Friday, 26 March 2010

Campaign Diary - Candidates' and Agents' Briefing

Last night was my first visit to the new West Lothian Civic Centre, the building is very impressive, but I wasn't there for a tour but for the business of the candidates and agents briefing ahead of the general election.

Having been to a few counts elsewhere I have to tell voters that the team in West Lothian is one of the most well organised there is and at the same time one of the best for transparency and accuracy as well. Indeed when I turned up to the Electoral Commission meeting at conference and they heard where I was from they said, "You'll have no problems then". They went through all of the new changes that both us poor candidates or our agents and they as count staff will be having to go through. One key issue that a lot of voters are concerned with is the issue of postal votes. There will be an awful lot of these in the two seats Linlithgow & East Falkirk and Livingston.

However, there is verification equipment in place to check the identifiers for the postal voters. Because this verification will lengthen the verification of postal votes instead of only a few postal vote verifications they will be running one on each day leading up to the election itself. It is also because of on the day postal votes that the counts will probably all be somewhat later this year. Don't expect Sunderland South to declare before 11 this year.

By law the count team only have to sample 20% of the postal votes but West Lothian are going to treat every vote as equal and aim to verify all 100% of the postal votes that come in for both seats. I did say they are top notch for accuracy.

Having seen these guys at work on election nights and days for the past nine years I can expect them to run operations as smoothly as possible. They are aiming to have the count declared by 2 or 3 am, the only thing that might postpone that is if the verification equipment or its backup breaks down. We're all touching wood that this doesn't happen.

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