[EM] Ballot Data Format

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Thu May 27 16:09:35 PDT 2021

There is a recognised format for the publication of the full ballot data for STV-PR elections, i.e. BLT format, first described in this paper (at section 3.1):

Hill, Wichmann & Woodall (1987) "Algorithm 123 - Single Transferable Vote by Meek's method"  http://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.NSF/Files/meekm/$file/meekm.pdf


The format is quite “primitive” (stream of numbers, with minimal text and no explanation) because it predates even the DOS operating system.


The full ballot data, in this preference profile format, have been published by the Returning Officers for every multi-member ward in every one of the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland for the STV-PR elections held in 2012 and 2017.  The data for the wards in the City of Glasgow were published following the 2007 elections although that was not then a legal requirement.


Unfortunately, there is (as yet) no central depository of these STV-PR ballot data, but the BLT files are available among the “election results” on the respective 32 Council websites.


James Gilmour

Edinburgh, Scotland


From: Election-Methods [mailto:election-methods-bounces at lists.electorama.com] On Behalf Of Carl Schroedl
Sent: 27 May 2021 23:16
To: John Karr <brainbuz at brainbuz.org>
Cc: EM <election-methods at lists.electorama.com>
Subject: Re: [EM] Ballot Data Format


Hi All,


Another source of inspiration could be the Pivot Libre project's Ballot File Format. Documentation is hosted on GitHub pages.


Issues and contributions can be made on GitHub.



I'm interested in staying in the loop on any ranked ballot community standards efforts. I don't have time to drive the conversation right now.


Whether or not the specifics of BFF are to the community's liking, I recommend considering using a similar approach with GitHub as a collaboration and website site hosting platform. I believe several organizations have used this approach successfully for some fairly complex standards.






All the best,



On Thu, May 27, 2021, 3:34 PM John Karr <brainbuz at brainbuz.org <mailto:brainbuz at brainbuz.org> > wrote:

As the author of Vote::Count, a standardized format for ballots would be 
a big plus. When I've been able to collect sample data, the first thing 
I need to do is convert it to my format. Currently Vote::Count has two 
formats, a text one for ranked ballots and a json/yaml format for range 
ballots. The documentation on my formats is here: 

I'm not on Reddit, but I think creating a working group of people with 
an interest to propose a standard would be  a great idea, and I'm 
interested in helping.

A standard format would allow creation of a library of data for which 
electowiki would seem to be a natural home.

On 5/27/21 4:02 PM, election-methods-request at lists.electorama.com <mailto:election-methods-request at lists.electorama.com>  wrote:

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