A very memorable day!!!
I had an exciting night at the election count at Oaklands Sports Centre, now rebranded as 'Energize'. Firstly there was a wait as the count wasn't going to start until all the ballot boxes were in. There were two counts, York Central and York Outer, with the hall split into two halves. Sometime after midnight the first boxes were tipped out onto the tables, starting with number 1, and then working through to the low 60s with the Central count, as this was the constituency I was interested in, as the Greens didn't stand in York Outer.
The first job was to check whether the number of ballot papers matched the tally on the sheets taken by the officials in the polling stations. So the ballots were sorted into bundles of 50 for easy counting. This allowed us to look at particular polling disrticts to see what the balance was, so as the ballots were unfolded and put on the pile, I noted whether it was UKIP (hardly any) Hugh Bayley the sitting Labour MP (lots) our man Andy Chase, (just a few) the racist BNP (even fewer) Christian Vassie for the Lib Dems (quite a few but not as many as Labour), Eddie Vee the Loony Elvis Impersonator (virtually none) and Susan Wade Weeks the 'Greenest Tory in the land' (similar numbers to the Lib Dems). I used the 'four-bar gate with a fifth cross-bar' method of tallying. This initial tally told us that Hugh Bayley would retain the seat. It also 'worked' as on one table, a counter put 51 in one pile by accident, and the ballots were rejected as it didn't match the numbers on the sheet. The wads of 50 were recounted and the error found.
All the ballot boxes and postal votes were counted before the second stage of the process. This was where the bundles of 50 were sorted into the 7 candidates. Here, the observers' job was to watch very carefully to see that the right ballot papers were going into the correct pile. It is easy to make a mistake, faced with thousands of forms to sort. I pointed out several errors, where a sorter put a ballot paper in the wrong pile, so close and astute observation is really important. At this stage, the spoilt ballot papers are weeded out. There were a few with no mark whatsoever, and a few with a cross against more than one candidate, or all of them! Some ballots had the mark in the area of their candidate, but not in the box where it should be... for instance, one had the number on the left circled rather than a cross or tick in the box on the right. There were waved at the officer who was collecting the piles of ballots, and she decided whether it was a valid vote, or needed to be seen by the candidates for a decision. There were also quite a few ballots I saw with messages to the candidates, including one with the 'CRASS' anarchy logo scrawled across, and another saying 'I cannot vote for any of you'', and another with a lot of pictograms of male genitalia against the 3 main parties and the UKIP and BNP (not the Greens though!!!) and several others. These are put in a 'spoilt ballot' pile and the candidates check them to see they are indeed spoilt. There were a few with 'difficult to decide' marks, where perhaps the voter first put the cross in the wrong place and scrubbed it out and put it in the intended place. These are shown to the candidates and they decide if it is a spoilt ballot or 'belongs' to one candidate. There are usually over 100 spoilt ballots in an election of this size.
After all the ballots for each candidate are put together, they are put back on the table and counted into bundles of 50, for the final count. The counter makes a bundle of 50, and then swaps with their colleague who also counts it, so each bundle is counted twice. During this counting, usually with a rubber thimble, any incorrectly placed ballots might also be spotted, as all the crosses should be in the same place.
Finally, the bundles of 50 are all put together under the candidate's name and it is easy to count them for the final result. All this took about 5 hours, and the announcement was just before 5am.
The results were Bayley 18,573; Wade Weeks 12,122; Vassie 11,694; Chase 1,669; BNP 1,171; UKIP 1,100 and Eddie Vee just 154. There was a 61% turnout.
After the results were announced Bayley did his acceptance speech, with lots of thank yous for the staff, his team, his wife and lots of others, and all the other candidates spoke briefly.
Then we were done. I cycled home and got in just before 6am. I put the telly on and had a bowl of cereal. Within the hour, the result from Brighton Pavillion came in, and the news I'd been waiting to hear for some time... that Caroline Lucas had won the seat... our first Green Member of Parliament!!! A historic day, a joyous day. The interweb lit up with messages of joy and congratulations. I was quite emotional.
I also started getting messages of birthday congratulation, as it's my birthday today. I couldn't have wished for a better present than Caroline's win.
I stayed up til the boys came down before going to school, and then retired to bed. However, there was a phone call at 11 which woke me up (the car hire company, worse luck!), and I then stayed up til about 2.30 when I went to bed for another two and a half hours.
I did a very short stint in the garden but there was another phone call which brought me back in. But it was a booking for the summer Fair for the Madhyamaka Centre, which was nice.
Gill made a pizza and baked a butternut squash. A nice birthday tea. She also made a cake for the St Nicks 10th Anniversary tomorrow and a pile of buns, each with '10' in icing on the top.
A very memorable and enjoyable day.