Saturday, September 12, 2009

Save General Election Night

One thing where both Charles Clarke and I agree - don't worry, there aren't many like this - is the issue of the when to count votes. We both greatly support the idea that we continue to count on a Thursday after votes have been cast and an evening of high-drama on live TV. The idea that people would be at work and miss things like Michael Portillo or Ed Balls losing their seats (oh hang on, the second one hasn't happened yet) would be awful. What about the security of the ballot boxes? What about the seemless transfer of power in a democracy?

The cross-party alliance running the campaign put it better than I could ... After reading this, go onto Facebook and sign up to the campaign.

This is more than just a political anorak obsession, it is actually important ...

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 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.


Comrade said...

Sh*t Antony, I am agreeing with you again........

Is it me or you who is changing?

Antony said...

The party left me, I didn't leave the party ... welcome to the Blue Team.