An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Monday, June 14, 2004  

Local elections

We're in our 3rd day of counting and the glories of the paper ballot reveal themselves once more. How could anyone contemplate taking away this amazing experience from the people? The headlines first: Bill Carey (FG) (my esteemed father) scrapes in on the last count (8) with transfers from the surplus of his local FF arch enemy. Unfortunately the one nice FF candidate is edged out by an evil independent. So evil that as a Trim Urban Councillor, he sued his own council for compensation when he 'slipped' on the road.

But how quickly the traditional camps form and reform with unexpected allies. As suspected, when the boxes are opened and I am standing there to observe the papers come out of each box, the level of treachery from Carey's own running mate is apparent. They had split the constituency between them. Higgins for the town of Trim, my father to take the rural votes. As the rural boxes are opened and eagle-eyed we call out the number one votes, all is revealed. Of 65 Fine Gael votes in Ballivor, 50 go to my father, and 15 to Higgins. Who are the 15 voting for Higgins? The pattern is repeated in several other boxes. They're supposed to vote for my father. The fools think that they will not be found out. But the Taliban, our local branch of fundamentalist Fine Gael workers will acquire the register of those who voted. Those who didn't vote at all will be on hit list no. 1. But the traitors who did vote and voted for the wrong guy will be quickly identified and hunted down and form hit list no. 2. No pity for them if they need a planning permission or to be prioritised on the housing list!

But there is more....Sinn Fein we note with horror are polling very well. Everyone; FF, FG, and Labour unite in disgust. Nothing by thugs, waving the tricolour around. That's OUR flag, why do they get to wave it in victory when counts are announced? Scum. Unfortunately they do what others have failed to do. Politicise the socially alienated. They canvass where others have refused to go and now they reap the rewards. Vigilantism over law and order. Still, at least in South Meath they are headed off. But only by the aforementioned independent. People really do get the public representatives they deserve.

So at 3am on Saturday night as the count is postponed until Sunday, my mother, tally leader, does some quick calculations. Mental arithmethic is her forte. There is a surplus of 266 to be distributed. Half will be non-transferable. Murray is a rural candidate. The town based Independent therefore will get less transfers. The rural Labour candidate is still in the running and only 14 votes behind my father who is 60 behind the Independent. Two seats left. If half the votes are transferred 2:2:1 then my father should stay the 14 votes ahead of Labour. As the no. 7's and 8's are awarded to my father, and FF are terrified of a rural Labour candidate, suddenly the old enemies are friends and even the Minister down to supervise is rooting for my Dad. By 1pm the next day the results are announced. He's 16 votes ahead. Labour call for a recount but no one worries. The counts are always pretty accurate. He's in again. 5 more years. That'll take him to about 45 years as a councillor. A lifetime of public service. Not bad really.

But that's just the results. The count itself is like a 3 day intensive racing meeting. The party workers get to stand there and watch every vote being counted and the implications of the 7's and 8's become clear. A romance blossomed. New friendships are forged. And people say its expensive? The public are spending money around the town on food and drink. The counters are paid handsomely and that money will go into the local economy. Surely economists would approve of the money being distributed. Where would electronic voting money go? To programmers in Amsterdam? The Irish Independent bitched last week that councillors cost the state €116m last year. But the government blew €50m on e-voting that got flushed down the toilet. I think its cheap.

posted by Sarah | 10:43 2 comments
> The fools think that they will not be found out. But the Taliban,
> our local branch of fundamentalist Fine Gael workers will acquire
> the register of those who voted.

How is that done, exactly?

There's one detail of the paper ballot vs electronic that surprises me. The count in your post turned on the distribution of surplus. Ideally this should be handled by counting ALL of the surplus candidates' ballots and allocating the actual surplus proportionally to the remaining candidates. But instead they just "sample" and rellocate that way. So of course the recount doesn't change anything much because they are only recounting the same small number of ballots. Fine so far -- it's potentially unlucky but a tradeoff of complexity for speed of results. But with e-voting, this shouldn't be an issue -- the computer can easily count every single ballot. But my understanding is that it won't -- they'll still just sample and reallocate. What's the point in spending the money if you're not even taking advantage of the computing power?
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