Elections NI

Crowdsourcing the Elections

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.

ODI Belfast at NICVA and their partners at the Open Government Network NI are leading on a collaborative project Elections NI. We’re not part of the Electoral Office’s work but we aim to cover everything they do so far as the results for each count stage are concerned.

Those who’ve followed live results before will know that the process for the Assembly is longer than for the General Election. While a lot of expert insight is broadcast during this time, it would be great if the general public was able to find the same information that is available to people in count centres and draw their own conclusions about what the numbers mean for them.

When we looked into this idea we found like-minded groups in other places also motivated by politics and open data. The Irish LGMA live streamed open results data for the 2014 local elections (using the same type of voting system), and the Out for the Count project (an ODI-supported project) is taking a similar approach to crowdsourcing results for the English council elections, also in May. We’re keen to see that Northern Ireland has good representation both part of these projects and on its own standing.

All of the open data that we have is for anyone to download, use and share for their own purposes: analysis, campaigning, teaching, journalism or just for general interest. If you’ve any bright ideas about how you might use the data, or how we might use it, we’d be pleased to hear about them.

It’s not just the visualisations and live updates that we’re interested in producing. We’ve adopted a simple tabular format to support the publication of elections data which can be adapted for other vote systems, including local and Westminster elections, so we doubt the project will be a one-off for 2016. Hopefully, in the near future open elections data will be the norm and Northern Ireland will be part of that process seen in other parts of the world.

Anyone who’s ever tried to make sense of the Single Transferable Vote method will probably appreciate that it’s not the easiest voting system to visualise. Thanks to sharing of some open source used in the Irish General Election, we’ve been able to create animations of the 2011 Assembly Elections count stages.

Upper Bann 2011 vote transfers

For 2016, we’ll bring you this (and a number of other visualisations) in real time as the count happens. But that’s where we need help, as the actual stage results themselves are available only in the count centres, we need people on the ground to crowdsource the data.

We’re still looking for observers to help, and we’d be particularly grateful for coverage of the Foyle Arena, Lagan Valley Leisureplex and Omagh Leisure Complex count centres.

To help out, get in touch or just to stay up to date, visit electionsni.org, follow @ElectionsNI, @odiBelfast and @OpenGovNI on Twitter.

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