The Electoral Commission has recommended general election counts should continue to be held overnight. Before the 2010 election, a number of councils made plans to count votes the day after polling day. But a campaign by MPs and others resulted in a change of the law requiring counts to start within four hours of the close of polls. The Electoral Commission said this should only be revisited if national polls were scheduled for the same day. A report by the Commission – the independent elections watchdog – makes a number of recommendations on the timing of election counts which, it says, will “make sure voters get accurate and timely results at future elections”. It follows consultation with returning officers, who are responsible for election counts, as well as politicians, broadcasters and others with an interest in the issue.
The report recommends returning officers should engage in “proper dialogue” with all those affected by decisions made about when to count ballot papers, which should include local politicians and broadcasters. Once a decision has been made, returning officers should give clear reasons to all those affected and the timing of the count should be decided in good time.
The commission recognised the increasing complexity of national elections, such as for the Welsh Assembly or Scottish Parliament, being held on the same day as other elections. It recommended the issue of overnight counts for general elections should only be revisited if it was combined with these kinds of elections or national referendums.