The Orkney Election: And Why Every Vote Really Did Count

Orkney has chosen its councillors to form the new Council.

Here is a list of the councillors elected and an explanation of why every vote cast counted. In the bracket is the turnout in 2017

Ward 1 – Kirkwall East

David Dawson, Steven Heddle, John Ross Scott and Gwenda Shearer. Turnout 45.9% (47.3%) No change except John Ross Scott is a Scottish Green.

Ward 2- Kirkwall West and Orphir

Sandy Cowie, Kristopher Leask, Leslie Manson and Ivan Taylor. Turnout 42.8% (42.3%) . Change in 2 new councillors, Kristopher Leask (Scottish Greens) and Ivan Taylor.

Ward 3 – Stromness and South Isles

Graham Bevan, Lindsay Hall and James Stockan. Turnout 51.8% ( This was an uncontested seat in 2017) Change in 2 new councillors, Graham Bevan and Lindsay Hall

Ward 4 – West Mainland

Rachael Anne King, Jean Stevenson, Owen Tierney and Duncan Tullock. Turnout 50.9% ( 52.2%) Change in 1 new councillor, Jean Stevenson

Ward 5 – East Mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray

James Moar, Raymie Peace and Gillian Skuse. Turnout 50.7% (52.7%. Change, all 3 are new councillors for this ward.

Ward 6 – North Isles Ward

Stephen Clackson, Mellissa Thomson and Heather Woodbridge. Turnout 56.1% (58.7%) Change, 1 new councillor Mellissa Thomson.

Why did every vote count?

The local elections use a form of proportional voting, STV or Single Transferrable Vote. This means that the person elected will be the one that most people have indicated a preference for. By ranking who you would like: 1,2,3,4, etc you make a sort of ‘Top Ten’ of candidates. And this is how it works:

Every ward has a threshold figure, the number of votes a candidate has to get over to get elected. Once a person gets that number of votes or more then they are elected. Some people get these in the first round of voting.

This is where votes are transferred.

For example this is what happened in Kirkwall East.

The threshold number of votes to get was 339. In the first round 3 candidates got more than that so Steven Heddle (428), John Ross Scott (476) and Gwenda Shearer (413) were elected. That left 2 candidates in the race: David Dawson and Graham McDonald. 137 votes were then transferred from Scott’s vote ( he was the top) as those were surplus to that threshold number. Heddle and Shearer didn’t need any more votes. So those who voted for Scott as (1) had their votes shared according to how they ranked the others. Dawson got 55 and McDonald 42. Dawson now had over 340 votes (that’s his 1st and 2nd preference ones) so he got elected in the 2nd round.

Sometimes it can go to round number 8 as in the case of Kirkwall West and Orphir. Kirstopher Leask had to wait to the very end to be elected. Only Leslie Manson had been elected in round 1, Sandy Cowie and Ivan Taylor were elected at round 5.

This is the importance of ranking the candidates – so that if your 1st choice does not get elected, somewhere in the process a person is who you have given a preference to.

Some voters only ranked one candidate and a small minority put 1 before several candidates not realising that it was a ‘count down’.

Unfortunately what has happened with ‘First Past the Post’ which is used in the UK General Election, is that people think there is no point voting because candidates can become elected MPs even when most of their constituents don’t want them. STV might appear complicated but by ranking choices and distributing votes hopefully voters get more of a say in who is elected.

If you didn’t vote and thought it wouldn’t count – then you are very wrong. It very much does count. Sadly as you can see from the turnout figures that less than half of Orcadians voted. All those crucial decisions that the council makes on local services, including the running of our interisland ferries, people didn’t feel (for what ever reason) their vote mattered. And yet it very much did.

Here at The Orkney News we wish all the councillors the best and look forward to reporting on both their activities and those of the council.

Fiona Grahame

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1 reply »

  1. The next point of interest will be to see who is the next Council Leader – a position of some influence – though not elected by the people of Orkney!

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