Thursday, 1 October 2009

Save General Election Night


I am supporting this cross-party campaign to save general election night.

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday 6th September - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6823320.ece - that increasing numbers of councils are planning on counting the votes cast on the Friday morning rather than the Thursday night. Conservative political blogger Jonathan Isaby started the campaign, but was quickly joined and supported by Labour MP Tom Harris and Mark Pack of Lib Dem Voice

Here are a few reasons why you might support the campaign:

*We want to know who won as soon as possible*
Quite simply, once the polling stations have closed we want to know the result as soon as possible. And this argument holds on two levels. Firstly, on a constituency level, but more significantly on a national level: if the general election is going to be close, then it is possible that if lots of seats are not counting until Friday - especially marginals - then we will not know who is going to be Prime Minister, form the Government etc until Friday lunchtime.

*It would be a backward step*
In the digital 24-hour media age when we are used to getting news quicker than ever before, it would be a backward step to delay election counts. If anything, we should be seeking to persuade the few constituencies which historically count on a Friday to bring their counts forward to Thursday night.

*Fewer people will be able to follow the results coming in*
Sitting around the television into the early hours is an election night ritual for people across the land, many of whom do not perhaps follow politics closely on a daily basis. But if there are fewer results to announce - and the potential of not getting a national result to boot - they are less likely to bother tuning in and when the remaining constituencies declare and the national result becomes apparent on the Friday, anyone at work is not going to be able to witness the climax of the electoral process.

*The TV coverage of the election will suffer*
The outside broadcasts (OBs) at counts up and down the country have provided many a memorable moment over they years, and they bring the results to life. However, the reason why broadcasters are able to provide such a variety of OBs is that there is no other call on the satellite trucks and outside broadcast units during the night. If there were an increasing number of counts on Friday during the day, fewer of them would have cameras present, thereby reducing the ability of the broadcasters to give full coverage of the results.

*It's a tradition, dammit*
The traditional British way of doing elections is to have people come out to vote and then count the ballot papers immediately afterwards. It's how we do it and what we're used to.

*Threats to the integrity of the ballot*
Security is a less important concern, but worth a mention all the same. Some of us might be just a little uncomfortable about increasing millions of ballot papers being left overnight before being counted.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Join the facebook group:

Please contact your local council (most likely the electoral registration department or Chief Executive's office) to discover when the votes for your constituency at the general election will be counted.

If it's definitely Thursday, message Jonathan Isaby (the facebook group's admin) and a list of confirmed Thursday counts will be posted in the latest news section below.

If your council indicates that it will be counting on Friday or that it is yet to be decided, again, please let Jonathan Isaby know so that it can be posted below, but please also lobby your local councillors and council leader to urge them to count the votes on the Thursday night.

Together we can save General Election Night!

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