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Voting matters - Issue 2, September 1994

An STV Database

B A Wichmann

Since we know that no single algorithm for STV can have all the properties one might like, it appears that some statistical analysis may be needed to select an optimal algorithm. People do not vote at random and therefore any effective analysis must take into account voting patterns. For instance, if voters always voted strictly along party lines, proportional representation among such parties would be an important factor.

Collections of ballot papers from real elections would be useful for any practical analysis. There is a de facto standard for the representation of ballot papers in a computer, being the form used by the Meek algorithm. Hence collection of such data is practical and useful. Both David Hill, Nicholas Tideman and myself had such collections, accumulated informally over several years. I have now put this collection into a consistent framework so that the material can be provided to anybody who would like it - merely post a floppy disc to me, and I can return the disc with this data.

The data available has been classified in a number of ways as follows:

I would very much welcome additional data, especially from real elections in which some 'party' aspect is involved. The data can be provided in a form in which the origin cannot be traced. I have analysed an Irish election to produce a single data set in the Semi class, but this is very time consuming and has to make a number of assumptions to produce anything like the actual ballot papers. Hence real data is much superior.
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