Ten thousand people in Brighton and Hove asked for a vote just before the election

Posted On 08 Sep 2010 at 12:47 pm

More than 10,000 people registered to vote in Brighton and Hove in the eight weeks before the general election in May.

This compares with 2,000 in an average month.

As a result, 195,000 were entitled to vote and almost 145,000 voted.

And more than 750 staff were involved in running polling stations and counting votes on election day.

But new rules to make postal voting more secure meant the counts were delayed in the three parliamentary constituencies in Brighton and Hove.

So although it was a historic night with the election of Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as Britain’s first Green MP, it also proved to be a longer night than usual.

However, the time-consuming but careful checking was credited with preventing the need for a recount in any of the three marginal constituencies. There have been no legal challenges either.

Labour lost all three seats, with the Conservatives taking the other two – Hove and Brighton Kemptown.

Yesterday Brighton and Hove City Council held a review of polling day in the city at the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.

The desire to learn lessons for the future is all the keener with local elections due in May next year.

Valerie Pearce and Paul Holloway, deputy returning officers, said that there would be a full review of the city’s 145 polling stations.

The full review is unlikely to be completed before next May although they assured councillors that steps would be taken to address any problems by then.

They said that the surge in requests for a vote showed that the council’s campaign to encourage people to register and vote had been a success.

Councillor Amy Kennedy, the deputy convenor of the Greens, called for better communication at counts in future.

Councillor Kennedy, who represents Preston Park, said that there was much waiting around with no information being given about the reason for the delays or when a result might be declared.

Her point was supported by Garry Peltzer Dunn, the Conservative council for Wish ward.

Valerie Pearce said that this would be improved at future counts.

Paul Elgood, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Brunswick and Adelaide, called for the count to be held on a Friday in future.

His report of the meeting can be read on the Brunswick Blog entry for Wednesday 8 September.

Councillor Elgood was told that this was a decision for the returning officer, council chief executive John Barradell.

Mr Barradell would listen to representations but had a duty to consider to consider the security of the count.

Traditionally votes have been counted as soon after polling closed as possible to maximise public confidence in the process.

When a full postal vote was held in 2003 several concerns prompted David Panter, the returning officer and chief executive at the time, to reassure voters publicly. The BBC report about this incident can be read here.

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