Soapbox: Crowdsourcing the #ae16 elections … can you help ElectionsNI

ElectionsNI newry and armagh webpageWe think it’s important for democracy that everyone is able to find accessible information and data on their elections. What’s more, we think they should have this as soon as possible, so they can follow the results as they happen.

Elections NI is a collaborative project led by ODI Belfast at NICVA and the Open Government Network NI. We’re not integrated with the Electoral Office’s work but we aim to report on everything they produce as the results for each count stage are concerned.

Those who’ve followed the live results before will know that the multi-stage count process for the Assembly is longer than for the General Election. While a lot of expert insight is broadcast during this time, wouldn’t it be great if the general public was able to find the same information that is available to people in count centres and draw their own conclusions about the stories behind the numbers.

When we looked into this idea we found like-minded groups in other places also motivated by politics and open data. The Irish LGMA live streamed open results data for the 2014 local elections (also using STV), and the Out for the Count project is taking a similar approach to crowdsourcing results for the English council elections, also in May.

Open data is data that anyone can use, modify and share. All of the data that we have on the site is open for anyone to download and use for their own purposes: analysis, teaching, journalism or just for general interest. If you’ve any bright ideas about how you might use the data, or how we might use it, we’d be pleased to hear about them.

It’s not just the visualisations and live updates that we’re interested in producing. We’ve adopted a simple tabular format to support the publication of elections data which can be adapted for other vote systems, including local and Westminster elections, so we doubt this project will be a one-off for 2016. Hopefully, open elections data will become the norm and Northern Ireland will be part of that process already seen in other parts of the world.

Anyone who’s ever tried to make sense of the Single Transferable Vote method will probably appreciate that it’s not the easiest voting system to visualise. Thanks to the sharing of some open source used in the Irish General Election, we’ve been able to create animations of the 2011 Assembly Elections count stages.

Animation of Newry & Armagh 2011 Assembly Election stages showing the distribution of surpluses and exclusion of low-polling candidates

Animation of Newry & Armagh 2011 Assembly Election stages showing the distribution of surpluses and exclusion of low-polling candidates

For 2016, we’ll bring you this along with a number of other visualisations in real time as the count happens. But that’s where we need your help. The actual stage results are available only in the count centres, so we need people on the ground to crowdsource the data.

We’re still looking for electoral observers, party agents and friends to help, and we’d be particularly grateful for coverage of the Foyle Arena, Lagan Valley Leisureplex and Omagh Leisure Complex count centres.

To help out, get in touch or just to stay up to date, visit electionsni.org, follow @ElectionsNI, @odiBelfast and @OpenGovNI on Twitter.

, , ,

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I just want to say that I love the animations, and will link to them from my site if I get a chance over the weekend. I caught only one minor error – Liam Logan in North Down was an SDLP candidate, not UUP.

  • Bob Harper

    Thanks Nicholas, I’ll get that fixed right away. Apologies to Mr Logan!

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Cheers. Just one other technical point: “voting age population” is not the same as “number of voters”. There are a lot of people in the population who are of voting age, but cannot vote due to being non-citizens, not registered, etc. I suggest you use either “number of voters” or the more technical term “electorate” (which is what the electoral office uses, and I follow them).

  • Bob Harper

    We do have that distinction, if you click on a constituency for the 2011 information you will see both voting age pop as well as electorate. For 2016 we only have the voting age at the moment (the figures are the 18+ population), but we’ll add in the electorate once we get that from the EO.