Get hands on with STV at Monday’s Making Sense of Elections workshop #ImagineBelfast (updated with result)

Mock STV count dessert ballot paperThe Imagine Festival of Ideas and Politics begins on Monday (14 March) and runs through until Sunday 20 March. As previewed a few weeks ago, the theme of the second year of this festival is to Start Making Sense.

In conjunction with Stratagem, I’m running the first event at 10am tomorrow in The Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts – Making Sense of Elections. It’s a hands on interactive workshop that aims to demystify the election process and will take participants behind the scenes to allow them to staff a polling station before moving to run the count centre to elect some mouth-watering candidate desserts using PR-STV.

  • The Cream Party are fielding two sugary candidates – Pavlova and Tiramisu – but have they been damaged by recent news stories about the level of sugar in our diet?
  • The seasonal Christmas Pudding has a fight on its hands to win in a March election!
  • Local favourite Apple Tart, the sole candidate for the Pastry Party, is apparently confident of a large slice of the first preference vote.
  • And outsider Cheese Board is running as an Independent, a cross-community alternative to the messy world of Desserts, offering new politics for the modern dinner table.

Of the ten candidates, who will get their just desserts?

Imagine Belfast 14 March programmeAt the end of two hours, participants will have cast their ballots for the ten desserts, verified them, counted them, and declared the six winning candidates in our demonstration of the Single Transferable Vote ahead of May’s Assembly election.

If you don’t know your transfers from your exclusions, or remain quizzical about quotas and why the process seems to take so long, book one of the remaining spaces and come along in the morning. We can promise a multi-stage count, arguments over doubtful ballots and maybe even a speech from a winner or two.

(The event can be repeated, so if your organisation would like its staff or stakeholders to get a grip with the wonder of STV and understand the process that elects our MLAs, councillors and MEPs, please do get in touch.)

There are lots more thought-provoking and enlightening events and activities in the full festival programme. And don’t forget FactCheckNI’s digital fact checking contest on Friday night at 5.30pm in Oh Yeah Music Centre followed by the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz at 7.45pm in the Black Box.

– – –

Poll clerksUpdate – With turnout of 63.33%, 85 valid votes, 10 invalid votes, and a quota of 13, the following first preference votes were recorded.

Apple Tart (Pastry Party) 15
Banoffee (Fruit Party) 9
Cheese board (Independent) 11
Cheesecake (Egg Party) 11
Christmas Pudding (Fruit Party) 2
Crème brûlée (Egg Party) 13
Fruit Salad (Fruit Party) 2
Pavlova (Cream Party) 12
Tiramisu (Cream Party) 7
Dropping ballot in boxTrifle( Fruit Party) 3

  • Apple Tart and Crème brûlée were deemed elected in Stage 1.
  • Apple Tart’s surplus was transferred in Stage 2 (transfer value 0.13) but no further candidate was deemed elected.
  • Christmas Pudding was excluded in Stage 3 but no further candidate was deemed elected.
  • Trifle and Fruit Salad were excluded together in Stage 4 which put Pavlova over the quota.
  • In Stage 5, Cheese Board, Cheesecake and Banoffee were deemed elected under the quota, but above the [total active vote / one more than the number of unfilled seats]. (In layperson’s terms you could also understand that the transfer of Pavlova’s slim surplus was deferred as it was too small to affect the order of the bottom two continuing candidates, which would have led to the exclusion of bottom candidate Tiramisu, leaving only three continuing candidates which would logically be elected.)

  • Brian wilson

    Good luck with this.I always carried out a similar exercise on STV with my journalist students(NCTJ) at B.I.F.H.E and invariably if I meet them at a count they ask me to explain how the Quota is calculated which part of the surplus is distributed and why a why some surpluses are not redistributed etc Poor teaching no doubt.

  • AnthonyTuffin

    An excellent project! Congratulations; I hope it goes well.

    It’s needed even more in England and Wales to dispel the widespread ignorance of STV, which is the best voting system yet invented.

    Slugger – would you mind contacting me please via ? Thank you.

  • Croiteir

    Well you gave me a distinction for the politics section of my HNC Business an Finance Brian, so it can’t be all bad

  • Brian wilson

    Good to know someone has paid attention

  • Greenflag 2

    Educating voters in intricacies of PR is a worthwhile project . PR is not just about voting pro actively for people /parties who share your political viewpoint but also for voting strategically against those you most oppose .

    As a general rule you have to be in the top tier in first preferences to get elected under PR . In a 4 seat constituency you have to be at least in the top 6 in first preferences to come through from a list of say 12 candidates .There are exceptions of course . If you are in 3rd position in a 4 seater and a few thousand short of the quota you are not guaranteed election although your chances are way better than somebody placed say 9th in a 5 seater .You may lose out for the fourth seat due to later transfers going to another candidate from your own party . This happened to a few candidates in GE # 16 – the most prominent victim being FG former MInister Alan Shatter who lost out to his party colleague for the last seat . I suspect that had GE# 16 been run on the FPTP system like the UK FG and FF might have ended up between them with 140 plus of the 158 seats while SF might had 2 or 3 with Labour 0 and possibly a couple of independents .
    Whether we’d have a government by now or not is not clear .

    On the above exercise my first preference for the Tiramisu party was rejected by the electorate -A clear indication of the lack of sophistication and good taste among the voters in that constituency 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    There was an excellent explanatory article on how PR works in reality a week or two ago on either RTE site or on Irish times or other website . It gave a very clear summary of where candidates need to be placed in first preferences in 3, 4 and 5 seat constituencies to get elected . Apparently the article claimed prediction success in 142 of 157 seats . I should have bookmarked it 🙁 sorry !