It is 1.5 months till Estonian #LocalElections. Registration of candidates must be completed tomorrow (7th Sept). After that, there will be several days for corrections and withdrawals. Next week we will find out what the final electoral lists and candidate numbers are. #Eesti
Voter lists will be locked in on 17th of September. Voter registration is automatic in #Estonia and it means that anybody who is 16 y/o on election day and whose official address is registered in a given municipality on 17th of September, will be able to vote there.
As electoral system is proportionate with 5% threshold, it can be said that everybody's vote counts equally. Or can it?
In fact, Local Elections feature the ONLY case of #gerrymandering in Estonia! In all municipalities but 2 there are no electoral districts - all candidates are elected as a result of an at-large proportionate vote.
But in 2 municipalities - Tallinn and the small rural Peipsiääre parish, there are districts.
In Peipsiääre, there are 4 electoral discticts, all centered on former pre-2017 administrative reform parishes. There seats are distributed in proportion to the number of voters. Image
It's in the capital city of Tallinn that the only case of #gerrymandering can be found. #Tallinn is divided into 8 city disctricts. By law, electoral districts during local elections must coincide with city district borders.
However, the seats are NOT distributed proportionately. Currently there are 79 seats on Tallinn's City Council. 40 of them are divided equally between all city districts and the remaining 39 are divided proportionately, NOT taking into account the 40 aforementioned seats.
In effect, smaller city districts are over-represented and larger ones are under-represented. At extreme ends, on 1st June 2021 district of #Pirita had 14463 registered voters and was awarded 7 (5+2) seats, while #Lasnamäe had 94136 registered voters and 16 (5+11) seats. Image
In other words, Pirita has 2066 voters per seat and Lasnamäe 5884 voters per seat - difference of almost 3 times! Incidentially, Lasnamäe is the most russophone district with the lowest average incomes per capita in Tallinn, while Pirita is 2nd least russophone and the richest. Average monthly pre-tax ear...
Now, this might sound like a blatant gerrymandering, but thankfully, in Tallinn's #LocalElections all seats not won by parties outright inside the districts are distributed as levelling seats. It is the same system as used in Riigikogu elections.
First, candidates who got enough votes for a simple quota in their district, are elected with a personal mandate. Second, those electoral lists in the districts that exceeded the quota, get the number of district mandates equal to the amount of times they exceeded the quota.
The remaining indistributed seats are divided between electoral lists as levelling seats, using simple d'Hondt method. Personal and district mandates already distributed are taken into account.
Note that only those lists that crossed 5% threshold in the city as a whole, get either district seats or levelling seats.
In effect, in most cases there will be enough of levelling seats to divide the seats proprotionately, so that rules pertaining to individual or district seats don't impact the final seat totals by party - if you wanted a quick approximation of seat distribution, just use d'Hondt.
Of course, there are sometimes curious cases, such as ex-Centre leader Edgar Savisaar being elected with personal mandate in Lasnamäe in 2017 Local Elections, but with his list narrowly missing the threshold. So he was the sole candidate elected from his list. Image
So - there is no gerrymandering after all thanks to levelling seats, right? Almost, but not quite. Tallinn's gerrymandering in most cases does not change seat total by party/electoral list, but it impacts who exactly gets elected from the list.
If seats were distributed proportionately between the districts, more elected city council members would be from districts like Lasnamäe and fewer from districts like Pirita. They would represent the same party, but different voters.
Is this system justified on the grounds of giving a larger say to smaller districts? Does it even matters if there is usually enough of levelling seats?
Those questions are debatable. However, it is clear that 🇪🇪 has it's very own curious case of #gerrymandering.

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