Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Election Night Counts: MoJ Toughens Guidance for Returning Officers

The Ministry of Justice have been in touch following my story on Saturday about the government appearing to backtrack on election night counts. Here's what they have to say...

The clause requires Returning Officers to take reasonable steps to begin the count by 2am. That is a clear duty and goes further than the existing legislation which requires them only to make arrangements for the counting of votes "as soon as practicable" after the close of poll. It is clear in our view that when the amendment becomes law, it would not allow for Returning Officers simply to excuse themselves from starting the count within the 4 hour period set out. Of course, the legislation cannot guarantee overnight counts everywhere - there might for example be some constituencies with challenging geography where, despite reasonable steps being taken, it is impossible to begin the count by 2am. Or there might be unforeseen circumstances on the night. But the formulation is much clearer about what is expected than the current legislation, and Returning Officers will not be able to dismiss the duty lightly.


I can't make up my mind whether that is encouraging or not! I think if I was a Returning Officer I'd be very confused.

10 comments:

superstringuk said...

So could the returning officer have one poor sod counting a single box for a few hours from 2am and then get everyone else in to help at 9am?

ianbeag said...

If the Western Isles constituency, the most remote and scattered collection of islands in the UK can count on election night why can't the rest?

Rory Tory Marshan said...

What's the point in issuing new guidance??? I always look forward to overnight counts. The excitement of it all.

Plus this year I hope to be witness to the count in Angus. A key Scottish seat.

WPATW said...

Two of the re hashed constituencies in warwickshire have announced they wouldn't be starting counts until the Friday morning. The implication of the report was after they had woken up and not 2am keep at them Iain

NightGardener said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Heaver said...

This whole thing is getting silly and I fear come election night we're going to get a very fragmented set of results which would be an anti-climax and a half.

Hamish said...

The technology exists to deliver the result the instant the polls close.
The trouble is we don't trust the technology.
In the interim, just close polling at 8pm rather than 10pm.
Hardly anyone votes in the last two hours, and if it's a problem, they can easily get a postal vore.

NightGardener said...

The MoJ are right about the words of the amendment - it is a stiffer test - but the question to ask is what is the sanction for: (a) failing to take reasonable steps to start the count by 2am; and (b) not making the report. If there's no sanction beyond name and shame then the amendment is empty posturing and will only appeal to the public duty of the returning officers who were intending to count on the night not those of thinking of switching. If twenty percent choose to switch then naming and shaming won't work.

mtrcricket said...

Sir Humphrey tells me it means that Returning Officers can do what they like, with the blessings of the Man Of Straw.

Martin said...

Iain, did you hear Graham Stuart dump a load of smelly stuff all over the BBC this morning? Here's a quote

"Imagine a Tory donor who'd bought a company, run its pension fund into the ground, bought the assets back for pennies in the pound, who became a privy counsellor even though he wasn't qualified while personally funding the leader's leadership bid - they (sic) would be a massive story and yet somehow the BBC runs day after day on Lord Ashcroft, who as far as I can see has done nothing wrong, and gives Labour an easy ride. It takes me back to the tales we had of the champagne bottles in 1997 and I'm afraid the BBC remains biased and fails to ask the proper questions of those who are currently in power."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r9823

About 12 minutes in the interview starts.

It's about BLOODY TIME Iain, someone needs to give Mr Stuart a well done, but the Tories really do need to start hammering the bias at the BBC.