Who can attend the count?
Attendance at the count is limited to the candidate, candidate’s spouse(or guest), agent and the counting agents. The number of counting agents allowed is determined by the Returning Officer, though there is a formula that she can use to guide her.
The number of counting agents’ tickets allowed should be the same for every candidate.
The name of each counting agent must be specified to the Returning Officer by the date given on the timetable. You can with permission allow substitutes, but need to make a case for exceptional circumstances.
Why is it important to attend the count?
Whilst your election campaign stops at 10pm on polling day, the work doesn’t as there is one very important job still to do. Making sure the votes get counted properly. Thankfully, election counts done so badly that the wrong result is declared are a fairly rare occurrence but approaching the count in a calm efficient manner will usually ensure that that doesn’t happen.
There is also a lot of valuable information that can be gained from the count which you can use for targeting and informing your work in future campaigns.
Can members of the public attend the count?
The conduct of the count is a matter where the Returning Officer has a wide discretion. In some areas they allow all Councillors admission to the count. It is also not uncommon if the count is being conducted in a room with a balcony to allow members of the public to view the count from there. Conversely if the Returning Officer thinks that this would not allow the count to be conducted efficiently they may prohibit it.
Any people allowed access to the Count can and should be used by us to assist in overseeing the process.
Is the counting process secret?
All persons attending the count must be aware of the secrecy provisions in s66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The Returning Officer will usually issue a copy of this to all Counting Agents. Anyone attending the count should not touch ballot papers under any circumstances.
I am organising our presence at the count, what should I bring with me?
It is sensible to supply all your helpers (counting agents) with instruction sheets setting out their responsibilities at the count. Sample instruction sheets are available on the ALDC website. Ideally run a little training session to make sure they know what they are doing. You don’t get a second chance if they get it wrong.
Forms for the appointment of Counting Agents can be downloaded here