An overnight count will go ahead at the EU referendum

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As Chief Counting Officer at the EU Referendum, Jenny Watson (who is also the Chair of the Commission) launched a consultation on her proposed approach to managing the EU referendum*. The consultation has been a chance to hear feedback from Counting Officers and those people who will be involved in running the EU referendum.

My role as Deputy Chief Counting Officer will include supporting, the Chief Counting Officer’s approach to the management of the referendum by ensuring that guidance for those local authority staff working as Counting Officers is ready in good time and is as clear as possible.

We had 49 responses to the consultation from Counting Officers (COs), local authorities, the Association of Electoral Administrators, regional electoral administrator groups and disability organisations. In general, respondents welcomed the CCO’s proposed approach to managing the referendum and issuing directions. Some amendments were proposed which following discussion with the Regional Counting Officers has resulted in some updates to the proposed directions.

In publishing her response to the consultation on the management the CCO has made clear that she will issue directions that include:

  • confirming that the count processes must be carried out overnight, starting at the close of poll (10pm)
  • ballot papers must be white
  • a polling station should not have more than 2,500 electors allocated to it
  • arrangements must be put in place by Counting Officers that ensure overseas and UK postal ballot packs are issued in good time.

It’s our view that undertaking an overnight count at the EU referendum ensures that voters and campaigners will know the outcome of this historic poll as quickly as possible. There will be practical challenges in delivering this and the Electoral Commission will be supporting electoral administrators and making sure they have the right plans in place to deliver what is needed.

The timing of the referendum is still not known so the CCO has said she will aim to offer as much clarity as possible early in the process so that COs can prepare for the referendum locally. Now that the consultation is concluded, work on this detailed guidance and resources to support planning for delivery of the referendum will be able to continue.

At the moment, we have no intention to issue any further directions but, should it be considered necessary, further directions would be issued only after consultation with the European Union Referendum Management Board and European Union Referendum Delivery Group.

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond and you can read the full response to the consultation, including the list of directions here

 Andrew Scallan

Andrew is Director of Electoral Administration at the Electoral Commission and will act as Deputy Chief Counting Officer for the EU Referendum.

* The Chair of the Commission will be the Chief Counting Officer (CCO) for the referendum and responsible for certifying the outcome of the referendum. The Chair of the Commission’s term will expire 31 December 2016. Should an EU referendum take place after this date, a new Chief Counting Officer will be in place.

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