Candidates Win Unopposed, But Who Loses? (Part 2 of 3)
Why could 15 percent or 36 out of 243 contests for district representative to Congress in the 2019 election be unopposed?
To better understand the situation we referred back three elections from 2010 and checked if just by looking at who won would provide us some answers. Local and national elections in the Philippines are held every three years. So, there were three elections -- 2010, 2013, and 2016 -- to do the examination on.
What did the data show? In checking with the Commission on Elections, we learned that opponents withdrew in the contests for the 1st district of Marikina and the 3rd district of Pampanga.
The 34 others revealed that in 79 percent (27) of the contests any opponent would be running against three termers or candidates of the same family or close relations that are succeeding each other. Therefore, from 2010 to 2019, these districts would have elected no other except that which came from the same family. (See the details here at this link.)
How did voters deal with lone candidacies? We examined the votes cast and looked at the strength of the mandate and abstentions between lone candidacies and multiple candidacies. Mandate is the portion of the votes a candidate receives, which is expressed in percent. Take for example, a two-candidate race with Candidate A and Candidate B, where 100 voted, and 75 of the votes were for Candidate A. The mandate of the winning Candidate A, therefore, is 75 percent.
Mandate. The winners in contests where there are between 2 and six candidates have mandates of between 72 and 53 percent. The winners with the strongest mandates are those who ran against one other candidate or contestant. The mandate decreases as there are more candidates because there are many candidates to choose from and votes would be spread among them.
It would not be possible to determine the true mandate of lone candidates because the COMELEC considered all lone candidates as having received 100 percent of the votes. (See Table 2 below.). This means that if there were 100 voters but only 25 voted for the lone candidate, the strength of the mandate would be 100 percent instead of 25 percent, because 75 voters abstained from voting for the position.
The COMELEC treated all lone candidates for district representative to Congress as receiving 100 percent of the votes cast for that position. The case in point (above extracted from https://comelec.gov.ph/2019NLEResults/#/coc/0) is the 3rd district of Cavite. The total votes cast for this position should have been all under-votes (voters who did not cast a vote -- an invalid vote) plus valid votes. The percentage obtained by the lone candidate should have been 118716/((24756 + 143642)) or 70.5 percent.
Abstentions. Voters who came out to vote but did not cast a vote for the race for district representatives to Congress are considered as having abstained from or voting for that position only. The Philippine voting system uses a paper ballot on which names of candidates are pre-printed. To indicate preference for a candidate a voter needs to shade the oval beside the name of each candidate of his/her choice. Voters who did not vote for any candidate for a certain position/s are considered to have abstained from voting for that position/s only.
Taking the specific case of Cavite where 50 percent or 4 of the eight congressional races were unopposed, the average abstention rate for the race for representative to Congress in Cavite’s districts 2, 3, 6, and 8, is 18 percent; and for districts 1, 4, 5, and 7, the average is 11 percent. However, the
national average abstentions for lone candidacies for the position of district representative to Congress is 25 percent whilst the national average abstentions for multiple candidates for the same position is 12 percent.
The most number of abstentions is 50 percent, which is the contest for district representative to Congress for the fifth district of Negros Occidental. The least is 8.9 percent in the contest for district representative to Congress for the first district of Valenzuela city in the National Capital Region.
From the perspective of the voter. The relatively high abstentions is a key feature in unopposed candidacies. These contests saw on average 15 percent more abstentions compared with the contests where there are two or more candidates. One explanation is that voters saw futility in voting for an already outright winner.