Polling Station

How the elections went down #AE16

We were busy over the past weekend creating lots of open data for the ElectionsNI project.

With our partners in the Open Government Network NI, we wanted to create an open elections database for Northern Ireland, one that would also be as up to date as possible during the actual count process (stretching over 6-7 May).

Before the election took place on 5 May we had easily viewable (and downloadable) lists of candidates, searchable by constituency and by party, so electors could easily find who to vote for in their constituency.

Then, during the process of the count itself, we crowdsourced data live from the count centres. Because printed results of the outcome for each stage in the count are available only to people with observer passes from the Electoral Commission, we had some volunteers in place to send us the photographs in pictures over Twitter so that we could input and open up the data.

With up to 13 count stages in each of the 18 constituencies, this was a mammoth and ongoing effort to keep on top of the results being produced over a number of hours. But, thanks to our committed volunteers (or count correspondents) we were able to get close to having full coverage of all of the count centres.

During the count, the #AE16 tweets were coming in thick and fast, and we had to stay on top of adding each stage to the database:

#AE16  5 May to 9 May

As well as capturing and producing the data, we also wanted to look at some new ways of visualising the results.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system that is used to elect six candidates to the Northern Ireland Assembly presents its own opportunities and difficulties in presenting the information visually, but by looking for some open source examples and developing a few of our own, we created a number of ways to demonstrate the outcome of the elections from the start to the end of the count.

Transfer Animation

Transfer of votes between candidates in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (other constituencies here)

These animations are great for seeing what the impact of STV is on outcomes, as compared to a First Past the Post system (as with the Westminster elections).

Which counts were candidates elected (green) or excluded (red) in West Belfast

Counts on which were candidates elected (green) or excluded (red) in West Belfast

We’re really pleased to see that these visualisations have already been used in teaching the STV system to schools, and we got some great feedback from those following the results (including the candidates themselves!) as they were able to see how the transfers and the leapfrogging for seats played out in real-time.

As well as looking at the transfers in each constituency, we also had some interactive charts to cover the entire outcome. You can find all of those on the website.

All of the data that was used for this post is available under the Open Database Licence. Visit data.electionsni.org to get the data.

(Photo: John Keane, under licence CC-BY-SA 2.0)

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