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Tally ho! New ‘rainbow coalition’ system proves an online success

June 18th, 2024 6:50 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Tally ho! New ‘rainbow coalition’ system proves an online success Image
A bird's eye view of floor of Mallow GAA Complex showing the tallyfolk lined along the barriers, with a cross-party system of talling in operation for the first time ever, resulting in incredibly accurate data for election nerds. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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FOR the first time ever, all of the political parties worked together to produce a set of tallies that would rival the instantaneousness of any electronic voting system.

More than 20 years ago, millions were spent on electronic voting machines, but they were put into storage, and the proposal to introduce electronic voting was shelved.

The decision brought much relief to election ‘anoraks’ everywhere who delight in Ireland’s long drawn-out system which results in the frantic number-crunching and analysing of numbers – taken from the sheets of focused tallyfolk observing the ballot sheets as they are being counted on the other side of the barriers.

This year, Cork County Council decided to have a central depot for every ballot box. Initially, it was to facilitate the counting of a referendum vote, but that – shortly before the election – was postponed.

Politicians complained about having to travel from all over the county just to see the boxes being opened – a situation that allows the party faithful, and others, see in what geographical area their vote was strongest.

In Mallow, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Social Democrats, Labour, and others agreed to pool their tally results and work together.

What’s more, the results went online, so within an hour or more, people everywhere could see how many boxes had been opened, where the votes were cast, and who was doing well.

It was rather uncanny to then return to the respective count centres – such as Clonakilty for the electoral areas of Skibbereen, Bantry, and the Bandon-Kinsale Municipal District – with what, to all intents and purposes, was a first count. The tallies were remarkably accurate with many just being four of five votes out of kilter with a candidate’s final tally of first preferences when the official results came in – over ten hours later.

Those official counts came in very late on Saturday night, and indeed into the early hours of Sunday morning.

It was almost 4am before the last reporters left the count centre on Sunday morning, and were back at their desks again just a few hours later.

Counting of transfers continued at a swift pace from 10am on Sunday and by about 11pm Skibbereen had returned five councillors, Bantry four, and Bandon-Kinsale six.

The new tally system, combined with the traditional long counts, proved to be the best of both worlds.

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