...have the pick three not dominated in European quota collection.
Many have passed comment on the length of time this European election has taken. But unlike in previous elections no candidate or pair of candidates has dominated enough in first preferences to make the transfer of their surplus more or less decide the election.
In 1979 Ian Paisley was elected on first preferences of 1.19 quotas, John Hume was second on 0.98 quotas and was swiftly elected with the exclusion of the various independent and smaller nationalist/republican votes in the third stage. The UUP actually had 0.87 of a quota in the first round but this was split between two candidates which had them sitting 3rd and 4th on first preferences and it wasn't until his running mate Harry West's vote pushed John Taylor over the quota.
In other words the big three had 3.04 quotas between them.
In 1984 Paisley sailed in with 1.34 quotas and the UUP putting up just one candidate this time also saw John Taylor in with 1.08 quota on first preferences. Hume for the SDLP was slightly further away this time with 0.88 of a quota, but was soon elected no the fourth stage with the exclusion of Alliance and UPUP.
However, the three who got elected had ensured that 3.3 quotas were theirs from first preference.
1989 saw Paisley in first with 1.20 quotas and Hume also sneaked in on first preference with 1.02. Jim Nicholson replacing Taylor on the UUP ticket was on 0.89 which was close enough to see him elected on the transfers of Paisley's surplus at stage 2. Between then the 3.11 was enough to ensure they were all elected without the elimination of another candidate.
In 1994 Paisley and Hume again sailed through on first preferences with 1.17 and 1.16 of a quota respectively. Nicholson was just under with 0.95, but once again it was enough for his election on the surplus of Paisley. The 3.28 quotas was just behind the peak of 1984 for centralising the vote within the big three.
Paisley's last European election in 1999 saw him once again top the poll with 1.14 quota. Hume also facing his last Euro electorate also was safely in with 1.12 and Nicholson posted at the time the poorest showing for one the big three with only 0.70 of a quota. It was still a respectable 2.96 of a quota. The elimination of all four of the lowest candidates made it a two person run off for the last seat, but it was only when Paisley's surplus was distributed in stage 3 that Nicholson was elected.
In 2004 we saw new faces for all but the UUP of the big four.But Jim Allister then still with the DUP carried on the Paisley legacy securing 1.27 of a quota to be elected top, Sinn Féin's Bairbre de Brún was also over the threshold with 1.05 of a quota. Nicholson faired worse still with only 0.66 of a quota which meant that the Allister surplus didn't see him over the line but the elimination of all bar the SDLP candidate did.
The top three parties were still polling 2.98 quotas. But there had been a shift in the nationalist vote and now the SDLP found themselves just behind the UUP in 4th.
Last time out in 2004 was the first time after 4 cycles that only person achieved the quota on first preferences. It was Bairbre de Brún who managed it with 1.04 of a quota a drop in the share she had last time. Nicholson rallied slightly to 0.68 but Diane Dodds replacing the defected Jim Allister only secured 0.73 enough to be ahead of the UUP but the DUP's worst ever showing in the European elections. The reason for this was the 0.54 that Allister himself secured for his new TUV party.
However, the net result was the that big three only had 2.45 quotas between then and only 0.04 of a surplus from first preferences. However, elimination of the Green and Alliance for stage 2, followed by the TUV in stage three soon saw the UCU-NF candidate safely over the threshold, and Dodds deemed elected due to the small surpluses not being enough to get the SDLP above her.
Which leads to this year, Martina Anderson of Sinn Féin was elected first round but with only 1.02 of a quota the smallest winning quota ever in Northern Irish European elections. Diane Dodds improved to 0.84 but Nicholson only just sneaked over half a quota on 0.53, the SDLP weren't far off with 0.52.
It meant that the three largest parties had dipped even further down to 2.39 and the battle was entered to secure almost double their first preference between the UUP and SDLP. Allister for the TUV had 0.48 of it and would not be eliminated until stage 7 and the three non-designated parties (Alliance, Grenn, NI21) had 0.42 of their quota their highest ever. This is why the election went so deep, there wasn't masses of other naturally unionist votes to be transferred until a late stage.