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Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010

Section 48: Parliamentary elections: counting of votes

322.Section 48 of the Act amends the parliamentary elections rules (“the rules”) contained in Schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 so as to require a returning officer to take reasonable steps to begin counting the votes given on the ballot papers in a parliamentary election as soon as practicable within four hours of the close of poll (polling closes at 10pm). It does so by inserting a new rule 45(3A) in the Rules (subsection (3)(a)). Subsection (2) amends rule 44 of the Rules: the effect is that the returning officer must have regard to the new rule 45(3A) duty when (as required by rule 44(1)) making arrangements to commence the counting of votes as soon as practicable following the close of the poll. Subsection (3)(b) supplements the new rule 45(3A) duty by requiring the Electoral Commission to produce guidance for returning officers on the new duty.

323.Circumstances – such as local geography – may dictate that it is not possible to begin counting the votes given on ballot papers within four hours of the close of the poll in a parliamentary election. Accordingly, subsection (4) inserts a new rule 53ZA in the Rules, requiring a returning officer who has not been able to start the count within the four hour period to publish a statement, within 30 days of the poll date. This must state when the count started, describe the steps taken for the purpose of attempting to begin counting the votes within the four hour period, and explain why the returning officer was unable to start counting the votes given on ballot papers within that period. Under this new rule the returning officer is also required to deliver the statement to the Electoral Commission within the same 30 day period. The effect of paragraphs (3) and (4) of the new rule is that the Commission must list those constituencies that did not start the count within four hours of the close of poll in any report they produce under section 5 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 on the conduct of the election.

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