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Commentary: Village voting determines winners and losers

Lolo increased his vote margin over Faoa by almost 700 votes, when you compare the November 6 results with the November 20 results.

Where did he pick up this additional margin of victory?

Let’s look at the numbers in two ways.

First, let’s look at where Lolo got the most gain in sheer numbers.

Second, let’s look at where Lolo got the greatest gain as a percentage, even if the actual numbers aren’t that impressive.

For those of you who paid attention in school, the first method looks at the “absolute” gains Lolo made, and the second method looks at the “relative” gains Lolo made. The distinction is important and let’s use our first three examples to explain why.

Example one: a small polling place with big relative gains for Lolo, but small absolute gains— because the number of votes in that polling place just don’t add up to big numbers.

Example two: a big polling place with small relative gains for Lolo, but large absolute gains— because the large number of votes at stake mean that even a small percentage increase results in a big numerical increase in the margin of victory.

Example three is the campaign manager’s goal: a big polling place with big relative gains for Lolo that result in big numerical increases as well.

Example one: polling place Amaua (covering Amaua, Alega and Avaio). Lolo’s margin over Faoa increased in Amaua by 343% (from a winning margin of 7 in the general election to a winning margin of 31 in the run-off election). This was one of the greatest relative gains for Lolo in American Samoa. But it built Lolo’s lead over Faoa by only 24 votes, because Amaua is one of the smallest polling places in American Samoa (111 votes were cast in Amaua, including the author’s).

Example two: polling place Nu’uuli. Lolo actually lost in Nu’uuli on both November 6 and November 20. But on November 6 he lost by 133 votes and on November 20 he lost by only 24 votes. Therefore, relative to Faoa, he improved by 109 votes, which is the equivalent of an 84% gain. In other words, in percentage terms, Lolo only gained 84% in Nuuuli compared to 343% in Amaua, but the gain in Nu’uuli was much more important to his victory (a gain of 109 in Nu’uuli vs a gain of 24 in Amaua). This is because Nu’uuli has ten times as many voters as Amaua (1168 vs 111).

Example three: In Pago Pago, Lolo got everything: a big percentage increase in a big polling place, resulting in a big increase in his margin of victory. His margin over Faoa climbed from a mere 33 votes (Nov. 6) to an overwhelming 119 votes two weeks later, or an increase of 261%. And because Pago Pago has so many voters (767 to be exact), Lolo increased his margin over Faoa by 86 votes.

Other areas where Lolo picked up significant support of one or both types include:

• Utulei/Gataivai (292% shift, resulting in a shift of 76 votes in Lolo’s margin of victory).

• Leone (84% shift, +82).

• Fagatogo (38% shift, +37).

• Ta’u voters residing on Tutuila (15%, shift, +34)

• Aunu’u (400% shift, +20)

• Alao (367% shift, +11)

• Aoloau/Aasu (333% shift, +10)

Not all polling places broke for Lolo. In 10 out of the 45 polling places, Lolo’s margin of victory shrunk from November 6 to November 20. The ten are listed below, along with the number of votes that shifted against Lolo’s victory margin. These are the villages where the Faoa campaign was able to increase their strength relative to Lolo in the two week run-off period.

Aoa (a 28-vote decrease in Lolo’s margin of victory)

Tafuna (-19)

Fitiuta (-22)

Lauli’i (-14)

Faleasao (-10)

Ta’u (-9)

Atu’u/Leloaloa (-7)

Malaeloa/Aitulagi (-6)

Vatia (-4)

Manu’a voters living on Tutuila (and to a lesser extent, Manu’a voters living on those islands) won the race for Lolo. Districts 1 (Ta’u) and 2 (Ofu and Olosega) provided Lolo with a 468 vote advantage over Faoa.

Pago Pago’s vote (District 9) was icing on the cake for Lolo, increasing the vote advantage by 119 to 577. Matu’u/Faganeanea was the next strongest redoubt for Lolo, increasing his advantage by 73 votes, to 650.

For Faoa, his biggest advantages were in Malaeloa (where Faoa outpolled Lolo by 88 votes), Tafuna (74), Fagatogo (61), Masefau (45), Laulii (35), Nuuuli (24), Vaitogi (22) , and Pavaiai (22).

The voting results affirm, with a vengeance, the importance of family and village voting. There is wide variance between the results in villages that can only be explained by family and village voting.

In Lauli’i, for example, Faoa defeated Lolo 137 to 102. But in Fagaitua, the closest large village to the east, Lolo defeated Faoa 96 to 65. Tula and Alao are located next to one another on the far east, but Faoa easily beat Lolo in Tula, only to be soundly defeated by Lolo in Alao. Only family voting can explain these variances, and I lack the knowledge about family voting patterns to help readers gain insight into these matters.