, 12 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
There’s a couple of things I love about election count weekends.

One is the fact that politicians can’t spin their way out of a result: they’re at their most honest when democracy is staring them in the face.

The other is the cross-party cooperation for tallying.

Even as someone who thinks we should look at electronic voting/counting (once it’s secure, etc etc) there is a wonderful transparency to how the whole operation works. But it’s a big bureaucracy, and it needs co-operation from people who wouldn’t otherwise be colleagues.
Outsiders might wonder what the point of a tally operation is, especially in the age of exit polls - if they’re reliable, why do you need an intermediate number between the exit poll and the final result?

The answer: there’s still more you can learn from a tally operation.
The trouble with exit polls or final results is that they don’t give you any better geographical breakdown, only the whole constituency.

Parties want more. They want to know whether they did well in one particular town, or badly in one estate.

That’s where tallies come in.
Here’s an example this morning. As each box is opened, with the ballot papers separated and straightened out, there’s a slip of paper displayed on the desk to tell you which ballot box you’re looking at.

From that you can determine precisely which polling station it came from.
(Because the Register of Electors is a public document you can then figure out exactly which roads, which streets, which estates, which farms, are included in that box.

And because personation agents can observe who shows up to vote, you can even figure out who actually voted.)
But this is where you need cross-party co-operation. In any electoral district you could have dozens of boxes all being opened and separated at the same time - and most boxes need two people to tally: one to call out loud what they see, the other to keep a written account of it.
That means you end up having people co-operating for counts, working alongside their political adversaries to try and collect the data that they can all make some use of.

And so they club together to string all of their nuggets of info into a bigger picture for everyone to use.
Every time a box is completed, they then send their completed tally sheet back to a gang of cross-party co-operatives with laptops (and sometimes now, even projectors!) who gather the whole thing into a complete picture.
When all is said and done they’ll go away and share their full data from each one - poring over the details they can get. Why did we do badly in that box? Why did we do well on that road? Is that estate more working/middle-class than we thought?
And from there they go again. It’s harder to keep track of movements these days - but decades ago, the tally operation was so slick that FG and FF could almost identify *individual voters* who had changed their allegiance from the previous time. Party machinery in action.
This is a very good point - and to be honest it’s a good rationale for making an Electoral Commission compile and publish it. Ireland is way behind other European counties in recognising political science as a proper asset worthy of public backing
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