Election 2015: Sunderland result could be announced within an hour of polls closing tonight

The recent election count in Clacton - counters are unlikely to be as fast as Sunderland

The recent election count in Clacton - counters are unlikely to be as fast as Sunderland - Credit: Archant

Vote counting in Sunderland is closer to a full body workout than an exercise in democracy, writes Tom Bristow, who was at the count five years ago.

Tom, who works for our sister title the EDP in Norfolk, explains that the city’s three constituencies famously declare before anyone else in the country and it’s a title they compete fiercely to hold every five years.

Last time counting was complete and a winner declared for Houghton and Sunderland South just 52 minutes after the polls closed.

Like any sporting champion miles ahead of the rest of the field, Sunderland City Council is fighting against the clock rather than other competitors as it attempts to beat its own record.

It’s been the first to declare for the last five elections. In 2010, it declared all three seats before any other results had been announced.

It takes attention to small details to be the best.

The count is appropriately held in a huge sports hall and teenagers wearing tracksuits and T-shirts sprint in carrying the black ballot boxes. The ballot paper is lighter than in other areas, meaning the runners can carry more votes.

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The journalists, TV crews politicians and council workers gathered seem more excited about what time Sunderland will declare than the result. This is deepest Labour territory and the race against the clock provides adrenaline to the most sedate of results.

Once the teenagers have delivered their boxes the votes are poured out onto long tables where an army of counters is ready. And then the whoosh of paper and gentle chatter fills the sports hall. This is the sound of well-tuned democracy.

For live election coverage, see here and for full election news from Suffolk and north Essex, see here