Go back to old vote, council urged

A Norfolk council has been urged to return to counting votes by hand in future elections after confusion and farcical delays caused by e-counting during the district polls earlier this year.

A Norfolk council is being urged to return to counting votes by hand at future elections after confusion and farcical delays caused by

e-counting earlier this year.

Breckland was one of the authorities that agreed to try out new technology at the spring local elections.

But the count was dogged by a series of problems that meant the final votes were still being counted by hand more than 100 hours after polling stations shut. The equipment could not cope with perforated paper being left on papers, and extra staff had to be drafted in to complete the operation the old way.

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Now, council members are urging the authority to favour traditional vote counting.

In a report to be discussed by Breckland's overview and scrutiny committee on Thurs-day, a working group will make 10 recommendations to the council. These include insisting on training staff to be employed on election duties, as well as using only proven technology that's fit for purpose.

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The report says: "Until such time as the technology is fully tried, tested and satisfactory, the council should continue to operate manual counts at future elections unless the council were directed to use

e-counting by central government."

It concludes: "The working group recognised just how stressful and trying the organising of such a complex event as a joint election can be. With additional complexities and new procedures this year in tandem with operating an electronic count pilot, the 2007 district elections were clearly extremely challenging for all concerned."

The four councillors also advise that better lighting should be provided at Attleborough Town Hall if it is to be used as a polling station in future.

They are expected to discourage Breckland from working with partners in future elections but to seek to improve communication internally between election officials and polling agents.

The recommendations follow a thorough invest-igation by the working group, which found that the delays in the counting process were

the result of poorly-tested technology.

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