Vancouver election math raises question about legitimacy of city's next mayor

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      Back in 2014, Gregor Robertson won his third consecutive Vancouver mayoral election with a record 83,529 votes. This year, it’s possible that his successor could be elected with less than half that total.

      Robertson’s support was fuelled by a relatively high turnout of 43.7 percent in 2014. There were only two candidates with a serious shot at winning: Robertson and the NPA’s Kirk LaPointe, who collected 73,443 votes.

      In this election, there are six mayoral candidates each with a legitimate chance of attracting at least 8,000 votes. That means the mayoral voting pool will be spread more widely among the candidates. Plus, it’s possible that turnout won’t reach the 2014 level, so fewer overall votes will be cast.

      In the 2017 council by-election, there were 435,501 registered voters. A 40-percent turnout this year using that list would result in 174,200 people voting in the Vancouver election.

      Let’s assume that Coalition Vancouver’s Wai Young, ProVancouver’s David Chen, Vancouver 1st’s Fred Harding, and the noncompetitive independent mayoral candidates collectively win just 15 percent of that total. That’s a conservative estimate, based on poll results.

      This would leave 148,070 votes to be divided between Yes Vancouver candidate Hector Bremner, the NPA’s Ken Sim, and independents Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester.

      Let’s then assume that none of those four high-profile candidates earn less than 15 percent of the total vote. That’s a plausible scenario, given how their campaigns have unfolded.

      That means the fourth-place finisher would attract 26,130 votes, assuming a 40-percent turnout.

      This, in turn, would leave 121,940 votes to be divided among the top three. Then let’s assume that the third-place finisher collects 20 percent of the total votes, which is a realistic scenario. This would take another 34,840 votes out of the mayoral pool—leaving 87,100 votes to be divided between the top two finishers.

      Then, for the sake of argument, assume that the second-place finisher takes 23 percent of the votes. This would yield 40,066 votes for the runner-up, again assuming 40-percent turnout.

      The winner would be elected with just 46,434 votes—26.7 percent.

      In 2017, the population of Vancouver was 656,164, according to B.C. Stats. If the mayor were to be elected with 46,434 votes, that would reflect just seven percent of city residents. If this mayor also lacked majority support on council, he or she would be in a particularly weak position.

      Then consider the possibility of high-profile councillors attracting more than 60,000 votes each. Eight council candidates did this in 2014.

      These councillors, in turn, could argue that their positions on issues carry more weight than a less legitimate mayor. That’s something that never occurred during the Robertson era.