So It Seems My Ballot Didn’t Count Twice in the PCC Election…

At the start of my second year 6th, way back when, we had an external speaker – a Labour miner, through and through – come and talk to us about voting. In colourful language, he made it clear that he didn’t mind who we voted for, as long as we voted. I’m not sure what he had to say about spoiled votes, but as far as I can remember, I have always cast a ballot whenever I have been eligible to vote in a public election.

For folk dissatisfied with the candidates standing, I guess there are three +1 options available: 1) don’t vote at all; 2) spoil the paper; 3) cast an empty ballot (showing just how much you trust the way ballots are processed and counted); I can actually think of a couple of ways of spoiling or casting an empty ballot – one in the privacy of the the voting booth, the other in full site of the people staffing the ballot box. The +1 is stand yourself… For the first time ever, I cast an empty ballot this time round and it felt wrong, somehow… I should have made my mark on the voting form.

Anyway… the PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) election forms allowed voters to nominate a first choice and (optionally) a second choice under a supplementary vote mechanism, described by the BBC as follows: “If a candidate has won more than 50% of first preferences they are elected. If no candidate has won more than 50%, all but the top two candidates are then eliminated. Any second preferences for the top two candidates from the eliminated candidates are added to the two remaining candidates’ totals. Whoever has the most votes combined is declared the winner.”

The Guardian Datablog duly published a spreadsheet of the PCC election results (sans spoiled ballot counts) and Andy Powell hacked them around to do a little bit of further analysis. In particular, Andy came up with a stacked bar chart showing the proportion of votes cast for the winner, vs. others, vs. didn’t vote. Note that the count recorded for the winner in the Guardian data, and Andy’s data (which is derived from the Guardian data) appears to the first round count

…which means we can look to see which elections returned a Commissioner based on second preference votes. If I use my Datastore Explorer tool to treat the spreadsheet as a database, and run a query looking for rows where the winner’s vote was less than any of the other vote counts, here’s what we get:

Here’s a link to my spreadsheet explorer view over Andy’s spreadsheet: PCC count – spreadsheet explorer:

So it seems that as someone in the Hampshire area, I could have had two preferences counted in the returned result, if I had voted for the winner as my second choice.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...