Members of the Irish Senate are selected by three different methods. An Taoiseach directly nominates 11 members, NUI and Trinity graduates elect 6 between them, and councillors and members of the Oireachtas (incoming TDs and outgoing Senators) elect 43 members. It could be quite an interesting election this time round as the Government may have a slim enough majority.
Councillor Tom Kivlehan pointed out to me a curious aspect of the Senate Election. Each ballot is marked with a unique number on the back. Before I told him my number, he was able to guess it to within a few numbers. You can see the full list of 1096 electors here, but it seems that the identifying numbers aren't completely random.
I spoke with Deirdre Lane, Clerk of the Seanad yesterday and she tells me that they start with a random number, and then every thirty or forty names they add a few numbers to the series to put you off the trail. It still seems to me though that anyone with a sense for numbers and a copy of the electoral roll can identify a ballot from the back with a fair degree of accuracy, particularly if they are from a larger Party and had access to several electors' numbers from their ballots.
The rules for the conduct of Senate Elections state shown in the First Schedule of the 1947 Senate Electoral (Panel Members) Act emphasise the need for secrecy, but it seems to me to be easy enough to come close to identifying the elector from the number on the back of the ballot. Although the 'precautions for preservation of secrecy' in the Second Schedule states under 13 that "...ballot papers shall so far as it is practicable be kept face upwards..." it does seem that parties and candidates have a good sense as to who voted for whom. You would expect a good level of party allegiance in all of this, and this makes it easier to find out where most of the votes are coming from, but perhaps the individual ballot numbering should be made 'more' random in future.
Incidentally the Panels that select the candidates under this Act could perhaps benefit from a review. I've nothing against the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders , or even the Vintners Federation of Ireland , but maybe we need to reflect more of the creative, urban, environmental, and small business side of modern Ireland in the nominating bodies.