#OSBelfast sessions on Thursday 1 May: election surgery & brainstorm at noon; election observing at 1pm

Want to know about becoming an election observer? Have ideas about how the upcoming elections and results could be covered online in novel ways?

the open source belfast logoOpen Source Belfast runs annually in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter and offers a performance space, music venue and workshop hub. For eleven days, every hour something new happens, between noon and 6pm (2-7pm at weekends and bank holidays) in an otherwise vacant building. It’s free and open to the public, both to attend and to volunteer to run events.

On Thursday 1 May I’m hosting a couple of very informal lunchtime events looking at the upcoming elections. In case you’ve been asleep at the back of the class, there are two elections coming up on the 22 May: electing councillors to the new (shadow) super-councils and electing three MEPs to represent Northern Ireland in the European Parliament.

Chart showing how many candidates from each party are running in each constituency in the 2011 Assembly electionnoon // Election Surgery + Brainstorm about how to graph the election. Compared with the last European election in 2009, there should be a lot more online interest in the proceedings. I’m not bringing all the answers, but I’m happy to walk through the election timetable of what happens when and where on 22 May and the next four or five days and (eg, where and when the verifications and counts will be happening and when results might be announced). But I’d like the chance to brainstorm about some of the stats, graphs and infographics we might want to (collectively) produce during the election, slicing and dicing parties and candidates and results in different ways to tell the story of the election. Anoraks, bloggers, journalists and people seeking shelter all welcome!

sorting Belfast West assembly votes - May 20111pm // Election observing … Why? And how do I sign up? Part of the UK’s electoral law allows members of the public to observe the democratic system at work. Specifically, you can sign up with the Electoral Commission to become an accredited Election Observer. No money exchanges hands, and there are some sensible conditions you sign up to obey (like not identifying anyone’s vote). But you do get a shiny card that allows you to turn up unannounced nearly anywhere there is a ballot paper over the election period: at the Electoral Offices when they’re processing postal ballots; at all polling stations throughout the hours of polling; at the count centres when the ballot papers for council and Euro election are being verified and later counted. You get a ring side seat of the process in action, the chance to check that the process is working effectively and properly, and the opportunity to feed back what’s working and what could be improved. I’ll explain a bit more about my experiences observing elections in NI over the last 4 or 5 years, as well as how to get signed up in time for May 22. And I might try to rope in some people to share their experience of observing elections overseas.

You’ll find us beside the Duke of York pub in 3-5 Commercial Court, BT1 2NB. No registration necessary – though feel free to leave a comment to let me know someone’s coming! Bring a sandwich. And don’t worry if you’re late. You’ll also have plenty of time to dash from Cathedral Quarter up to the NICVA Tweet-Up in Duncairn Gardens (which doesn’t start until 2.30pm).

You can see the emerging programme of hourly sessions on the Open Source Belfast website. And if you’ve an idea for a performance, talk, workshop, music or dance, check the programme for a free slot and suggest it using the online form. Adam and the team of volunteers would love to hear from you.

Open Source Belfast is a somewhereto_ project delivered in NI by PLACE.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.