The acting returning officer for Poole has provided the Ministry of Justice with helpful information on the practical issues surrounding the timing of the count at the next UK parliamentary general election.
This information along with the views received from other key stakeholders, including the Electoral Commission, Association of Electoral Administrators and SOLACE helped to inform the clause that was inserted into the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (‘CRaG Bill’), at Commons Report stage on 2 March which amends schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 (the Parliamentary Elections Rules) to provide that a returning officer must take reasonable steps to begin counting the votes given on the ballot papers as soon as practicable within four hours of the close of poll. The clause also requires that:
(i) the Electoral Commission must produce guidance on this duty;
(ii) in instances where the count does not begin by 2 am, returning officers to publish and send to the Electoral Commission a statement within 30 days of the poll giving the time that the count began, explaining, why it did not begin before 2 am, and setting out the steps taken to begin the count by 2 am.
(iii) the Electoral Commission to list those constituencies that did not start the count before 2 am in its statutory report on the conduct of the election.
I am also aware that the acting returning officer for Poole has advised the Electoral Commission that he intends to commence the count on the night of the general election poll.