Polling station signAs part of my “getting up in time for work” practice, I made an early appearance at the polling station yesterday to cast my vote in the referendum about changing the system for elections to the Westminster Parliament.

I then checked my letter of appointment for counting duty and discovered that the count didn’t start until 3 p.m. on Friday, not 9 a.m. as I had thought. My cup runneth over.

So I turned up at the Town Hall and, discovering that the start time was actually half past three, wandered down to Waterstone’s taking in a large dose of sunshine and an ice cream along the way.

Half an hour later, I was back at the Town Hall where I duly presented my passport,  received my cheque and waited for the off. Counting started at 4 p.m. precisely.

It was a superficially straight forward affair – you had to sort the votes into “yeses” and “noes” and count them. There was some scope for confusion …

“Are these noes?”

“Yes, they’re noes”

“No, those are yeses”

… you get the picture. We completed the first count fairly promptly and waited to be dismissed. No such luck. The regional election centre ordered a recount.

William of Occam

William of Occam

The reason for the recount was not the nail bitingly closeness of the respective totals, but the fact that there was a discrepancy of less than ten between the number of votes cast and the number of votes counted (compounded by an inherent weakness in the postal vote system). Where’s William of Occam when you need him?

The result was eventually declared just before 9 p.m., instead of 7 p.m., as originally planned.

As in previous counts, there was the reassurance that British elections are administered by people who care passionately about the integrity of the process and that the process itself is satisfyingly transparent (a strong argument against electronic voting). There wasn’t the same buzz as in a proper election, although the “Yes” activists were understandably pleased that Oxford was one of the few areas that supported the Alternative Vote.

Bar chart showing referendum results for Oxford compared with UK totalAs a work experience, it was noticeable how there was an almost instantaneous sense of team spirit – the same thing happened with the Census. Of course, this rather begs the question of why organisations think it necessary to send their most senior managers on expensive team building exercises. DON’T GET ME STARTED ON TEAM BUILDING EXERCISES.

Links :  Electoral Commission

Images : William of Occam via Wikipedia Commons