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Nick Barlow Dec 11
OK, looks like today's panic is over postal ballots, so a quick thread on electoral procedure.
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Nick Barlow
First, and we need to be quite clear on this, no postal ballots will have been counted yet and none of them will be until after 10pm tomorrow night when they'll join the rest of the ballots for their constituency.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
What has been happening is the process of verification, or the various security checks to make sure that the ballots that have been returned are valid and not fakes. This involves checking it's come in the right envelope etc and that signatures on forms match records.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
Basically, checking that it's a valid vote, and that it's been filled in and returned by the person it was issues to (and yes, there are issues with postal ballot security, but they're not relevant to this point today)
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
When a bunch of returned ballots has been verified, then they can get removed from the inner envelope, with staff usually instructed to not look at the printed side of the paper and keep it face down at all times. They're then locked into a ballot box until the count.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
Oops, sent too early. Anyway, candidates/parties are entitled to send counting agents (observers) to this to make sure it's being done properly. Some agents use this as an opportunity to try and see how the ballots are going and get a tally as they might at the count.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
However, remember that the ballots here are being taken out of envelopes, unfolded (and most people fold them with the printed bit on the inside) and then placed face down, so seeing what the vote is on any single paper is a rather hard task.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
Now, it's possible you might see a few papers where someone has done a very heavy cross, or the person unfolding it gets in a mess and accidentally shows it, but you're only seeing a very small percentage of them.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
And crucially, you've got no idea where in the constituency they've come from, and any batch of papers can come from all over it with no sign of where (especially when there are no local elections at the same time).
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
But, parties send people to these counts, and they try to see what's happening (and if the candidate is there, it's a spectacularly bad use of their time) but they're only ever getting very limited information no matter how good their eyesight might be.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
So when people are saying "the postal votes are good/bad/indifferent/all spoiled by a suspiciously widespread group of surrealists" they're doing it based on very incomplete information and most likely bragging/downplaying for effect.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
Want to gee up a downbeat candidate? "Postal votes look good." Want to encourage lots of door-knockers on election day? "The opposition are doing well in the postal votes, we need a big effort to counter them."
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
You don't even need to have gone to the count - if you've got the people to knock-up postal voters when they receive their vote, you can report that all your supporters have sent theirs back, so you know there's a bunch of votes in the bag for you.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
This doesn't excuse journalists from mindlessly repeating whatever tale they've been spun by the Billy Bullshits of every party, desperate to spin at all times, but it doesn't mean anything dodgy or illegal is going on.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
And, if you do go around saying you've definitely seen the votes and you know definite numbers from the count...well, then Inspector Knacker might want a word.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
One thing I think would really benefit political journalism in this country? Pundits and commentators going and studying an individual campaign in detail through selection, nomination, campaign and vote, so they can see how it actually works.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
Because right now, a lot of it feels like someone commentating on a sport when they've never actually tried playing it themselves and making a lot of basic errors.
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Nick Barlow Dec 11
Replying to @nickjbarlow
And as this thread is getting some attention, you can read stuff by me about elections, politics and other things here
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