Election organisers London Elects and their IT contractor IntElect have kindly talked me through the process and demonstrated the scanning technology involved at a mocked up counting facility.
It was election geek heaven!
Extra marks on ballot papers, bit of shopping lists on postal votes, screwed up ballots and even missing forms all need to analysed and adjudicated on before the names of the next Mayor and Assembly Members can be revealed.
This London Elects video shows how the process works:
A couple of points not addressed by the video but worth noting:
The handling of forms and decisions on whether votes are valid or need to be rejected are always carried out by the Returning Officer and their local authority staff.
Although the system looks complex and time consuming, the electronic scanners process the majority of ballot papers in seconds and the time saved by not manually counting them leaves more time to examine and adjudicate on the less clear forms.
A lot of thought has gone into contingency planning – each counting venue will have a supply of additional scanners and PCs which can be used to replace any faulty equipment or – if turn out was to exceed expectations – be deployed to help prevent backlogs.
In addition the software used in each venue can process votes from anywhere in London allowing for ballots to be moved to an alternative location if one venue suffered a catastrophe such as a total power loss.
PS: If you know anyone who isn’t registered to vote they still have a few days to do so and ensure they have a say in London’s next four years.