Save money, or save General Election night?

Mark Pack (here and here) and Costigan Quist have both been talking about this Sunday Times story about a ‘threat’ to ‘General Election night’. In short, it seems that more Councils are planning to delay counting general election votes from the night of the election until the day after in order to save money.

Yes, the Sunday Times (and assorted members of all parties, it seems) have decided that this instance of Councils saving money is apparently a bad thing. (As a disclaimer, I don’t know what Colchester is planning, but we did count the most recent County elections on a Friday and the sky resolutely refused to fall) In a time when there’s pressure on Councils to justify every penny they spend, having to pay out large sums to get people to work through the middle of the night is an obvious place to make a saving, especially when delaying the count for twelve hours or so will make no material difference to the result. Perhaps if broadcasters and others are so desperate to have the results on a Thursday night – though I’m quite sure they would easily adapt to a change – they’d be willing to pay the extra costs of it.

(Indeed, if you wanted to be truly free-market about it, Sky News, ITV and the papers could compete for results and sponsorship, paying for extra counters in key seats in exchange for their logo appearing behind the returning officer when they result is declared.)

I’m broadly in agreement with Costigan over this one – when there’s so much else wrong with our electoral system, trying to make a big campaign out of this strikes me as a bit pointless. Following the example of other countries and holding elections on Sundays seems like a much better idea to me, and it would be interesting if some Councils were allowed to trial that as an experiment to see what extra costs it incurs and what the effect on turnout would be. For me, increasing turnout is a much more effective use of spending a limited election budget than increasing the speed of the result.