Ireland and Lisbon

Now for the Count

Well, the polling booths have closed and the die is cast. Now come the forecasts of the result – the actual result will not be known until well into Saturday.

Forecasting of the results in advance is an old Irish tradition. The turnout on a regional and district basis is the first straw in the wind. Here the news is mixed. Turnout seems to be relatively high in Dublin, which should be good for a Yes vote but it is high in Dublin in some areas that voted No as well as in some areas that voted Yes. First indications are that turnout nationally may be slightly up as compared to the first referendum but the situation is not clear. Voting in Ireland is by paper (not electronic) ballot so preliminary estimates of turnout are not always reliable.

Exit polls are the next indicator, and here it depends who you read. According to the Irish Times an exit poll by Fine Gael (main opposition party) suggest a 52-48 win for Yes. According to RTE (national broadcaster) the same exit poll predicts a 60-40 win for Yes. Time will tell. A group of German journalists asked me for a prediction earlier this week and I said 53-47. In this, I was strongly discounting the polls a week ago that suggested a possible victory of up to 2-1 for the Yes side. I remember the second divorce referendum in 1995 when the polls suggested a relatively easy win and the actual margin was 0.56% of the votes cast – 9000 votes out of 2.6 million!

Counting of ballots in the current referendum will start at 9.00AM Irish time (10.00AM in Brussels) and here the “tallymen” take over. Tallymen watch the counting closely for early trends. They know how a particular district or area (or even street) voted last time around. and they watch the first ballots coming out to compare them with the previous results. It sounds easy but it is not. Especially in general elections, tallymen bring enormous local knowledge and political analysis to their task. Nowadays computers may be used. Well, computers may now be able to beat Chess Grandmasters but I doubt if they can yet beat Irish tallymen in analysing results on the basis of very small samples.

We may have the results of other more or less reliable exit polls later, in time for the morning papers.

Unless the outcome is very close, reasonably good forecasts should begin to emerge from around 11.00AM Irish time – which is 12.00 noon in Brussels just when, with impeccable timing, the party begins in Kitty O’Shea’s. I hope to be there and, technology permitting, hope to continue my blog from there.

In the meantime I’m off to bed. I’ll check in again around 9.00AM.


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