Sunday, August 15, 2010

Large Constituencies

The Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution recently published the findings of its review of the electoral system. Running to 220 pages, it is quite the in-depth review and analysis of electoral systems in general, PR-STV in particular and various other matters relating to how we run elections in this country. Of particular interest to me were two sections towards the end - 5.62 about the boundaries of constituencies and 5.67 recommending at least 4 TDs per constituency.

Currently the constitution only puts a lower bound on the number of TDs per constituency at 3. Therefore all that is needed to have nice large, proportional constituencies is some legislation amending the schedule that describes the various Dáil constituencies. The report suggests that boundaries should respect natural and county boundaries as much as possible and also not artificially divide towns, like has happened to Swords in the last review. Putting these two rules together and you can come up with some entertaining constituencies.

Firstly I have based these divisions on the results of the 2006 census and keeping the number of TDs at 166. Secondly I have kept counties intact as opposed to the current method of moving odd electoral districts across county boundaries so the ratios are not as consistent as they should be.

Dublin1,187,17647Split into 6 constituencies
Cork481,292519Split into 3 constituencies
Galway231,6709Largest single county constituency
Wexford131,7495Largest current existing constituency
Louth111,2674Merge with Monaghan
Waterford107,9614Smallest single county constituency
Kilkenny87,5584Merge with Carlow
Westmeath79,3463Merge with Laois and Offaly
Offaly70,8683Merge with Westmeath and Laois
Laois67,0593Merge with Westmeath and Offaly
Cavan64,0033Merge with Longford and Leitrim
Sligo60,8942Merge with Roscommon
Roscommon58,7682Merge with Sligo
Monaghan55,8162Merge with Louth
Carlow50,3492Merge with Kilkenny
Longford34,3911Merge with Cavan and Leitrim
Leitrim28,9501Merge with Cavan and Longford

The Dublin split would need some re-jigging of existing constituencies but basically you could pair up North and West(8), North East and North Central(6), Central and North West(7), South East and South Central(9), Mid West and South West(8), South and Dún Laoghaire(9).

Cork is a bit more problematic - you would want a City constituency with 7 seats and then two county constituencies East and West each with 6. The current layout is not particularly amenable to this arrangement and so substantial changes would be required.

In this scheme all constituencies return at least 4 members (Clare and Waterford both having this size along with the new Sligo/Roscommon) and range up to 9 in Galway and the Midlands (Westmeath, Offaly and Laois). Kerry turns out to be the biggest winner by being over-represented by just over 0.5 of a TD with Sligo/Roscommon loosing out on 0.68 of a TD. I can already hear the "No taxation for under-representation" chants beginning.

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