The kindly and unkindly science of voter transfers in STV…

I remember Iain Dale remarking on one Doughty Street election broadcast we pulled together for the 2007 Irish general election that what shocked him was the public informality with which people refered to their politicians… Bertie, Enda, Eamon, Gerry…

Perhaps one reason is the fact you get minus points for nastiness (at least as a party), in the complex STV voting system the south shares with the north… Where they lead, perhaps we’ll follow… In an excellent piece by one of the few who fully understand how it works, Nicholas Whyte explains how the politics of transfers actually works:

The most spectacular example of transfers making a difference in 2007 was the Upper Bann count, where George Savage, in eighth place with only 2,167 first preference votes, was pulled ahead of the trailing DUP candidate on transfers from his own party colleagues, and then was pulled ahead of the second SF candidate once the DUP transfers trickled to him, taking the last seat by a comfortable four-figure margin.

There were four other constituencies in 2007 where one of the top six candidates on first preferences failed to get elected, in all four cases losing out to the SDLP whose candidate had placed seventh: in West Belfast and South Antrim, the losers were the DUP, and in Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Foyle, Sinn Féin candidates similarly lost. The SDLP deserve good marks in general for their vote management, which however went awry in West Tyrone where three SDLP candidates with a quota of votes between them failed to transfer between each other and allowed Independent candidate Kieran Deeny to retain his seat. Sinn Féin, of course, did even more impressively, getting five candidates elected in West Belfast, with less than five hundred votes separating Gerry Adams’ four running-mates.

If you’re not impressed with Sinn Fein’s online offering, you can also access the Stratagem count toolkit…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty