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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 17 February, 2020
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The nation has decided. Here's when we'll know the results

We’ve a very long day ahead of us until we find out how the 33rd Dáil will look.

Counting in Citywest in 2016
Counting in Citywest in 2016
Image: RollingNews.ie

AFTER ALMOST FOUR weeks of campaigning, the nation (including Tipperary) went to the polls yesterday in the 2020 general election. 

Across 39 constituencies, 531 candidates have run with 159 seats up for grabs as the outgoing Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected. There are actually two more seats in this election than last, after a constituency commission recommended increasing the number of Dáil seats by two. 

The exit poll released late last night, which shows a three-way tie between FG, SF and FF, has given some indication of what to expect, but it’ll be quite a while before we know for sure how the picture is looking nationally.

Here’s what we can expect this count day.

Counting

So, around the country from the RDS in Dublin to the Nemo Rangers club in Cork city to the sports hall in Killarney, boxes will open at 9am.

The counting will then get under way in earnest. 

It’s important to remember that in each constituency there are tens of thousands of votes to count. 

90410891 Counting in Citywest in 2016. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Take Dublin West. From an electorate of 64,639 in the 2016 election, 41,952 votes were cast. 

When the counting starts, the count staff will tally the first preference votes for each candidate. This can take some time.

Between 10am and 12pm, initial tallies will give an indication – albeit with a strong health warning – about how the constituencies are looking. 

The drama to be found here will be in which outgoing TDs – especially government ones – could be looking in trouble to retain a seat. 

It’s also around the time you could see some outgoing TDs begin to concede that they’ve lost out. Just before midday in 2016, Labour’s Eric Byrne admitted he wasn’t getting back in in Dublin South Central.

If you’re in first place in the tallies at around 1pm and 2pm, then it’s highly likely you’ll win a seat.

First counts

Official first counts are unlikely to happen until the 3pm mark. 

In 2011, Dublin West was the first constituency to return a first count at 2.47pm. In 2016, it was Galway East at 2.53pm

After the first counts come in, the subsequent counts won’t take anywhere near as long as the votes from candidates who’ve been eliminated are distributed. 

It’s very hard to predict when we’ll have our first TD, but it’s almost certain to be one of the constituencies with the fewest voters.

There are very few constituencies where a candidate will be elected on the first count – in 2016, Michael Healy Rae and Enda Kenny were among those elected on the first count – so the counting will go on in many until we get the first TD elected.

90410511 Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh jubilant in 2016 Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Last time out, Shane Ross was elected to the three-seat Dublin Rathdown Constituency on the second count at around 3.40pm to become the first TD elected to the 32nd Dáil. Just over 40,000 people voted in that constituency.

If the first constituency does declare its first count around 3pm, it’s unlikely we’ll have a flurry of first counts coming in from around the country at first. Each count centre will have a different number of votes to count. 

However, it’s between 4pm and 6pm that this will start to ramp up. 

The biggest constituencies in terms of population, like Mayo and Kerry, will be among the last to declare first counts as those and subsequent counts continue into the evening.

By 5.53pm last time out, we had nine TDs elected. This was broadly in line with previous elections so we’re likely to see something similar today. By this time, we’d also lost our first government minister. So that’s another one to keep an eye out for.

Long night

Around 7pm and 8pm, we’ll be seeing more first and second counts coming in around the country where the safest of safe seats will be being filled. 

By 7pm last time, 20 seats were filled – one eighth of the total number of seats. It’s clear that even by the evening there’ll still be a long way to go.

download - 2020-02-07T095349.510 Will Alan Kelly be celebrating again in Tipperary this time around? Source: PA Images

But while we could still be waiting for some first counts, some of the smaller constituencies – particularly the three seaters – could already be completely filled.

Don’t be surprised if the likes of Dublin Rathdown, Galway East and both Meath East and West are filled well before 9pm

As pointed out earlier, some counts are faster than others. At 9.45pm last time out, we still didn’t even have a first count from Kerry or Dublin Bay North. 

So while counters in Rathdown or Galway East may already be gone home, we’ll be set for a long night in other constituencies around the country. 

As we progress beyond 10pm, some of the tighter constituencies will be becoming clearer. The hotly contested four-seater in Dublin Central, for example, is likely to be on at least its 7th or 8th count before 11pm

90410723 Richard Bruton victorious last time out in Dublin Bay North. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

By now, we should have dozens of more seats filled but more drama still possible before the count centres call it a night. 

The counting went on in some areas until 3am (!) last time out, so count centres will make a decision on a case-by-case basis when to stop counting for the night, usually around midnight. 

And where will we be by then?

Again, it’s hard to predict how many seats we’ll have filled by the time all the count centres close for the night but there’s a strong chance the national picture will have emerged and made itself clear. Nevertheless, the counting will go on and on in some areas well into next week. 

We’ll be covering all the events as they happen on TheJournal.ie, so stick with us as we bring you the results to the 2020 general election. 

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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