“You’ve Got The Wrong MPs” Fiasco of 2007 Scottish Election Continues

Elections watchdog Ron Gould revealed he is “not comfortable” with the view that all 129 MSPs elected last year actually received more votes than their opponents, reports the Scotland on Sunday.

The root of his opinion is one of simple mathematics. The number of constituency MPs in the Scottish Parliament who were elected with majorities that were less than the number of spoiled ballot papers could draw into question whether those MSPs should be there at all, Cunningham North, majority 49, spoils 1015; Edinburgh East, majority 1382, spoiled 2521 being the two leading ‘close’ results, but they are not alone. While it is right that there is no call to run the Election again, indeed all parties accepted the result, there should be no brushing the disgrace of that night under the carpet.

For make no mistake, the organisation of the elections on the night was terrible as well. ORG, the UK’s online rights group, had a number of election monitors in place in every count room on that night, due in part to it being the first major UK election with online voting. Their report is still shocking reading, and everyone involved in politics in any level should shudder at just how easily the last seat declared could have been declared incorrectly.

These were the top up seats from the Highlands and Islands region. As the Presiding Officer went to the stage to announce four Labour top-up seats and no SNP seats, a member of the SNP had to stop him while he was on the way to the stage to query the result. The SNP calculations had Labour on three top up seats and the SNP on two; which would give the Parliamentary majority to the SNP, and not to Labour, which would have been the case on the 4/0 count.

“But the computer gave us the numbers, we ran them many times,” is the summary of the reason that was given. Only under protest as the electronic trail followed back. The reason the SNP had been awarded no seats? Because the ballot numbers were on a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet, and the operator hadn’t scrolled the page horizontally to read the SNP numbers…

On such calls are elections won and lost, and I’m with Gould on his recommendations. We should start from a simple assumption that electronic counting can and will go wrong, and demand a statistically significant sample of the ballot papers be counted by hand to give confidence in the declared result.

And a mandatory manual recount of any result where the spoiled papers outnumber the majority should also be a requirement.

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2 Comments on ““You’ve Got The Wrong MPs” Fiasco of 2007 Scottish Election Continues”

  1. SFC1K Says:

    The whole things beggars belief – I mean those top up seats: did it not occur to anyone that the SNP having apparently not got any votes at all was a bit unlikely?

    I wonder what government we actually voted for? So much for people getting the government they deserve…


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