Do FG really need 40 pts for a majority?

Percentage of first preference votes for the A...

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Every year in  the premiership a number of smaller teams set themselves the not inconsiderable task* of avoiding relegation with the hard number of 40pts as the target to be achieved. Some rare seasons you might need more than this, more often than not less will suffice but the hard target of 40pts has come to be engrained as the point of safety in the minds of players, managers and supporters like.

In Ireland the widely held belief is that you need a minimum of 40% of the 1st preference before you can even start beginning to think about an overall majority. But this is not a hard number, the number needed to get an overall majority has actually dropped considerably over the last few decades. There was a time when FF with 47/48% couldn’t get a majority due to the voting behaviour of the people and the toxicity of Charlie Haughey and the FF tribe to others. This changed over time as Bertie made the party much less transfer repellent, combined with more careful candidate selection. Yet this change could be about to work in the opposition direction also.

This election will be unusual for any number of reasons including most significantly of all, but to date unreported on, the likely elimination of front runner FF candidates who might in one scenario lock in more 1st preference votes than ever before thus lowering the number of votes need to win the last and 2nd last seat in many constituencies. This in turn could mean FG winning 80 seats from less than 40% of the 1st preference vote. Alternatively if some the outgoing FF TDs who didn’t lock in loads of 1st preferences were to trend more towards FG than we might have expected given the parties enmity down the years then this too might lower the final effective quota needed to win the last 2 seats. Why might those voting for FF transfer to FG, well, if the thesis were true that FF and FG draw a lot of support from the more conservative elements in Irish society then who do you think they would transfer to (if they transfer at all) in a choice between FG, Labour or SF?

Locked in votes would reduce what I term the final effective quota. The final effective quota differs from the quota in that if you exceed the quota then you are automatically elected but if you end up ahead of the last uneliminated candidate then you are deemed elected without exceeding the quota. Take Limerick in 2007 for example, the quota was 8230 but the last candidate was elected on 6966 making what appears the final effective quota just under 7,000 considerably lower the actual quota. In truth the final effect quota is not what the final candidate got but what they needed to get which is more than 5776, even less than the actual quota. All the last candidate needed to get was 5777 almost 2,500  vote less than the quota.

If there are more votes lost to non-transfers than usual then this effective final quota will be lower and thus seats could be won without getting remotely close to the quota. So in this election, we could see many more candidates than we might have expected getting elected without exceeding the quota.

* as a Palace fan avoiding relegation is practically my battle for a champions league place. We went down one year after finishing 4th from bottom because the Premier League was doing sizing from 22 to 20 teams. We also made it to the final 4 of the League and FA cups. So I’m not being sarcastic when I say that task is not inconsiderable.

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