22 December 2012
I’ve added the 2006 full Sutton Council election results to my Sutton Elections site.
Two candidates got the same number of votes in four wards (Carshalton South and Clockhouse, St Helier, Sutton Central, and Wallington North). In none of these cases was the tie decisive – the same candidates would have won anyway.
But how should I rank these candidates? Sutton Council’s official site (eg St Helier) lists the tied candidates in alphabetical order but it’s not clear whether this is an official rule or just an unintentional feature of their software.
I’ve created issue #8 to handle this.
One of Sutton Elections' key features is the ability to track the electoral history of individual candidates. It’s often useful to see where candidates have been successful and unsuccessful in the past and even changes of party allegiances. For example, George Dow stood for the Greens in the council and parliamentary elections in May 2010 and then again in a council byelection in 2012. It’s great to see all that at a glance. David Pickles had more success as a Conservative than he’s had so far for UKIP.
But tying together the same candidates across several elections is difficult because candidates often use different names from one election to the next. A candidate might change their name through marriage or use a shortened or more familiar version of their name. Former council leader John Brennan won Sutton Central for the Lib Dems in 2006 and in 2010 he stood under his more familiar name of Sean Brennan. Patrick Kane was elected in Wandle Valley in 2006 and won again in 2010 as Paddy Kane.
Sutton Elections doesn’t currently have the ability for one candidate to have multiple names but that’s possible for me to add. Then you have the research job of working out which candidates are really the same person.
I’m tracking this as issue #9.
This tends to be as true of data as it is of program code. One of the touted benefits of open data is the supposed opportunity for crowdsourced data cleaning. The more people who look at a dataset, the more they’re likely to find the errors. While checking my own data against Sutton Council’s election results pages I noticed that the council had omitted the lowest-polling candidate from their 2006 Sutton South results. Poor Ronald Phillips (Labour, 103 votes, 11th place) doesn’t get a mention and the absence of those 103 votes throws the Lib Dems' overall vote share in the election up by 1 point from 45% to 46% on Sutton’s official results page.
Mr Phillips can console himself with his own candidate page on Sutton Elections and the satisfaction that by 2010 he’d gained over 300 more votes and had beaten the UKIP candidate into last place in Sutton South.
UPDATE 10 Jan 2013: I told Sutton Council about the missing election result and they’ve now updated their page.
Adrian Short works to get people the information they need, when they need it, in a way that they can understand.