A sketched picture of James' head

James Smith

Building a better future out of code

The Count

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So, this is it. I’m writing this from the coffee shop at the Horsham count, at about midnight. This is my first count, so I’ll try to explain what it’s all about. Obviously I can’t disclose information during the count, so this will be published in the morning once it’s all over.

We’re in a sports hall at Christ’s Hospital School (which fortunately has public gym membership, therefore a decent coffee shop). The room is laid out with a bunch of tables, laid out in a sort of snake. The counters are all one one side, and the candidates and agents are all on the other. They count, and we can watch everything that’s happening from the other side of the tables.

It’s a bit odd just staring at what people are doing like they’re zoo animals, but I guess it goes with the territory. We’re all looking at the ballots anyway. I can’t help feeling that I should help out though!

Whenever a polling station box arrives, it’s dumped out and bundled up into batches of 25 papers. There’s no counting per candidate at this stage, but the agents are watching and keeping their own tallies, trying to get a bit of intelligence before the candidate counting starts in a couple of hours. At this point they’re just checking that there aren’t more votes than voters in each area. I guess also it’ll tell us turnout reasonably early on, though I don’t think we will be told.

As it stands, I’ve seen a few votes for me go by, which is nice. I’ve got no idea how that translates into a percentage, though the agents who are keeping tallies might do. There are lots of agents with clipboards keeping counts, but I’m just wandering around like the aforementioned zoo visitor, gawping.

For now though, it’s quiet and efficient.


Still going on the preliminary count, but it’s drawing to a close. The counters have checked and bundled the parliamentary votes, and also the local council votes to make sure there aren’t any missed ballots that went into the wrong box. Those will be counted in detail tomorrow.

So we should be seeing the proper count of the parliamentary ballots soon, I think. From looking at the ballots I’ve seen, I’ve certainly got some votes, and I’m probably not last, but I’ve still got no idea whether I’ll hit my own preferred outcome…

There are a lot of party activists hanging around; there are herds of kippers roaming the hall looking grumpy, which makes me happy at least.

Interestingly, the way the ballots are counted, I’m pretty sure that we could get results by ward, and probably by polling station even, which would be really interesting. However, those internal counts aren’t reported publicly. How can we make that happen, I wonder?


Yeah, the verification step is going on a long time. The 04:30 estimate for the declaration is out of the window. We’ve had three elections (parish, district and parliamentary) in some places, and verifying all of those to make sure there aren’t any votes in the wrong place has taken a long time. We’re just wrapping up the last few outlying wards, and then the next stage will start.

The baskets are out on some of the counting tables for the candidates. The ballots will be separated into the baskets first, then counted. Spoilt or doubtful ballots are separated for inspection as well at this point.

I’m desperate to take a picture of my (empty) ballot basket, but phones are banned in here, and I’m going to play by the rules. Not long though, and we’ll start to get a decent picture of the result and how I’m faring against the other small party candidates.

I’m heading up to the coffee shop to watch the rest of the country’s results coming in every now and again. In general it looks pretty bad for progressives, which is disappointing. There are plenty of morose Lib Dems wandering around here, certainly…


And we’re off! The ballots are being sorted into candidates. Interestingly, each table has a slightly different method, so in some places you can tell what’s going on, and some you can’t. I can tell straight away though that my target outcome of 5th place is probably not going to happen; the Greens have a good deal stronger showing, by the look of it. Still hoping for 6th though. This is probably going to take a couple of hours yet…


The coffee shop has closed. FML.


The basketing and bundling is pretty much done now. We’ve just been round each table and reviewed the doubtful ballots. Lots of “none of the aboves”; we should definitely be counting those properly. Currently they get bunged in with the unmarked and unclear ones, which is a pity. Ideally there should be a box on the form.

Also quite a few voting multiple times, normally with the same number of votes as for the district elections which people did at the same time.

Corrections tend to get accepted and counted for the corrected candidate, BUT in a couple of cases the voter signed their name next to the correction, like you might do with a cheque. Unfortunately that makes it invalid, as the voter can be identified. Even more unfortunately, one of those was mine :(

We’re very nearly there now. The bundles will be tallied up, and we should have an announcement soon, I think. I won’t beat the Green Party, as was my ideal goal, so it’ll be a scrap for the bottom three places. Too soon to tell where we end up. I’m certainly in triple figures rather than quadruple.


And we’re declared, finally. The candidates and agents get a preview of the final numbers before the announcement, and that’s it. They didn’t get us on stage and do speeches for anyone except the winner (a resounding Conservative victory, obviously). I guess Horsham is too obvious a result to bother with TV coverage.

Anyway, our result. I got 375 votes (0.7%), putting me in sixth place out of eight. Paul also got 320 (0.6%) in South West Surrey. While those might not seem like big numbers, they are probably enough to work with in the next phase of Something New, and to use in whatever comes next. I’ll talk a bit more about what that plan is once I’ve had a sleep.

For now though: thanks to everyone who supported us, with your encouragement, votes, fundraising, and belief. This is only the beginning; a better democracy is coming, and nothing can stop it. It’s just a matter of when.


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