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Election counts delayed by technology glitches

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Published by webmaster for 24dash.com in Local Government

Election counts delayed by technology glitches

Glitches in new voting technology trialled at yesterday's elections held up counts at several English councils today.

Two Midlands councils had to count votes by hand through the day because of problems with new counting machines.

Warwick and Stratford district councils both suffered delays after electronic ballot paper scanners performed poorly.

Ballot organisers said the scanning machines rejected more papers for adjudication than expected and performed slowly.

Stratford councillor Christopher Williams said the scanners only tallied votes if the cross was placed exactly in the centre of the box.

Stratford District Council leader Les Topham said: "It is always the same with new technology - if it works it is brilliant, if it doesn't everything collapses.

"Four of the six machines have broken down so we are going to have to come back later."

A Department for Constitutional Affairs spokeswoman said: "The important thing is that no votes will be lost. The only consequence is one of delay."

Elsewhere a trial computer system designed to allow electors in South Buckinghamshire to cast their votes electronically crashed.

They were able to vote up to a week before traditional polling stations opened using either their own computer or laptops set up in special booths throughout the district.

But the count was abandoned when the computer system being used to add up the electronically cast votes crashed.

Counting restarted today after the operation to recover lost information overnight became too time-consuming.

In Swindon, organisers had to check some votes cast electronically after technical problems at a small number of polling stations.

A dozen councils tested more convenient methods of voting, including advance voting, voting online or by telephone and electronic scanning technology to count ballot papers.

A technical hitch also delayed counting of postal votes in Middlesbrough, where papers had to be checked by hand because of problems reading the bar codes.

The councils that took part in the 12 pilots were: Bedford Borough, Breckland District, Broxbourne, Dover District, Gateshead, Rushmoor Borough, Sheffield City, Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough, South Bucks District, Stratford-on-Avon District and Warwick District Council (joint), Sunderland City Council and Swindon Borough.

Copyright Press Association 2007.

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