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Our voting system June 5, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in General Bloggery, Ireland & the Irish.

Strange results, dodgy electoral registers and all that jazz aside, our voting system is a bit mad in fairness. It’s something I didn’t know a lot about until I researched it recently.

We use the “Single Transferable Vote” system which I will attempt to briefly explain as follows :

– People vote in order of preference for a person of their choice, ranking the candidates 1 through however many there are, or just 1 – their first preference.  They rank however many they like.
– A quota is set by dividing the number of valid votes by the number of seats, plus 1. So say for example, there are 72,548 valid votes in your constituency and there are 4 seats. The quota would be (72,548 ÷ 5) + 1, which is 14,511 of a quota.
– Then the votes are counted and any candidate reaching or exceeding the quota with first preference votes, are deemed to be elected.

Then the fun starts …

– This system is designed so as not to waste votes. So if not enough candidates (4 in this case) have been elected on the first count, then counting continues, taking into account any surplus of votes of an elected candidate.

For example, if someone was elected with 15,000 first preference votes he would have a surplus of 15,000 – 14,511 = 489 votes to be distributed. The second preference on those ballot papers (i.e. the person the voter marked as no.2 and so on) is now counted as a vote for that candidate. Distribution continues until the quota has been reached.

– The candidate with the lowest amount of votes is eliminated and their votes distributed in turn and so on until the seats are filled.

Clear as muck eh ? The trouble is that your second preference vote (and subsequent preferences) may never be counted. In the surplus scenario mentioned above the 489 votes of a surplus are taken randomly from the elected candidate’s pile or piles of 15,000.

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