Suffolk election night counting scrapped

THE traditional excitement of election night has been consigned to history by Suffolk council officials with their decisions to count this year's local election votes the day after polling.

By Graham Dines

THE traditional excitement of election night has been consigned to history by Suffolk council officials with their decisions to count this year's local election votes the day after polling.

However in north Essex, only Braintree has opted out of overnight counting, with Chelmsford, Maldon, Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford deciding to proceed as normal.

With all-out elections due this year in most shire districts, Suffolk's returning officers have ruled that the 10pm finish for voting on polling day, May 3, combined with the new stringent checks required for postal votes to prevent fraud, make it impractical to carry out the traditional overnight counting.


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Even Ipswich and Waveney, where only a third of council seats are being contested, have decided the count should not be attempted after the Government ordered that polls should close at 10pm, an hour later than normal.

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury council said a further reason for delay was a change in the election process which means postal votes can now be returned to polling stations.

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“When we get the boxes back from the polling stations, we will be checking every signature and date of birth on postal votes, which could obviously take some time. The new checking processes are dependent on new technology and this can only be provided in one location.”

Braintree is joining the Suffolk seven in delaying the count until Friday May 4, and it is expected that its results and those of Babergh, Forest Heath, Ipswich, Mid Suffolk. St Edmundsbury, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney will be known around lunchtime.

The overnight counting councils are unlikely to have a complete ward-by-ward set of results much before 2am.

Nationally, returning officers have warned that the new postal vote regulations could force the declaration of General Election results to be severely delayed, especially if polling day falls on the date of elections to either the European Parliament or county council.

In this year's elections, nominations for which close on Wednesday April 4, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each will be hoping to take outright control of Colchester while the Tories have high hopes of capturing sole control of Tendring. The Liberal Democrats are looking to take back seats lost four years' ago in most councils, especially Mid Suffolk and Babergh.

graham.dines@eadt.co.uk

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