Joejag - Just Another Geek

Shambles? More like natural selection

May 8, 2007

Smiley DudeI spent this last weekend at the SECC and numerous parties to watch/celebrate the election results. Most importantly because my girlfriend (and now blogger) was elected to represent the SNP for Glasgow council.

The story you probably heard the election being declared a shambles, mainly by the same media outlets that were calling for a Labour victory. However, as I was actually at the count I was able to create my own opinion on how the proceedings went.

The main issue here is the amount of spoiled ballots. Leading up the election every single newspaper in Scotland had a supplement or article saying how the voting system works, tv programmes including the news had stories on how the voting system works. There's even people at the polling station asking you if you understand how it works, failing that the top of the ballot paper itself tells you how it works. The case is that if you don't understand how it works then you can cast an eye over at Darwin and see his natural selection working again. If you are too stupid to figure out how to vote or ask then you don't deserve a vote as your opinions are probably as incompetent as you are.

Just for you readers who aren't in Scotland, here's how in works. You are voting for 3 different types of system. One First Past the Post, One Proportional Representation and One Single Transferable Vote. Understanding the underling mechanics of these systems is optional (Parliament here, Council here). All you need to know is what to tick. For the first 2 you put an 'X' next to your favourite candidate. For STV you number them in order from 1..n in order of your preference.

Behold the Parliment complexity!
Behold the Council complexity!

Despite all this education in the media you still got people messing it up in comedy ways. Some people just put numbers all across everything messing up all there ballot papers (remember 100,000 ballot papers divided by 3 is actually 33,000 people not 100,000). Some people put 'X's next to their candidates on the STV sheet (so over voting). Some people wrote the candidates number positionally on the STV sheet instead of by number of preference.

Everyone who was at the ballot counting at the SECC thought the system was shit hot. It worked by taking your normal paper ballots and scanning them all. Anything which the system isn't 100% sure on gets put over to a team of people who then manually view the problem vote and decide what course of action to take. The best part is that it's setup so you are encouraged to debate with them what the hell the person was thinking at the time.

This allows you to see some comedy attempts at voting. My favourite ballots had something written on them such as:

I must of seen over a 1,000 spolit papers and every single one of them was someone who couldn't figure out how to vote properly. This was no fiasco; just natural selection applied to votes.