Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Will Election Results Be out for the Count? Staying Up All Night to Hear the Result, Following the Swingometer and Watching the Map Turn from Red to Blue or Vice Versa, the UK's General Election Night Is a National Institution. but That Looks Set to Change, as AMY HUNT Reports

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Will Election Results Be out for the Count? Staying Up All Night to Hear the Result, Following the Swingometer and Watching the Map Turn from Red to Blue or Vice Versa, the UK's General Election Night Is a National Institution. but That Looks Set to Change, as AMY HUNT Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: AMY HUNT

FINDING out who the next Prime Minister will be before you go to bed on election night has become a British tradition.

But that looks to have come to an end, after Newcastle councillors agreed to scrap the on-theday election count.

Traditionally votes cast in the general election have been counted on the Thursday night, after polling stations close.

But after recommendations by officers, councillors on the constitutional committee agreed to hold the ballot boxes overnight and count the votes on the Friday. The council says it is not alone in its move and expects to be followed by other councils across the region and around the UK.

Council chiefs say legal requirements to double check the validity of all postal votes mean they need to take longer over the counting.

But opponents of the plans, including Labour councillor for South Heaton Henri Murison, who put forward a motion to a meeting of the council challenging the plans, say they are a kick in the teeth for democracy and could delay the announcement of who has won the election.

He said: "This isn't a party political issue. If we want to do more to get young people into politics we need to be making democracy more, not less, exciting.

"I still remember going to school in 1997 and everyone talking about how the Tories were out. If this happens this real democratic cut and dried issue, when you find out the news the same day, will be dead.

"We will be continuing to call on the chief executive to think again. We are convinced that other councils will not follow this and Newcastle will end up having to think again."

A cross-party group of councillors backed Coun Murison's motion asking the ruling Lib Dems to keep the Thursday-night count.

But the challenge was defeated and plans to store the ballots overnight were confirmed.

Lib Dem councillor Gerry Keating, chair of the constitutional committee, said: "We have an unusually large number of postal votes in Newcastle, of which approximately 7,500 will not arrive at the civic centre until 11pm on election day, and in order to thoroughly check their validity, in line with legal requirements, we have taken this decision. …

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