Vote 2011: Expert John Curtice queries overnight counts

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An election expert says the pressures on those adding up votes could spell an end to the overnight count in future elections.

It follows the decision by north Wales officials to count votes the day after the 5 May Welsh assembly election.

All four main parties and the chair of the Assembly Commission, Lord Elis-Thomas, have criticised the plan.

Politics professor John Curtice said voters might pay more attention to elections if the count was in daytime.

Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas wrote to the chief returning officer in the north, Mohammed Mehmet, calling on him and his colleagues to change plans to count ballot papers the morning after the polls.

A final decision was expected following Monday's meeting of returning officers.

But Denbighshire council, where Mr Mehmet is chief executive, said counting would not take place overnight.

There were worries about the scale of the counting required, with ballot papers for the alternative vote (AV) system referendum also needing to be counted by the same people.

Dr Curtice told BBC Wales: "There are two pressures bearing on returning officers.

"The first is that the requirements for postal votes require returning officers to check the signatures that accompany them and because people can hand in postal votes as late as polling day returning officers across the UK have been wanting to switch to Friday counts.

"There's also the referendum on the Alternative Vote system which increases the burden.

"But for politicians it's a job selection process and like everybody going for a job, they want to know if they've got the job sooner rather than later but the job selection process needs to be done fairly and consistently or they run into trouble.

"Politicians are very ready to criticise officers if they get it wrong and to that extent a degree of patience is required."

He said arguably the amount of people paying close attention to the results of the election would actually increase if the count was carried out during daytime rather than overnight.

In a statement after the meeting, it said: "The position on behalf of the north Wales authorities remains unchanged. The count will take place on the Friday.

"The matter was not raised at this afternoon's meeting."

But BBC Wales understands the question was raised at the meeting.