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E-counting put to the test

22/03/2012

With six weeks to the Local Government elections on May 3, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay and opposition spokespeople have overseen the final preparations for the electronic count.

Mr Mackay and the spokespeople attended a run-through of the e-counting system which will be used in the elections, alongside staff from Perth and Kinross Council who were being trained in how to operate the system.

Over the last 20 months, the system has undergone a rigorous testing programme including a large scale bulk test last summer. The system also complies with recommendations made by the Gould Report.

It will be used in May to count votes from polling stations all over Scotland at 31 counting centres.

Because Scottish Local Government elections use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system, it would take two or three days to count Scotland’s votes by hand.

Using e-counting means the counts take place in hours while also offering enhanced levels of information and transparency during the count itself, as well as allowing the publication of more meaningful post-election data.

All council staff who will be using the machines will have been through extensive training.

Viewing the e-count in operation, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said:

“The system has been rigorously tested in mock-counts involving more than 250,000 ballots.

“I am confident that, come May 4 and the day of the count, due to all the necessary preparations we will have a reliable and accurate result.

“Staff from every local authority in Scotland are being trained to operate the system.

“I’d urge everyone in Scotland to turn out and use their vote in the May elections. Voters, parties, candidates and everyone with an interest in the election can have confidence that the system has been rigorously tested.”  

Chris George, Director of UK Central Government & Health at Logica, who are providing the e-counting system, said: “The key thing has been the close working relationship between Logica, the Scottish Government and the Returning Officers to ensure everyone is happy with the way the system operates and is confident in its use.

“The technology has been provided by our partner Opt2Vote and is a proven system that has already been used successfully, delivering an electronic count for the 2010 Scottish Health Board Elections. It is simple to use, efficient and reliable. The partnership of Opt2Vote’s proven software and election experience with Logica’s planning and implementation expertise means all sides are confident of a smooth running election.”

Using e-counting, ballot boxes are received at the count centre from polling stations, the number of ballot papers in each box is entered into the system and the ballot papers are scanned, then the number scanned is verified against the number entered. Ballot papers where the voter intent is not clear are reviewed and interpreted by the Returning Officer and their staff, and then the STV calculation formula is run and the result is produced.

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