Euro Elections 7 – Northern Ireland

well_chuffed, Going Postal
Hare’s Gap, Mourne Mountains

Here is a brief description of the European Elections in Northern Ireland. It is brief because even after reading about it, not everything is clear especially the counting procedure. One of our commenters, maybe Dan4, was a trifle surprised I was not intending to try and describe this. After reading this article I suspect he may realise it was a step too far. Anyhow, here goes.

There are 11 candidates standing for election, this is the list.

Party Candidate
Alliance Party Naomi Long
Conservative Amandeep Bhogal
Democratic Unionist Party Diane Dodds
Greenies Clare Bailey
Independent Neil McCann
Independent Jane Morrice
Sinn Féin Martina Anderson
Social Democratic & Labour Party Colum Eastwood
Traditional Unionist Voice Jim Allister
UKIP Robert Hill
Ulster Unionist Party Danny Kennedy

It looks like one party, one candidate. You may have spotted the DUP candidate has a familiar name. Diane Dodds is the wife of Nigel Dodds, a DUP MP in Westminster. The two candidates with names in bold are existing MEPs. The third current MEP, Jim Nicholson of the UUP, is not standing again.

There does not seem to be a published poll for the election though as you fight your way through my garbled description of the counting procedure you may think it is too complex for an opinion poll to figure out who is going to be elected.

In the rest of the UK the elector puts one X in one box to choose their preferred candidate. In Northern Ireland the elector marks their preference(s) by putting 1 against their first choice, 2 against their second choice and so on. They can put as many or as few choices as they wish.

Then we reach the interesting bit, the counting. Instead of the d’Hondt method used in the rest of our Kingdom, Northern Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote system. That name rings a bell, wasn’t it what Nick the Clegg wanted for the House of Lords and the electorate rejected it ? A short explanation of the first part of the calculations may give some clue as to why it was rejected.

After the first preferences have been counted it becomes Monday maffs. First they calculate a quota, any candidate reaching that number of first preference votes is elected. In 2009 there were 484.572 valid votes. The quota calculation was

484,572 / (3+1)+1 = 121,144

The “divide by 3+1” is because there are 3 seats up for grabs.

The only candidate who reached that total was Baibre de Brun for Sinn Féin.

Now they calculate the “surplus”, by how many votes did the candidate exceed the quota, her number of first preferences was 126,184

126,184 – 121,144 = 5,040

Using this surplus, they start removing the candidates with fewest votes. The explanation made little sense to me so I won’t attempt to share it.

The next bit is slightly easier. They then start counting the second preference votes for the remaining candidates followed by the third and so on. When they find one candidate who reaches the quota , they get the next seat. It is unclear when they decide the quota will not be reached and just use the one with the most votes.

There is also some jiggery pokery where votes seem to be switched to other candidates and again it is just not easy to follow what is going on. It must be something OT might master but not me.

The formula used to work all this out is called the “Droop Quota”. As Wikipedia helpfully points out

The Droop quota was devised in 1868 by the English lawyer and mathematician Henry Richmond Droop (1831–1884) as a replacement for the earlier Hare Quota. It is also sometimes used in elections held under the largest remainder method of party-list proportional representation. Although we are all now better informed, I for one, am none the wiser.

The counting method was why I was originally going to avoid Northern Ireland’s election and having tried to describe it, it may have been better to stay that way. At least you can all see the list of candidates and have a vague idea of what goes on at the count.

© well_chuffed 2019

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