Council defends backlash over election count delays

ELECTIONS    Picture: Malcolm Wells (141507-0165) SUS-150415-165236001ELECTIONS    Picture: Malcolm Wells (141507-0165) SUS-150415-165236001
ELECTIONS Picture: Malcolm Wells (141507-0165) SUS-150415-165236001
Time restrictions and high turnout have been put behind delays in general election declarations after the council defended being one of the last to count votes on Friday.

Warwick District Council was the last but one to declare its election results last week - putting delays down to the volume of work with two Parliamentary counts and almost 250,000 votes to process.

Seats for Kenilworth and Southam were not declared until around 1.45pm - with Warwick and Leamington half an hour later leaving frustrated voters questioning delays.

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Counting was not due to begin until 10am on Friday - already much later than many other constituencies and putting the council among the latest expected declarations.

The final time was exceeded only in St Ives where results were not known until 3.30pm.

Results were never due before midday but frustrations over a late start were worsened when at 10am, acting returning officer Chris Elliot announced that as verification processes had not been completed overnight, counting could not start on time.

Voters grew steadily impatient as seats were declared across the UK through the night. One took to Twitter to ask: “Why does our constituency seem to be the slowest in the country?” Another said: “98% of the country have declared their results and we haven’t even started counting”, with another stating: “So slow, makes it feel like our votes didn’t count”.

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The council was branded “embarrassing” and a “disgrace” as questions were raised as to why a double count had not been better managed.

A council spokesperson has since defended its timings, stating that having two Parliamentary elections on top of district and parish counts was simply too much for one night.

They said with a 70 percent turnout for each constituency and having to bring ballot boxes from Rugby and Stratford, time was against them and that delays were managed.

“It all amounted to the processing of almost a quarter of a million ballot papers to verify” she said.

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“This included 22,000 postal votes that came in on polling day through various polling stations.

“Some ballot boxes had to travel from the far edges of the constituencies to the verification tables at Stoneleigh Park, some arriving at the same time late at night.

“The sheer volume of work involved, and the security arrangements made at the count location that required all staff to be off site by 4am, meant that the verification process had to be adjourned further into Friday morning.

“Despite this delay, and the count starting slightly later than anticipated, results were still delivered as planned by early afternoon on Friday.”

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The first result came from Houghton and Sunderland South less than an hour after polls closed. School children reportedly line up to pass ballot boxes into the count and voting papers are even made lighter to ease the process.

St Ives is traditionally last to declare as votes need to be flown in from he Isles of Scilly on the first morning flight.

Most seats were announced by 8am with counts taking place overnight.

There were no delays to Saturday’s local election count also held at Stoneleigh Park.