Back in September I gave my backing to Conservative Home’s campaign to “save General Election night” after some Councils (both urban and rural) decided they would count on the Friday instead of the traditional Thursday night.
At the September Full Council meeting I asked the Deputy Leader of the Council (Lib Dem Councillor Paul Tilsley), who oversees electoral matters, if he could give me his assurance that Birmingham would continue to count on the Thursday night – and he did give me that assurance.
However it was pointed out to me a few weeks ago by the Chief Executive that this is NOT a decision which politicians make. He was adamant that it is HIS decision and according to yesterday’s Guardian he appears to have confirmed what he told me at our meeting, namely that if the General Election is held on the same day as the Locals, the 10 Birmingham parliamentary seats (which includes several marginals including Edgbaston) will be counted on the Friday morning.
I am very disappointed about this, but I am told the main reason for it is the postal vote legislation, which Labour introduced. This allows anyone to have a postal vote on demand, and it also allows people to take them along to the polling station on the day and put them in the ballot box. (This is one of the crazy things about this legislation. If people are going to post their vote in the ballot box anyway, then surely they don’t need a postal vote – which is not so secure as voting in secret at the polling station.)
Those postal votes which have been posted in the ballot box cannot be counted as easily as the ordinary votes however. Being postal votes, and bearing in mind some of the postal vote fraud there has been, they all have to be verified (and so they should be). In Birmingham this process starts almost a week before polling day as some wards (especially in the inner city) now have so many postal votes. But it cannot be finished until all the last postal votes which come in on the day, have been verified too. And, as I know from previous local election counts, this can be a very lengthy process indeed.
I want Birmingham to count on the Thursday night, and I shall be taking the matter up with the Council Leader and Deputy Leader again. However I gather there is one glimmer of hope. If the General Election is NOT held on the same day as the Local Elections, then Birmingham will have a Thursday night count as normal. So it’s all in the hands of Gordon Brown.