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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 6 July, 2020
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It's all over bar the kissing - but how are the votes counted and when will it be official?

Here’s your step-by step guide to count day.

Michael D Higgins kisses his wife Sabina upon his election as President in 2011.
Michael D Higgins kisses his wife Sabina upon his election as President in 2011.
Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

TWO EXIT POLLS have all but shown that Michael D Higgins will continue as president for another term. 

The exit polls put Higgins support at up to 58% and suggest that he will be elected on the first count.

This all has to be made official, however, and we’ve put together a guide for how the votes are counted and what you should expect throughout count day.

After the voting closed yesterday at 10pm, the votes were transferred from each of the 40 constituencies to one of 28 count centres around the country.

The National Count Centre where the final result will be declared by the presidential returning officer is in Dublin Castle. 

Counting will begin at 9am this morning and the first job is to determine the quota.

The quota is the number of votes required to be elected and in presidential elections it is 50% of the total valid poll plus one vote. 

When the ballot papers are sorted according to their first preference and counted, each local returning officer notifies the presidential returning officer of the first preference result in each constituency.   

Results for individual constituencies will be made available to media in individual count centres once they have been sent to the presidential returning officer and verified.

When the results from each constituency is known, the presidential returning officer can calculate the quota.

The result of the first national count will not be announced until all 40 constituencies  centres have reported their first count results.  

If the exit poll are accurate, Higgins will be elected president after this count having reached the quota on first preference votes alone.

We will get a more definite indication of this not long after the ballot boxes are open at 9am and tallies start to come in from local count centres. 

But if this is not the case and further counting is required, this is how it will proceed. 

The Presidential Returning Officer will direct the exclusion of the lowest candidate or candidates and transfers from their votes will be distributed.

The process of the exclusion of candidates and transfer of their votes will continue until a candidate can be declared elected, the same as occurs in Dáil elections.

Seven years ago, Higgins reached the quota and was elected after the fourth count.

PastedImage-72266 Source: presidentialelection.ie

Timings

While the result seems pretty clear and will become more definite throughout the day, it’s difficult to put a time on exactly when we’ll have a national result.

But for some indication, we can look to 2011. The first count you see in the above results was declared just after 9pm on count day seven years ago, some 12 hours after the boxes were first opened. 

A candidate or one of their representatives at a local count centre can request a recount or re-examination of ballot papers, but this can only be made at the completion of a count and if the result isn’t close this is obviously highly unlikely to happen.

What you can expect to see though are some early doors concessions from the defeated candidates and some detailed debate about what has been one of the oddest elections in recent years. 

Of course, there is also a second set of ballots to be counted over the next couple of days – those in the referendum on blasphemy.

The counting on this will have to wait because the presidential election has priority and will be concluded first before formal results in the referendum come in.

Once the presidential count is concluded though, referendum results could come quickly as many constituencies will have them started, or even completed, before the presidential result is official. 

Before this, we will of course have tallies on the result so should have a very good idea in the hours after boxes open. 

TheJournal.ie will be liveblogging the events as they happen throughout the day and will also have reporters at count centres to report constituency results as they come in.

RTÉ says that its count day coverage will begin at 9am on radio with Morning Ireland and that its TV coverage will begin at 10am with a Presidential Election and Referendum special.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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