one political party over the others. There are two standard techniques employed in gerrymandering.
One is packing of opponent votes in a safe seat belonging to the opponent. This will result the opponent winning big majorities in those safe seats without gaining new seats. This occurred particularly in Selangor and KL (for 2016 redelineation exercise) where DAP voters were packed systematically in DAP safe seats.
Second technique is the cracking of the votes. Boundaries are drawn in a manner that opponent’s voters are distributed sparsely across many districts. This will result the opponent not winning any seats as their votes are spread out too widely.
Let’s look at some examples
The GIFs are done in collaboration with DataN
Example 1 : Lumut Parliamentary Seat
- Lumut experienced one of the biggest gerrymandering experience in the country
- Lumut, the home to Malaysian Naval HQ, was a PKR seat prior to redelineation
- Malaysian Naval HQ is a bastion of BN voters
- Sitiawan (highlighted as bright and dark red on the mainland section) contains bulk of the opposition votes
- The 2016 redelineation exercise resulted in excision of Sitiawan and Sitiawan was moved to Beruas (a DAP safe seat)
- The projected outcome would have resulted in BN winning back the seat with 2000+ votes
- Due to changing political preferences for GE14, Pakatan Harapan managed to retain the seat by scrapping through with 400 majority votes. The effect of gerrymandering was defeated
Example 2 : Seri Serdang State Seat (Selangor)
- PAS (then part of Pakatan Rakyat) won the seat with a comfortable majority (62.1% of the votes) in GE13
- The 2016 redelineation exercise resulted in excision of many Pakatan Rakyat supporters from Seri Serdang
- A Pro BN district was added
- The redelineation resulted in a weakening of the PAS hold of the seat (made more vulnerable to multi corner fights)
- Due to changing political preferences in GE14, redelineation resulted Amanah (part of Pakatan Harapan) winning the seat with a similar majority PAS gained in 2013. The effect of gerrymandering was defeated
Malapportionment occurs when there is an inequality in number of voters across constituencies. While it is impossible to have every constituency to equal number of voters (due to to population size, distribution and special representation), a reasonable deviation (of +/-10 to +/-15%) from national or state average should be applied when redrawing constituency boundaries. Any deviation greater than +/-15 % (or +/- 25% for Sabah and Sarawak) under represented and over represent voters across the country
It is malapportionment, not gerrymandering, that undermines voter equality. Redelineation ought to rebalance all constituencies that has deviated too greatly from national/state average (Electoral Quota). Unfortunately, the 2016 – 18 redelineation exercise tolerated and exacerbated voter inequality. This resulted the voting power of urban areas (across Malaysia) to be devalued comparatively to rural areas
Through malapportionment, it is possible to form a federal government around 38-39% of the popular votes. With this manipulation, Malaysian (then) opposition coalition, PR (now PH) won the popular vote in 2013 but failed to form the government. BN lost the federal government in 2018 when it’s share of votes declined to 35% of the votes. Malapportionment could be one of the reasons why PH formed the government without securing more than 50% of the popular votes
Examples of Malapportionment
Malapportionment in Selangor (1st round of proposals)
Instead rebalancing parliamentary and state constituencies in Selangor, EC’s proposals resulted a gross explosion of voter population for safe DAP seats (and PKR’s seat of Subang). In this illustration (left), proposed Damansara seat became the largest parliamentary seat in Selangor (as of 2016).
Any seats exceeding 115% or less than 85% from the Electoral Quota are seats that violated voter equality. Damansara has 3 times the population of Sabak Bernam yet each of them elect a representative each. In this 3D Visualization (left), Damansara towers over the undersized seats such as Sungai Buloh and Kuala Selangor. Malapportionment devalued urban voters of Damansara and overvaluing voters in rural Sabak Bernam
Final EC recommendations, containing super sized and undersized seats in Selangor, was approved in late March 2018. In GE14, Tony Pua won the largest majority of votes (over 100 000 votes) in nation’s history due to strong support for DAP and super size nature of his seat
Malapportionment across Political Parties in Peninsular Malaysia
In the illustration above (from Data Tarik (2018)), we explore the voter size of every seat in Malaysia and party breakdown as of GE14
One can instantly see a pattern of malapportionment. Redelineation Exercise of 2016 -18 actually tolerated or exacerbated voter inequality particularly for Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS seats. Many of the DAP safe seats such as Bangi (formerly Serdang), Damansara (formerly Petaling Jaya Utara) and Iskandar Puteri (formerly Gelang Patah) witnessed a dramatic increase of voter population as nearby voting districts were absorbed into these seats.
For BN, many of the undersized seats and some oversized seats in Johor Bahru were untouched by the redelineation process. This resulted in deepening the urban rural divide. Moreover, it made more difficult for PH and PAS to gain any new seats as they need more voters just to win additional seats. The redelineated boundaries was sending a message to voters that the change of the government is an impossible task. Malapportioned system also generate voluminous wasted votes for opposition areas (primarily for GE14).
In GE14, due to changing political preferences, PH and PAS manage to capture some undersized seats from BN which tipped the results in favour to PH
For anyone who is interested to perform in depth research on the movements of electoral boundaries and how does it impact on Selangor’s electoral scene (for historical reference), please refer to the links below:
- Want to know which polling districts and their political preferences got shifted as a result of Syor 2? Use this comparative map to complement your research - Syor 2 Impact on Selangor
- Want to know whether the redelineation addressed the issue of malapportionment at the DUN level? Use this comparative map to analyse which DUNs are oversized or undersized - LINK
- SPR Materials used as the basis for the redelineation. Click on the links here: Allocation of Polling Districts for Syor 2, Notice on Syor 2, Pre Redelineation List of Polling Districts, Map of Proposed Boundaries Syor 2
- List of Polling District before Redelineation, identification of Polling Districts that got shifted for Syor 1 and Syor 2 and detection of name and code changes for DUN and Parliament seats. Download the csv here.