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UK General Election Count Consultation (21/12/09)
The Returning Officer for the three UK parliamentary constituencies in the Highlands is consulting over the timing of the count for the Westminster General Election. Alistair Dodds, Chief Executive of The Highland Council, is asking political parties and the wider community for their views on the options of holding the count overnight or the following day. The deadline for responses is 25 January, next year.
No date has been set for the election but it must be held on or before 3 June 2010 when the five-year term of the Government ends.
Voting takes place between 7am - 10pm and on a Thursday, with the count traditionally being held overnight.
The two main reasons for considering scrapping an overnight count are the introduction of new processes to prevent postal voting fraud, which can add up to three hours to the count and consideration of the staff, who have to count the votes into the early hours of the morning.
The volume of postal votes handled in recent elections has grown dramatically. Now identity checks are carried out using dedicated IT systems, which scan statements and compare the signatures and dates of birth electronically. The rules allow for postal voting to be returned to any polling station in the constituency or direct to the Returning Officer any time up to the close of poll.
Recruiting count staff to work overnight, potentially until 6 am, is also seen as a risk. Experience is that the efficiency of staff diminishes as the night progresses.
The consultation paper, produced by the Interim Electoral Management Board for Scotland, also notes that moving the count from overnight on a Thursday to Friday morning will be a substantial shift from tradition and that many politicians want the status quo.
Anyone wishing to respond should contact the Returning Officer at The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX or by email: email@example.com