How many votes does a senatorial candidate need to win?

Fernando Cabigao Jr., ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group

TG Guingona, Joel Villanueva, Manny Pacquiao and Risa Hontiveros. ABS-CBN News

There are 50 senatorial candidates in the May 9 elections, but only 12 will be chosen -- and it is going to be a tight race for the 12th slot.

If the February 2016 survey on senatorial preferences by survey firm Pulse Asia were to be believed, candidates Joel Villanueva, TG Guingona, Risa Hontiveros, and Manny Pacquiao all have a winning chance to land in the 11th or 12th slot, but they have to outdo each other.

These four candidates may possibly earn a spot in the so-called “Magic 12”. Or placed 13th and 14th in the elections---and be declared loser.

So how many millions of votes should a candidate need to muster to land in the Magic 12?

In Pulse’s February 2016 survey, Villanueva ranked 9-14; TG Guingona ranked 10-14, Hontiveros 11-14, and Pacquiao 11-14, down from the 8-10 in its January 2016 survey.

Based on the data gathered by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, a candidate would need at least 11.1 million votes to enter the Magic 12.

That estimate is based on the percentage of votes that ushered Senators TG Guingona and Gringo Honasan into the 12th spot in the 2010 and 2013, respectively.

In 2010, Guingona garnered 26.8 percent of the votes. Honasan got 32.9 percent of the votes in 2013.

Seventy-five percent of registered voters actually voted in 2010. Voter turnout slightly increased to 77 percent in 2013.

Assuming that voter turnout this year would be somewhere in the middle, or 76 percent, the number of voters who would turn up for the May polls is expected to be around 41.4 million.

Applying the percentage of votes garnered by the 12th placers in 2010 and 2013 -- 26.8 to 32.9 percent -- to the expected number of registered voters in May (41.4 million) would mean that a senatorial candidate needs to garner anywhere from 11.1 million to 13.6 million in order for him to make it to the 12th spot.

But Pulse Asia’s president Ronald Holmes said these estimates may still vary depending on at least two factors--the number of contenders and the distribution of votes among the candidates.

Hence, the candidate will have to campaign harder than usual to reach even beyond the 14-million mark.

The 12th senator in the 2010 elections garnered a relatively lower percentage of votes compared to that in 2013, largely because there were 61 contenders for the Senate in 2010, the highest for the past four senatorial elections.

The number of senatorial contenders was 33 in 2013, 37 in 2007, and 48 in 2004.

The 2013 elections saw the lowest number of candidates competing for a Senate seat for the past four senatorial elections at 33.

Consequently, the 12th winning senator in 2013 also won a higher percentage of the votes compared to 2010.

Using these estimates, a senatorial candidate will have to try to draw votes from the top 10 vote-rich provinces--Cebu, Cavite, Pangasinan, Laguna, Negros Occidental, Bulacan, Batangas, Rizal, Davao del Sur, and Iloilo), which have an aggregate 17 million voters.

Cebu alone has 2.7 million voters followed by Cavite and Pangasinan, 1.84 million and 1.7 million, respectively.

The combined votes of these three provinces, 6.27 million, are already half of the 11.1 million votes needed by a senatorial candidate.

For the 2016 elections, there will be 17 more senatorial candidates than the 2013 elections and 11 less than the 2010 elections.

Every three years, 12 senators are elected to serve a six-year term.

They join the 12 sitting senators who are on their midterm (or serving the last three years of their term).

Under the 1987 Constitution, a senator is only allowed to serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. Some senators take a brief three-year hiatus from politics after reaching their term limit.

Pulse Asia reported 0.1 percent of 1,800 respondents “refused” to answer while 0.8 percent answered “don’t know” who to vote while another 1.4 percent answered “none” of the candidates.

Based on its February 2016 survey, the Social Weather Stations reported that based on its February 2016 pre-elections survey, five candidates have better chances of grabbing one of the last three spots in the Magic 12: they are Hontiveros, Guingona, Dick Gordon, Gatchalian, and Villanueva.

The SWS reported four percent of 1,200 respondents were undecided when asked almost the same question.