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Voting matters - for the technical issues of STV

Issue 16, February 2003

(Complete issue in PDF, 116Kb.)


In the Republic of Ireland, plans for the introduction of electronic voting (in the polling booth, not at this stage, via the Internet) have advanced to a key stage. Suitable technology has been developed for the polling stations and software has been written to undertake the count. ERBS was contracted to test the counting software to ensure it adhered to the rules which are identical to the hand-counting ones. On the 17th May, the Dáil elections were held in which three constituencies were handled electronically as an experiment, while the others were handled by the traditional manual means. The software validation was completed in time under the direction of Joe Wadsworth using a program for the Irish rules written by Joe Otten and with the editor running over 400 tests, some specially written for the occasion. I am glad to report that the counting went smoothly on the day.

The Irish election data for the three constituencies (Meath, Dublin North and Dublin West) was placed on the Internet with the full results of the count. To my knowledge, this is the first time over 2,000 STV votes (ie, the full set of preferences given by each voter) has been made publicly available. It is now possible to analyse this data. It is immediately clear, even by a manual inspection that many final preferences are in ballot paper order.

The developments with STV in New Zealand have been continuing throughout 2002 and are reported in the final article in this issue by Stephen Todd.

Other articles in this issue includes a note by Peter Dean showing how the actual administration of STV has changed over the years in Tasmania (even without the impact of computers). David Hill also considers a disturbing example of changes to the preferences on ballot papers which are not visible to the traditional rules.

Eivind Stensholt presents a rather technical article about the implementation of Meek STV rules when equality of preference is permitted. (Does the observed ballot-paper ordering with the Irish election indicate that equality of preference should be allowed?)

The remaining article is a short one by myself about the vexed question of proportionality.

Welcome to the McDougall Trust

This issue is the last one under the ERS banner. Following discussions between ERS and the Trust, Voting matters is being transferred to the Trust for publication for the time being. At this point, no significant changes are envisaged.

Brian Wichmann

Papers with citations

  1. P Dean: STV in Tasmania, p2
  2. E Stensholt: Implementing a suggestion of Meek's, p2-5
  3. I D Hill: What would a different method have done?, p5 [18, 11-12, PDF]. [19, 14-16, PDF].
  4. I D Hill: What sort of proportionality?, p5-6 [16, 6-8].
  5. B A Wichmann: Proportionality Revisited, p6-8 [20, 12-22, PDF].
  6. S W Todd: STV in New Zealand, p8-10

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