Last year there was discussion about returning officers wishing to abandon overnight Thursday counts and being in favour of postponing the general election count until the Friday.
The Westminster parliament debated this last month and decided there were no good reasons for the count to be delayed.
Now it appears Westminster have relaxed their ruling and if a returning officer doesn't feel they an handle counting through the Thursday night, all they have to do is apply to the Electoral Commission for permission to begin their count on the Friday. The Electoral Commission has made allowance for this in their guidance notes (3.12)
Therefore public concern regarding postal votes and ballot boxes being stored overnight has been disregarded. David Cairns MP, who initiated the debate in the Commons, was reluctant to discuss this issue and went as far as to say, when questioned, "This is a real concern. It is not one that I was going to cite, but I have seen it expressed elsewhere and it should be addressed by those places that have opted for the Friday count." (Column 81WH Hansard). That's clear then, labour don't want these issues discussed.
Did you know the Electoral Commission publishes a report on performance standards for Returning Officers in Britain? Perhaps you did - but did you know the returning officers provide the information on a self-assessment basis? Let's be honest no returning officer is going to confess to being anything other than nearly perfect.
Also, did you know Scotland now has an Interim Electoral Management Board which is part of the Electoral Commission?
The Scottish government said they were 'supportive' of counts starting immediately the polls closed on the Thursday night and said, on 8 February, the EMB (Scotland) is carrying out a consultation on the issue and its report is due in the next two to three weeks. I can find no report so I presume it has not yet been published.
Changes in the law have created a large increase in postal votes, almost 12% of the votes cast in last year's European Parliament elections in Scotland were postal votes. Every postal voter now has to sign a statement giving their date of birth and return it with their postal vote. This is part of the new measures which have been introduced to counter postal voting fraud.
Are the new measures enough? Can returning officers performances be accurate if they are done on a self-assessment basis? We shall have to wait and see.