This year I’m going to be one of the Lib Dem counting agents at the election count, whose duty it is to scrutinise the process, so blogging and tweeting will have to wait until after the results are declared. The count takes place in two phases – the verification stage, which checks that the right number of ballot papers are in each ballot box, followed by “counting into favour”, i.e. separating the ballot papers to see how many votes each candidate has got. Normally these phases take place one after another, straight after the polls have closed, with the results usually being declared in the small hours of Friday. By closely observing the verification stage, party workers can get a pretty good idea of how the vote has gone in each polling station area, and will know which seats are going to be close and thus need special scrutiny during the counting into favour stage.
Things are a little different this year, partly because both the council and mayoral elections are being held on the same day. The verification stage will take place straight after the polls close as usual, but the ballot papers will then be locked away for the remainder of the night until Friday morning. Counting into favour for the County Council seats will begin at 9am, so we should get these results declared by mid-to-late-morning; counting into favour for the Mayoral election will begin at 12:30pm. Unless one candidate gets more than 50% of the first choice votes (which is unlikely), there will be two stages to the mayoral count. The two candidates with most first choice votes go through to a second round; all the other candidates are eliminated, and second choice votes from those ballot papers are then added to the first choice votes for the surviving two candidates. The whole thing has to be coordinated across several different counting centres across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, so it all takes some time – I’m expecting the mayoral result to be declared some time in the late afternoon.
Because of the verification stage, party workers will have a pretty good idea overnight of what results are going to be declared on Friday. However, the law requires that the secrecy of the count must be maintained, and I won’t be sharing any information about how things have gone until the results are declared.
For the last few years I’ve published predictions for the local council results beforehand, but this year I’m not going to until 10pm on Thursday – just after the polls close but before the count starts. Look out for them on Twitter.