Visualising the Vote Count

Screenshot 2014-05-30 at 07.58.47 - Edited (1)Well, it’s another election passed for me in Ireland. Ireland went to the polls last Friday and turnout was a respectable well above 50% of eligible voters stating their preferences. A few tight runs and a few surprises. The process of the count here is fascinating for me as a Canadian. Staying up a few hours after the polls close in Canada and you pretty much know the shape of the government to be, where in Ireland the full process in guaranteed to take days to complete. There is no feedback other than exit polls on the day of the election and the count commences in the day or days following. In the case of this instance with a combination of local election and election of EU representatives the counts for local authorities began the next morning and nearly a week later we are still waiting for it to conclude. The election of representatives to the European Parliament was another game entirely as voting took place two days later throughout the much of rest of Europe, so counts were held off for 48 hours. However, the commencement of the counting process (it’s a big thing in Ireland) is when the fun really starts. Being used to first-past-the-post in Canada, the concept of STV (single transferable vote) system as practised here is a rather complex concept. It is so even for many who have enjoyed it all their life. It is ‘clearly’ explained in Wikipedia – but it still remains a bit of complexity.

Thus I was quite pleasantly surprised when one of our newly elected representatives in my own constituency, Claire Byrne of the Green Party, published some simple visualisations demonstrating the entire SVT process, using real count data for all constituencies across the country. What is particularly notable about these visualisation (to me) is that there are simple, with an animation that doesn’t distract from the presentation of the data itself, but demonstrate a complex process simply. In this case, as the first and subsequent counts take place, candidates counts move towards the quota and are elected, their second preferences are visually distributed amongst their colleagues – until the full slate of positions are filled. This is a superb example of data visualisation, data integrity, maximal data-ink ratio, no chart junk, data density. The animations are not for any purpose other than clearly conveying the transfer process itself. Kudos to our newly elected representative Claire for making this available and congratulations on your successful campaign. The results of the count for my own Pembroke-South Dock is shown in the image aligned. I note as well, that the visualisation continues to be improved with nice little touches over the past few days. Well done Claire!

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