Democratic Numb3rs

Earlier this month here in Nova Scotia we undertook an exercise in democracy, the very foundation of our legal system. From a numbers perspective two very interesting numbers came out of that exercise. Firstly, the results of the election proved to be the first time in 130 years that a first term government in Nova Scotia was not returned to power. This is not a political blog so I’m not going to go into any depth on that point other than to say that something happening for the first time in 130 years sounds like a significant event but actually pales in comparison to the number that really interested me from this exercise.

One particular riding in Nova Scotia: Eastern Shore, elected a member of government for the 13th election in a row dating back to 1970. While a 43 year streak does not sound as impressive as a 130 year streak when you break the numbers down a bit more it becomes quite impressive. By going back and looking at the results of the last 13 general elections and bringing independent probability calculations into the picture we can determine the odds of one riding electing a member of government 13 times in a row.

Looking at the numbers there were 2 candidates in the 1970 election so a 1/2 chance of electing a member of government. In 1974, 3 candidates so a 1/3 chance, representing this numerically:

1/2 X 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/4 X 1/3 X 1/4 X 1/4 X 1/3 OR

.5 X .33 X .33 X .33 X .33 X .33 X .33 X .33 X .25 X .33 X .25 X .25 X .33

equals a 1 in 2519424 chance of this bellwether riding electing a member of government every single time 13 elections in a row.

That is a truly impressive number worthy of hanging a bell around the neck of a castrated ram!


  1. presumably, however, the voting has not been random, so the chances of electing a local member from the party chosen by the province to be government are normally no worse than 1 in 2, most of the time (maybe the last couple of elections have been different). And being attuned to the temper of the times is different from voting randomly.

    So the likelihood of this result happening completely by chance may be low, as your figure suggests, but the likelihood of it happening as a result of sensitivity to political forces is a good deal higher. Is this riding the only one in the province with this record? Are there others with very nearly ‘perfect’ records as well?