How Might Differential Constituency Turnout Affect a NI Referendum?

Recently I speculated on how differential turnout could  impact on any future referendum on a United Ireland. Having done a bit of number-crunching since then on Assembly election results since the seventies, focusing on the post-GFA elections in particular, the answer seems to be: six years. Differential constituency turnout means that the turnout varies between constituencies. Stating the bleedin’ obvious, I know, but there seems to be a political edge to it in NI. Border (mostly nationalist) constituencies have greater …

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What if NI Voted by County? Analysing the 2019 Local Election Results…

It would be interesting to compare current voting patterns with those of 1921 when NI came into being. The exact location of Northern Ireland’s land border – once Thomas Agar-Robartes, MP, let the partition cat out of the Home-Rule bag in 1912 – was always going to be by county, given the Westminster constituency boundaries and census returns at the time. Today’s Westminster, Stormont and local government constituency/electoral area boundaries cross the six county boundaries more often than they did …

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“As explained in detail to Sinn Féin and previously…”

News that the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland is to canvass all households this summer, for the first time since 2013 and a year later than planned, in order to update the electoral register  – unlike the rest of the UK which has an annual canvass process – has the Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, reaching for a page from the Donald Trump electioneering playbook.   From the BBC report The canvass is legally required by the UK …

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Time to Reform First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) for Westminster Elections?

In the 2019 Westminster general election in Northern Ireland, the 18 successful candidates gained 359,000 votes out of a valid poll of 799,034. This represents only 44.9% of the electorate. A clear majority of voters are not represented in Westminster. Unionist voters in border areas are not represented; nationalist voters from North Antrim to Upper Bann to Strangford are not represented. Twice as many Alliance voters are unrepresented as are represented.  The DUP garnered 30.6% of the vote and won …

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This Strangely Misfiring Tory Campaign Just Makes Me Wonder

This is a very strange election campaign from the Conservatives. The Tory messaging for the final week is all wrong. My browser is full of Tory ads calling on me to “Get Brexit Done” when everyone knows Boris is all about that; if anything, they risk alienating the key group of Remainers who voted Tory in 2017. The Tories are currently hanging on to just five-eighths of these voters, and any further slippage could be fatal. As far as potential …

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Big spend didn’t guarantee success in Euro poll

The big winner of the European Election was the Alliance’s Naomi Long who managed to increase her party’s share of the vote by from 7.1% five years ago to 18.5%, winning a seat from the Ulster Unionists. For the other parties it was a mixed bag: Sinn Féin only took the third seat having taken the first seat in the previous two elections; the SDLP thought they could win back the seat they lost in 2004 but didn’t even come …

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Aontú: Their impact on Sinn Féin and the SDLP

Aontú have so far secured four council seats (albeit temporarily and not concurrently) in the North since they were founded in January 2019: two people from the SDLP gene pool and two from the Sinn Féin gene pool. Before the local government election, sitting councillors Fergal Lennon (Sinn Féin – Craigavon) and Rosemarie Shields (SDLP – Mid Tyrone) left their parties and joined Aontú. Neither of these two candidates were successful in that election and the sole elected Aontú councillor …

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Defecting councillors: The winners and losers

Cllr. Denise Mullen’s recent decision to leave the SDLP and join Aontú, less than three months after she was successfully re-elected to Mid Ulster Council, has provoked a flurry of questions about politicians who are elected for one party but then switch to another. Is the current system fair? Standing on a party ticket and then dropping party so quickly after an election is noticeable. Should the rules be changed? Should people have to put themselves before the electorate again? …

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Taking Boris to Court is Really, Really, Stupid

I can’t believe how many people on my social media feeds are cheering on the unbelievably anti-democratic and morally wrong court case against Boris Johnson over the notorious £350m a week bus slogan. But even for those who can’t see this as wrong, the stupidity of giving a master charlatan and showman like Boris Johnson his day in court should be obvious.   I have wider worries than Boris backflipping his prosecutors and using this case as a means to …

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An Ode To The Tallymen

For many people involved in election campaigns, come 10pm on polling day the work is done; the voters have had their say and the result is in the lap of the gods. After a long day of standing outside polling stations, trying to influence every voter entering, comes the even longer day (or days) that is the count. Many candidates don’t know what to do with themselves on the day of the count; famously former Irish Labour leader Ruairi Quinn …

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Is it time to talk about compulsory voting?

