We’re in the middle of counting our local council and European Parliament elections right now. If you want to see how the proportional representation Single Transferable Vote (described by some as “game theory meets algebra” and beloved by Irish political wonks) works in real time, now’s a good time. I have spreadsheets! (Well, I have somebody else’s spreadsheets. A local journalist has shared his spreadsheets on Twitter and Google Docs.)

The Republic of Ireland has (until Brexit) 3 constituencies sharing 11 seats. Once Britain exits Ireland will get two more seats (going to Dublin and South), so there will be two people sitting in the wings at the end of the count (Dublin and South get the seats).

Advertisement

Dublin has 3 seats, soon to be 4 (Dublin city and Dublin county areas of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin )

Advertisement

Midlands-North-West, a sprawling 4 seat constituency of counties Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Cavan, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Galway, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo and Donegal.

Advertisement

and Ireland South, a 4 soon to be 5 seat constituency with all the other counties, spreading along Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow; Limerick and Waterford.

Advertisement

(I don’t have a spreadsheet link for South.) ETA Here’s a spreadsheet for the Ireland South count! @GavReilly you absolute legend!

Advertisement

All countries voting for seats in the European Parliament need to use some sort of Proportional Representation voting system. Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote for its local and national elections as well, so it does the same for EP elections. Everything is paper ballot. (There was a voting machine scandal in the 90s and last I heard we’re still paying lots of tax for the storage of machines that were never fit for purpose.) All the candidates are listed, and you give them numbers by preference.

Advertisement

Yes, there were a ridiculous amount of candidates in these elections. People were complaining that the ballots were too long to fit in the booths and causing trouble for people with physical disabilities. Also, we had three separate ballots, because we were also voting for local county council elections and a referendum to remove ridiculous requirements around divorce from the constitution and allow the government to legislate for something more reasonable (that passed with something like an over 80% vote I believe).

Advertisement

What really takes time to count, though, is the Single Transferable Vote. If a candidate gets enough “#1" first preference votes to hit the quota, they are deemed to be elected and surplus ballots get redistributed to the “#2" preference on the ballots. If nobody hits quota, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is knocked out of the running and their ballots are redistributed to the next eligible preference on the ballot.

Advertisement

Incumbent MEP Mairéad McGuinness got well over quota on the first count in Midlands-North-West.

Advertisement

We voted Friday, but because elections were happening across four days around Europe, the counting couldn’t officially start till Sunday.

Advertisement

There are always a number of spoiled ballots, but anything that can be interpreted as a “clear preference” is done so. This does not include voting for pictures of cats.

Advertisement

The count is slow you guys! It continues until there are only as many players as there are chairs.

Advertisement

ETA: Here’s an example of how transfers work with party strategy. Mairead McGuinness was a pretty safe sitting MEP, since she was the vice president of the outgoing parliament and a voice of sanity on Brexit issues. She and her fellow party member “running mate” Maria Walsh focused on canvassing different areas in the constituency, asking for number 1 and 2 votes. Walsh is a newbie and the party clearly hoped she would be popular with young voters, but she comes off as an overly trained empty gong mainly chosen because she has the media training of beauty pageants. But the party name recognition and the running “together” Walsh McGuinness’ extra votes instead of splitting them, and now a significant amount of McGuinness’ vote surplus went to Walsh. Some went to other candidates, but Walsh had a major advantage from getting the “no. 2" vote of a popular candidate.

Advertisement

Nobody has gotten enough votes to be safe yet though, so Diarmuid Mulcahy is out this round. Mulcahy has the least votes because he’s a rando who thinks 5G will give everyone cancer. He’s running on the issues of “health assessments for 5G” and “instituting a public banking system”. So, people who voted for him may be more likely to be voting for populist candidates, contrarians, and further to the left. Several of the independents are nutjobs. No telling with transfers. Renua is a splinter faction of religious fascists who couldn’t handle the government bowing to the will of the people and giving women bodily autonomy. Tend to be more right wing. I’m guessing not that many of his votes will go there (or to Healy-Eames who broke from Fine Gael for the same reason), but the socialist small party People Before Profit candidate Cyril Brennan may pick up some votes, and maybe (fingers crossed) the Green candidate Saorise McHugh, who is a dark horse but really impressed people in the one televised debate.