The Count: How Ireland Elects People

An educational supplement from NFB. Let’s talk about the counting process. Single Transferable Vote is a complex system, so I’ll do my best. If confused about something, read this, or ask in comments.

I’ll be using Limerick City (of course) as a template, with some numbers from the Limerick Post poll to help me out. They’re no longer what they were (I took these a week ago) but that poll is pretty stupid anyway. I’m just using it for the numbers.

In terms of where transfers and surpluses go, I’m the using the numbers from the 2007 Limerick East count as the guide.


Total Poll is 531. In order to find the quota, you divide that number by the amount of seats up for grabs + one  and then add another one to that result. That’s four seats.  531 divided by four +1 and another one added onto that leaves us with a quota of 103. That is the magic number. Reach that, and you’re elected. So:

First Count

Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 99
O’Dea: 96
O’Sullivan: 56
Prendiville: 50
Power: 34
O’Donnell: 29
Leddin: 29
Kiely: 18
Cahill: 11

Michael Noonan is elected on the first count with 109 votes. As such, his surplus is that minus the quota: Six votes.

For the second count those six have to be redistributed based on the second preferences of those who voted for Noonan. So all of Noonan’s 109 votes are counted again and notes taken of those second preferences. Once those numbers have been established, those six surplus votes are divided out by the overall split in Noonan’s second preferences, rounding off where applicable. That is, if 70 of those votes are for O’Donnell, then four of the six surplus votes go to him.

So, the Second Count:

Noonan’s surplus, six votes, divided.

Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 99
O’Dea: 96
O’Sullivan: 58 (+2)
Prendiville: 50
Power: 34
O’Donnell: 33 (+4)
Leddin: 29
Kiely: 18
Cahill: 11

Noonan’s part in the process is done. His surplus was not enough to get anyone over the line. As a result, the person lowest placed, in this case Sheila Cahill with 11 votes, is declared eliminated, and all of her votes (including any transfers she may have gotten from Noonan) are redistributed. In this situation, early in the count, those with very low numbers can be eliminated together, notably when there is no chance of them overtaking those above them due to the number of redistributed votes per count. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll just skip that step in this example.

Anyway, Cahill’s 11 votes are counted again, with her second preferences (and if those seconds were for Noonan, third preferences) noted. Her votes are redistributed as such.

Third Count

Cahill eliminated, 11 votes.

Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 99
O’Dea: 98 (+2)
O’Sullivan: 64 (+5)
Prendiville: 50
Power: 35 (+1)
O’Donnell: 36 (+3)
Leddin: 29
Kiely: 18

Again, no one else has breached 103 yet. Independent Kevin Kiely, on 18, is now the lowest and is eliminated. His votes are recounted for his second (or third or fourth preferences of necessary) preferences and redistributed. At this point, you’ll start to see the non-transferable votes (that is, votes, in this case, that only marked Kiely, Cahill and Noonan, and no one else) which must be discounted. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll act like there are none in this mock count, but it will happen, with a more notable impact as you go along.

Fourth Count

Kiely eliminated, 18 votes.

Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 99
O’Dea: 99 (+1)
O’Sullivan: 67 (+3)
Prendiville: 51 (+1)
O’Donnell: 45 (+9)
Power: 36 (+1)
Leddin: 32 (+3)

Still, no-one else has reached 103. Labour Cllr Joe Leddin is now eliminated and the process begins again.

Fifth Count

Leddin eliminated, 32 votes.

Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 105 (+6)
O’Dea: 99
O’Sullivan: 87 (+20)
Prendiville: 55 (+4)
O’Donnell: 47 (+2)
Power: 36

Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan breaches the quota and is deemed elected. Now, his surplus, just two votes, is redistributed as Noonan’s was after the first count.

Sixth Count

Quinlivan’s surplus, 2 votes.

Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 105
O’Dea: 99
O’Sullivan: 88 (+1)
Prendiville: 56 (+1)
O’Donnell: 47
Power: 36

No one else has reached quota. Fianna Fail’s Peter Power is next eliminated, the first sitting TD to be so. His votes are thus distributed.

Seventh Count

Power eliminated, 36 votes.

O’Dea: 123 (+24)
Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 105
O’Sullivan: 92 (+4)
Prendiville: 57 (+1)
O’Donnell: 54 (+7)

O’Dea, with Power’s surplus, reaches quota, and in fact overtakes Noonan and Quinlivan in terms of votes. In terms of records however, the count will be listed by the TD’s elected (sorted by first count percentage) then those unelected (sorted agin by first count percentage) rather than their overall votes at the end of multiple counts.

O’Dea’s surplus of 20 votes is then distributed, in what will be the last count.

Eight Count

O’Dea’s surplus, 20 votes.

O’Dea: 124
Noonan: 109
Quinlivan: 105
O’Sullivan: 103 (+11)
O’Donnell: 62 (+8)
Prendiville: 59 (+1)

Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan reaches quota. As all four seats have been filled, the count is over. If she had not reached quota, there would only have been one more count anyway. Prendiville would have been eliminated, and once his surplus (presumably going to O’Sullivan) was given away, only five candidates would have been left. And even if that hadn’t been enough to get her over the line, eliminating the lowest, O’Donnell, is pointless as you’d be left with just enough TDs to fill the seats.

So, there you have it. That’s how out TDs get elected.

This entry was posted in General Election 2011, Ireland, Limerick, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Count: How Ireland Elects People

  1. Trget says:

    If nothing else that makes me understand why there’s a need for electronic voting, even if only the counting procedure is done electronically.

  2. HandsofBlue says:

    I don’t think we’ll ever turn to electronic voting after the disaster of their attempted implmentation in the last term. It would speed the process up considerably though. Counting generally takes two days for most constituencies under this system.

  3. Pingback: NFBs General Election Index | Never Felt Better

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s