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you will know outside of Irish politics, my other main interest is Australia. Like us, the Australians held an election last Saturday to decide who would govern over the next three years. Unlike us, however, Australia has a system of compulsory voting. No, you’re not put in prison if you don’t vote, rather you have turn up at the polling station (you can also postal vote or pre-poll) Here is the …

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How to solve a problem like election posters

five posters, four parties, one lamppost

A discussion has broken out in the South about the erection of election posters in Dalkey, after Dalkey Tidy Towns had declared a no go area for them and warned that any such posters put up in the area would be “removed and destroyed.” This seems to be part of the wider Poster Free campaign which claims to have signed up over 160 “towns/areas” to having no plastic election posters through campaigns run by a number of TidyTowns organisations, but …

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Some thoughts about #le19

We are less than 100 days away from the Local Council elections in Northern Ireland which are set to take place on May 2nd. As candidates are selected and the campaign gets under way I thought I’d put up some things to watch out for in this election. Context is King-Before you look at the election that is coming up, you need to remind yourself about the circumstances of the previous one. In 2014, we were beginning to see the …

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Seanad Votes for Nordie and Other TCD/NUI Graduates – Last Few Weeks to Register

There is an increasing desire amongst many in the north to participate more in southern politics – especially in recent times when the island feels more interconnected and many feel personally involved in, if disenfranchised from, southern politics. While we await the outcome of the planned referendum on extending the franchise for the Irish Presidential elections, there is a way that some can get involved right now. If you’re a NUI or TCD graduate, and an Irish citizen, you’re eligible to …

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If #WeDeserveBetter, We’ll Have To Vote For It

I really want to be supportive of the #WeDeserveBetter movement. I think it’s a great thing when thousands of people come on to the streets to encourage the political compromise without which power-sharing cannot work. But really, do #WeDeserveBetter when ‘we’, the people of Northern Ireland, have collectively rewarded the DUP and Sinn Féin for taking the stances they have? Well into the period of stalemate, in last June’s General Election, the DUP and Sinn Féin were ‘punished’ by the …

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The Future of Referendums: What Role Should They Play and How Should They Be Conducted?

Referendums are now established as part of the UK’s political landscape.  They are widely seen as necessary before some fundamental constitutional changes are made.  Politicians will continue from time to time to find it useful to manage conflicts by proposing to put certain decisions to the people. Yet, despite their importance, there has been little concerted thinking recently about how referendums should be conducted.  Two inquiries conducted in the 1990s – by the Nairne Commission and the Committee on Standards …

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Time to bring Northern Irish Elections under international standards…

I was an observer in only one polling station last Thursday, but anecdotal evidence from candidates and activists at the Belfast count suggest that some of the abuses mentioned below were widespread. Furthermore, election results confirm that which should be an antithesis of democracy: “vote management was good,” to quote the words of one teller. May I therefore call, again, for all parties to come to a voluntary agreement on the conduct of elections, so that future contests do comply …

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South Africa: An Electoral Tremor, Not An Earthquake

In few countries would a governing political party in the throes of internal crisis consider 54% of the vote in mid-term elections to local councils a disappointing result. In South Africa, however, this represents a significant shot across the bows of the ANC 22 years after it took power, a decline of 8% from the equivalent elections in 2011, and almost 16% from its all-time best result in the 2004 general election. (Official results service here.) The shock is amplified …

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McGuinness: “Work on the programme for government has been going on prior to the election for some months.”

With only two weeks set aside to allow the new Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government to be thrashed out, and agreed between the parties, you might think that time was of the essence.  But apparently not… The BBC are reporting that there will be a delay to the start of those negotiations. That may be a surprise to the new Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle, Martin McGuinness.  On Sunday he told the BBC that “On Monday, we will be entering discussions …

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

We 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 …

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