It’s all over for now, bar the singing and shouting, the Scottish Election votes have been counted. There hasn’t been much singing and most of the shouting has come from perturbed, prospective members of parliament, disgruntled voters as well as returning officers, who signalled failings with the new scanning machinery that was meant to make the counting process easier.
As usual, expensive technology that has not been tried in testing circumstances has failed to deliver its promise when put to the test. In Aberdeen, it was reported that one poll returning officer sent his staff home after the machinery had churned back its umpteenth rejection of the voting papers. As I understand it, a careful manual check has to be kept on technological rejections. The staff returned the next day to deal with a recount of the votes.
Voting was an unnecessarily confusing affair; there were two papers both of which had to remain utterly flat. All our lives, we have been educated to fold up our voting papers once the vote has been made and now, not only has that habit to be reversed but we were expected to vote in NUMBER preference order for our local councillors, that is unheard of – ‘what, no crosses!’
Then, we had two more votes, a regional parliamentary preference and a parliament, parliamentary preference. ;D There were two different coloured columns to denote which preference/s the individual was voting for this time. Crosses were required for both, not numbers.
To keep me right, I took the instruction leaflet that was delivered on how to cast votes. I carefully followed them and I didn’t see the instruction in faded grey on the back of the councillor voting paper that stated, DO NOT FOLD. It was too late when I did see it; I hastily flattened out the paper, I even tried ironing the darn thing with my hand.
There was nothing for it but to own up, so I popped my head out of the voting booth to admit my folding error to the polling clerk. I rather hoped I would elicit some sympathy and the offer of another white voting sheet. “Can’t you read!” she snapped. Boy, I was angry and I felt my hackles rise. I composed myself, so as not to reduce myself to her level. When done, the two pieces of paper, both flat (one more than the other) were slid into separate containers.
There were 100,000 ‘spoiled’ ballot papers in this election. From a small population of about 5-6 million people, that is appalling. Spoiling could have been simply what I did, indadvertantly fold a paper, placing crosses instead of numbers, too many crosses in one column and so on. Some papers would have been purposely spoiled, but not 100,000 of them.
The Electoral Commission who it seems gave all sorts of permissions for the way this election was run, (including blatant electioneering on the parliamentary ballot paper which is, I am sure, illegal under electoral legislation), has decided to initiate an enquiry into the débacle of the polling arrangements and the counting facilities.
Now we the electorate wait to see what deals will or won’t be done. There is a hung, proportionally represented parliament, with the Nationalist party gaining one more seat than the Labour Party. There is a healthy showing of Liberal Democrats, sixteen Conservatives (they used to be known as The Unionist and Conservative Party) they previously had no seats in the devolved ‘first past the post’ parliament and there are three ‘others’. What interesting bedfellows will we see, particularly as only one of the parties, the Nationalist Party, stands for total devolution from Union with England?
One thing is certain, if deals can’t be struck to create a Scottish Government from the results of this vote, within a month, new elections will have to be held – Oh glory! At least we don’t have to choose our councillors again.:|