How To Watch The Election Results

Sri Lanka 2019

From the official Elections Commission livestream, a first.

First thing is, forget TV. If you imagine every channel being Fox News, that’s Sri Lanka. The TV stations have all comprehensively soiled themselves this election and should be shunned.

Also forget WhatsApp. The forward button is the death of all knowledge.

There is only one source for all results and that is the Elections Commission. This year you can keep furiously refreshing their website. This will melt. More reliably, you can follow their own live stream on YouTube here, or below. You can also follow a running tally on Roar. There’s also a live data visualization by Chrishanthan Daniel here.

Personally, I think that Twitter is best for following breaking news, and there are a few excellent sources. I have a list of journalists that I follow that are reliable, but it is very breaking news, cross-check between them. There are election hashtags, but Sri Lankans can’t abbreviate ‘Presidential’ correctly and those are a mess.

Someone new worth following is the computer scientist Nuwan Senaratna who has been data sciencing the shit out of this and will have a good running tally and estimate. His methodology seems sound, or at least public.

You can also follow me as @indica, but I’m going to sleep.

The fact is that you could just drink/sleep for the next 24 hours and be no worse off. As exciting as it may be, we are all just going to be guessing and stressing, the final result won’t be known till tomorrow, and the final result is all that matters.

But who am I kidding, we’ll all be checking.

So here’s a few things to look for, shamelessly cribbed from Nuwan’s research.

Postal Votes

Postal votes are correlated with final results, but are not

Postal votes already happened and should be counted first. They are correlated with the eventual winner but do not predict it, and Sri Lanka elections are variable AF. Nuwan goes into this in great detail, but I will just say that you really need to see about 30 results to get any clue.

Bellwether Districts

A bellwether is a district that has historically picked the winner. So keep an eye on Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Digamadulla, Puttalam and Anuradhapura. However, our Presidential electoral history only comprises 7 elections, which is a small sample. So this also will not predict the result.

Following The Result

The fact is that nothing predicts the result besides the result. This is why we have elections. So to that end I would recommend following reliable people on Twitter, and keeping up with Nuwan’s live results and projections, which have some non-insane albeit still not clairvoyant math.

This is what 2015 would have looked like with Nuwan’s model:


And then just wait. People will be talking and analyzing on Twitter and wherever, which is fun, but just treat it like that. It’s just entertainment until the Elections Commission delivers the actual result.

I went through my tweets from last election to get a sense of timing. Last time we started getting official results around midnight on January 8th. By about 3 AM there was enough of an obvious swing that it seemed to be going Maithripala’s way. What a sweet boy he was back then.

I then fell asleep and by 7 AM on the 9th, he was clearly the victor and Mahinda had conceded. There were some motions like Mahinda was trying to stay, but the result was enough. Maithripala was sworn in around 7 PM on the 9th.

So When?

This time is a bit different. It’s possible that the result will be clear enough that you can see it in postal and early returns, but it’s also possible not.

This isn’t a two person race this time, and it may go to a second count (if no one clears 50%). Not a recount, they just keep the top two candidates and then check if any of the other ballots listed those guys as a second or third choice. This has never happened before and I have no idea how long it would take.

My best guess is that we’ll have some sort of trend line by tomorrow morning, but I don’t think we’ll get a final result until the afternoon. But that’s just my not best guess. We’re all living history together so we can just hang out together and see. The Elections Commissioner has said that the worst case is that we’d get final results by Monday at 6 PM. Which would leave people with no nails to bite and precious little finger.

I don’t think it’ll be that late, but I don’t know the time anymore than I know the result. No one does. I do trust the Elections Commission and thank the thousands of people that make this giant orchestra of democracy work. They’re the ones that need to stay up all night. We can actually sleep.

Which I’m going to do. Good night everyone. Good luck.