Members of Dáil Éireann are elected under the PR-STV electoral system. At the 2007 general election, 166 members were elected from 43 constituencies, each constituency thus returning on average just under 4 TDs. Click here for results of 2011 general election, here for results of 2009 European Parliament election, here for results of 2007 general election, and here for results of elections 1948-77. NEW: The 2011 election is analysed in How Ireland Voted 2011 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). For arguments for and against retaining PR-STV as Ireland's electoral system click here.
The ballot paper confronting voters looks like this:
Specimen PR-STV ballot paper, Wicklow constituency (5 seats), Irish general election 17 May 2002
On the actual ballot paper the names are listed in one vertical column; the form in which the paper appears above is simply a result of its being too large to scan onto one page. It can be seen that the candidates are listed in alphabetical order of surname rather than being grouped by party or listed randomly. This helps account for the marked over-representation in the Dáil, compared with the population at large, of people whose surnames begin with letters that appear early in the alphabet. The outcome in Wicklow in 2002 did not conform to this pattern, though; the five successful candidates were Fox, Jacob, McManus, Roche and Timmins.
Voting is straightforward: the voter ranks the candidates, or as many of them as he or she wishes, in order of choice. The voter does this by writing '1' in the space to the right of the photograph of their first choice, and may then write '2', '3', '4' etc beside the names of their second, third, fourth etc choices. Voters may rank order as many or as few candidates as they wish, but obviously there must be at least a first preference to make the vote meaningful. Counting the votes begins with a calculation of the Droop quota and is a multi-stage process, since the votes of eliminated candidates, and the surplus votes of elected candidates, are transferred to other candidates according to the next preferences marked on the ballot papers. For explanation as to exactly how PR-STV works, try these:
Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 5th ed (Abingdon: Routledge and PSAI Press, 2010), ISBN 978-0-415-47671-3 (hardback), 978-0-415-47672-0 (paperback). This has chapters on every aspect of politics and government, including a chapter by Richard Sinnott explaining and assessing the distinctive PR-STV electoral system.
The Politics of Electoral Systems, paperback edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), ISBN 978-0-19-923867-5. Has a chapter explaining and examining PR-STV in Ireland in the context of electoral systems worldwide, asking how far aspects of Ireland's politics can be attributed to PR-STV.
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Last updated 25 October, 2011 8:34 AM