Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Results are FINALLY In

The entire country has been waiting for this day. Well, actually they were waiting for last Friday, but things got a little bogged down. You see, last Friday the Irish people went to the poles and selected a new government after voting "no confidence" in their last one, effectively ending it. But even thought they voted Friday, the results were not decided until early this morning. Why? Because voting is one thing the Irish like to do the old fashioned way. Apparently a few years ago they bought all the scantron equipment to do their elections like we do, but everyone hated it so much, that now sits in a shed and they count every single vote by hand. Sometimes more than once. Most of the counties had their TD's (senators) picked by Sunday, but Wicklow, the county we're in, is known for being slow to make up their minds. I'm not being mean; I actually had several locals tell me this. As one guy said, "We just like to take our time. We want to be sure about who we're electing." No kidding. So it was not until half one on Tuesday morning (1:30am) that Wicklow could finally, officially declare it's 5 TD's. They are 3 Fine Gael Party members- Andrew Doyle, Billy Timmins, and Simon Harris (yes, that's the guy we met!), a woman from the Labour Party- Ann Ferris, and an Independent- Stephen Donnolly.
I'm not going to lie, I really enjoy politics so it has been fascinating to be here during the election. Plus, the counting center for this county is a mile down the road at the leisure center where I go to work out. So Saturday night I went and sat there for 3 hours watching the counting, talking to locals, and getting a better understanding of the system here. I also stopped by Sunday and Monday afternoon to catch any updates and learn a little more. The Irish people love to talk about their country. They really want to be proud of it, but that's been hard with the recent economic crisis. So when I as a visitor come in and express interest in their political system, they are more than willing to explain anything and everything!
Their system is pretty different than ours. In many ways I like it better, but I don't think we could pull it off since America is so much bigger. Ireland is about the size of the state of Indiana. Here's the gist of how theif voting process works. When you vote everyone's name is on the ballot. You rank them by order of who you want to win. You can rank all of them, or just put your number one or anything in between. So on my ballot, I might put 1) Harris 2) Doyle 3) Donnolly 4) Ferris 5) Timmins and on down the list. All the ballots are collected and brought to one counting center in each county. From there, they go through and count all the number one votes. In order to be elected you have to get a certain percent of the votes based on the equation (# of voters) / (# of TD spots in your county). So for example, if Wickow had 50,000 voters turn out and there are 5 TD spots you need 10,000 votes to be elected. So they go through the first time and count all the #1 votes. If you get the 10,000 you are automatically in. This didn't happen, which isn't unusual. So then they go the last place guy and kick him out of the running. Then all of his votes are distributed. So the look at all the ballots that voted for him as number one and find their number two vote. They then give his votes to those number 2's. Then they start the process over again, kicking the last guy out and giving their votes to the next person on the ballot. Sound complicated? It is! I hope that sort of made sense. Just know that it is a really long process. It took them 19 counts to finally get down to 5. And interestingly enough. Only 2 candidates actually made the quota. If not enough make it, they just go with the 5 guys that get the most votes. For example, Simon is in even though he was 200 votes short of the quota.
I'm excited for Ireland to have a new government in place that is dedicated to helping the people. They have a huge hole to dig themselves out of. I just hope they have enough patience to let this new government make a difference. One local told me it could take 3 terms (15 years) before they're back where they were. I doubt they will keep the same party in power for that long, but I'm no expert. All I know is this will be an interesting story to follow in the next few years...

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