E-counting for 2007 elections


The electronic counting of votes has been given the go ahead for the 2007 combined elections.

The decision to use e-counting in Scottish Parliament and local authority elections, to be held on May 3 next year was taken jointly by Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The move to electronic counting, prompted by the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system for local authority elections, was confirmed following an evaluation and positive feedback from e-counting trials.

The Scottish Parliament elections will continue to use the Additional Member System (AMS) which provides people with two votes - one for a constituency MSP and one for an MSP to be chosen from a regional list.

In previous Parliament elections in 1999 and 2003 two ballot papers were issued, one for a constituency vote and one for a 'list' vote. In 2007 it is planned to have a single ballot paper. A consultation into the design of the paper begins today and runs until August 4.

Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform Tom McCabe said:

"The use of e-counting will provide quick, accurate and reliable results in the 2007 elections.

"The Single Transferable Vote count for the local authority elections is a complex process. E-counting will be able to handle this count effectively and efficiently. It will dramatically reduce the amount of time to complete the count in comparison to a manual count.

"The Parliamentary count will be declared first, followed by the local government results.

Decisions on when the local government result will be declared have still to be taken. However, the e-counting system will enable the STV results to be delivered no later than the day after the election. This would not be possible using traditional means of counting."

Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander said:

"With changes taking place and the complexity of voting systems we should be making the voting process as straightforward as possible. All the voter should have to think about is which party's policies meet their wishes. They shouldn't have to worry about how to fill out the ballot paper.

"That is why I want a single ballot paper for the Scottish Parliament elections - removing any confusion that a vote on the regional list is less important, or a second choice.

"I am also announcing today that electronic counting will be used for the Scottish Parliament ballot papers and that overnight counting will remain, with results out by the next day as usual."

The Executive has been testing the e-counting system along with the Scotland Office and all of the Returning Officers in Scotland over the past four months, and the successful results of the tests have meant that there is unanimous support to implement e-counting for the combined elections to be held in May 2007.

The STV system to be used for the local authority elections means that voters can make as many preferences on their ballot paper as they wish. Their first choice candidate would be marked with a '1', the second with a '2', and so on. The calculation of the result is a complex process, and using traditional manual methods would be extremely laborious and time consuming. The use of e-counting will allow Returning Officers to produce of quick, accurate and reliable results.

The one page ballot paper for elections to the Scottish Parliament would replace the present ballot paper which runs to two pages covering separately the constituencies' regional list candidates.

The Arbuthnott Commission Report on Boundary Differences and Voting Systems invited the Secretary of State for Scotland to consider adjusting the Scottish Parliament ballot paper in the interests of raising awareness about the significance of the two types of vote under AMS at Holyrood.

Both the Secretary of State and the First Minister have concluded that there is merit in this proposal and have asked for a consultation exercise to seek views from a wide range of interested parties.