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The skill of the tally May 26, 2019

Posted by Tomboktu in Election observation, Tally.
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How good is a tally?

This table I constructed for the Clondalkin LEA yesterday shows us an example of a good one.
Table showing differences for each candidate between first count and tally
Sources: Tally data from a twitter post by Eoin Ó Broin TD (who is not the candidate of the same name listed in the table) and the first count published by South Dublin County Council.

The first count reported 681 more votes than the tally, which is 6% more votes than the talliers caught. (I would not be surprised if that 681 votes turned out to be two boxes that went untallied.) That may seem high, but when you look at the detail, you can see it’s not a significant error.

There are three ‘take aways’ from the table.

One: Look at at the last column. It shows for each candidate the percentage by which the talliers were out (using the actual vote as the basis for calculating percentages). All of the individual tallies were wrong by less than one half of one percent. (Only three, highlighted in blue, were more than 0.4% out.)

Two: Only two candidates — the bottom two — were attributed more rather than fewer votes in the tally than they actually received.

Three: Only two candidates were ranked incorrectly (highlighted in yellow) They were within five votes of each other in the actual count, and the tally put them at 25 votes apart, a deviation from the actual difference of 30.

— * — * —

Achieving that degree of accuracy requires co-ordination. A candidate is not usually issued with enough passes for entry to the centre to enable their team to tally all boxes alone. Nor is a party with more than one candidate likely (at least, in Dublin) to have enough talliers to cover all boxes.

Achieving accuracy that the Clondalkin talliers did also requires skill. The count officials work at a steady pace, but the are not supposed to go back if you miss a paper. Their job is to unfold a paper and place it face up, unfold the next paper and place it face up onto top, unfold the next paper and place it face up on top, unfold the next paper and place it face up on top, unfold the next paper and place it face up on top … not quite ad infinitum (though it probably gets to feel that way) but maybe ad 312 or ad 472 or ad whatever number of papers were in the box. Formally, this is process of unfolding face up is not to enable the tally to conducted; it is to prevent the observers from seeing the serial number of the ballot paper. And the officials are not sorting the papers by candidate. (They are sorting by electoral procedure: referendum green to the left, white Euro in the middle, white local to the right.)

It moves at a pace that requires two people to tally for every count offical. One has their eye on the papers being unfolded, quickly — and it really has to be quickly — scans the paper to find the no. 1 on it before the next paper is unfolded and placed on top of it, and calls out, not too loudly, the first preference. Their partner keeps their eyes on their tally sheet, on a clip board, and rapidly moves their hand up and down the tally sheet to the correct row for “Ali” or “Egan” or “Higgins” or “Ó Broin” or “Walsh” and marks a line on their tally sheet for the name just called out to them. And in some constituencies to you need the fine motor control to correctly land on “Ryan, Saoirse” rather than “Ryan, Tom”.

In the Euros in Ireland South, some voters complained about the two-foot-long ballot paper. (Or maybe they didn’t — e-day is a quiet news day and maybe the journalist needed something to fill a 1.15-min slot in the local station’s lunch-time news.) At least the voter had the luxury of taking their time to mark their ballot paper, turning their attention to candidates at a pace the voter chooses. The tallier must constantly move her or his hand up and down an equivalent to that two-feet-long ballot paper at a fairly rapid pace as the names of 300 or 400 “number ones” are called out, at a pace set by the count official. All this is done while standing for a few hours at a crowd-control barrier that is not designed for filling out forms.

If your eyesight is a bit dodgy, or your hearing below par, or your leg a bit weak if you stand for tool long, then this isn’t the job for you.

Achieving that accuracy also requires an atypical form of professionalism. Typically, a tallier has been knocking on doors for the last few weeks, asking voters to support their candidate (implicitly in opposition to the other candidates). But for those few hours on the Saturday morning, if you are to be an effective tallier, you need to suspend hostilities and co-operate with your opponents. Even worse, you need to suspend enthusiasm for your own candidate and concentrate at the task at hand. So, your candidate is romping home with more than six quotas? Or your first-timer looks like she’ll make it against the predictions of party HQ? If seeing that unfold makes you giddy or makes you distracted, then you’re not suited to tallying. To misquote Kenny Rogers, there’s time enough for elation when the countin’s done.

And when doing all that, the real tallier knows that they’re not doing it to provide the radio or local paper’s website with data for a news story in the period before the official counts are announced. They’re doing it for political reasons. Knowing that your candidate did well in Cedarwood estate but poorly in Elmwood estate can be valuable data, if you know how to use it properly. But that’s another post for another day. For now, go back and admire the skills that produced the table that is up at the start of this post.

Comments»

1. Dermot M O Connor - May 26, 2019

you need to suspend enthusiasm for your own candidate and concentrate at the task at hand. So, your candidate is romping home with more than six quotas? Or your first-timer looks like she’ll make it against the predictions of party HQ? If seeing that unfold makes you giddy or makes you distracted, then you’re not suited to tallying.

Irish Times ‘journalists’ need not apply so. They’d be running around telling us that Labour’s winning by a landslide.

😀

I’ve always been amazed by the tallymen. Cannot imagine the skillset required to look at those paper bundles and pull the information out of them. They’d be devils to beat on Countdown.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2019

+1

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - May 26, 2019

“In the Euros in Ireland South, some voters complained about the two-foot-long ballot paper. (Or maybe they didn’t — e-day is a quiet news day and maybe the journalist needed something to fill a 1.15-min slot in the local station’s lunch-time news.)”

Excellent point quite apart from the overall post which is fantastic Tomboktu. The longer ballot papers ae unusual but they aren’t really a problem. Dublin’s one’s were pretty long NIC in particular but so what. Even two foot… it’s not the end of the world.

Liked by 1 person

2. Tomboktu - May 26, 2019

Amateurs

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3. kestrel - May 26, 2019

“knowing that your candidate did well in Cedarwood Estate but poorly in Elmwood estate can be valuable data”, – and so when the elections are over, this data if it is still kept, can downgrade or upgrade areas.
the various desks at the polling station may make sense, but the votes must be put in stratified boxes; and so, maybe the making of stratified services.

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