When should election counts be held?

The Electoral Commission has a new consultation paper out, returning to an old issue: when should election counts be held?

As the paper says:

The key issue is that many Returning Officers have considered that increasingly complex election counts would be better conducted the morning after the close of poll when staff are fresh and less likely to make mistakes, while governments, political parties and candidates have often pressed for counts in major elections to take place immediately after the close of polls. This has led to controversies in the public domain ahead of major elections.

Timing of Election Counts: Issues Paper

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This entry was posted in Election law.


  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 4th Dec '11 - 1:31pm

    It should be left to returning officers to decide. There has always been a tradition of differing timetables for different constituencies in the UK. To those who like the party atmosphere of the morning after election day I say, if you want a party, go to a party, not a serious election count.

    One of the things that returning officers have to consider is the possibility of a close result and recounts.

    And to those who say that getting the whole thing done and dusted on the night is traditional I say “codswallop”. Even since the war, we’ve had to wait until midday the next day for a precise idea of he result. And if you go back to Gladstone’s time, the whole thing took a week!

  • Tony Greaves 4th Dec '11 - 5:21pm

    Next day. Almost always except for council by-elections and other “easy” counts.

    Tony Greaves

  • I think this discussion is partially a hangover from a time when election counts were regarded as high security events. For example party count observers had to sign security declarations and nobody could leave the count room until the count was over and a figure declared. If people needed to go to the loos they each had to have a police escort. This to prevent news of the count progress leaking out from observers sneaking off to a phone. I understand that this was regarded as a safeguard against ‘precinct holding’ as allegedly occurred in US elections ( holding back counting of some ballot boxes until the general shape of a count became clear so that the unscrupulous could decide how many votes were needed to steal the election). This security was inspired by the telephone revolution which allowed rapid communication between constituencies.

    The much more relaxed framework of todays counts only came in during the 1980’s as I remember…

  • While we are about it, should we abandon the practice of shuffling the papers so that it is impossible to tell from which ballot box they came?

    In Lancaster in the early 1980’s the practice was to count the papers per box and fill in the totals for each candidate on a form for each box. This was taped to the side of the box and agents strolled round noting down the figures. I was amazed to find that my skills in cout watch tallying were unknown amongst Lancaster Liberals at that time.

    Do they still do this up there?

    If we adopted the then-Lancaster practice we could have published figures of votes per polling place… would that be desirable?

  • RightPaddock 14th Dec '11 - 8:58pm

    OT – but how about having the voting at the weekend – middle of the week days are when working people are least likely to bother to vote.

    Ooops – sorry I forgot, that’s why the elite’s have them on Tuesdays – to discourage working people from voting – Democracy in Britain – what a perverse joke.

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