Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Elections Ontario should release unofficial referendum results on Election Night

We continue to see reports like this from Elections Ontario's John Hollins that Ontarians will have to wait for the results of the October 10th referendum on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation until October 11th.

Chief election officer John Hollins warned yesterday the results of the historic vote on electoral reform would not be known until at least dinner time on Oct. 11.

"I would imagine by dinner the following day, you'll have a feel," Hollins said yesterday.

"Some of our boxes are coming back by trains and planes. That's going to take us a few days. So we wait till they get back into the office and do the official tallies."

The Mixed Member Proportional system needs a "super majority" to pass: 60 per cent of all votes cast across Ontario and 50 per cent or more of the ballots in at least 64 of 107 ridings.

Complicating matters is the election and referendum ballots will be cast in the same boxes and must be separated for tallying.

"We have 29,712 polls so until we have 29,712 results, we just don't go to bed," said Hollins, noting election results should be known by midnight Oct. 10 because those ballots will be counted first.

Of course, it's reasonable that election ballots should be counted first by Deputy Returning Officers (DROs) in polling stations across Ontario.

Anyone who has spent time in a polling station as a scrutineer or election worker after the polls close understands that DROs open up the ballot boxes and typically pour all the ballots out onto a table for counting. They are sorted and then counted. Unofficial tallies are called back to the local Elections Ontario office in the riding, the election workers seal the ballots into envelopes, ensure all votes are accounted for and drop off the boxes at the local Elections Ontario office.

On election night this year, it's inconceivable that Deputy Returning Officers will pour all ballots - both election and referendum ballots - out of the ballot boxes and not count both sets of ballots right then and there, the election ballots first and then the referendum ballots for unofficial tallies.

It will make for an even longer night for those workers, but what other alternative is there?

The election night (or early morning) results for the referendum, like those of the election, will be unofficial. All ballots are recounted the next day for the official tally.

"If it's very, very close, you'll have to wait until we get all of those (ballot) boxes in," says Hollins.

Of course, if the unofficial election night results show MMP with 60.2% support, or 59.7% support, it will be too early to declare a winner. However, if the result is much clearer either way, there's no reason this information can't be shared with the public before they go to bed on election night (or early morning as the case may likely be.)

The mixed signals from Elections Ontario on when unofficial results of the referendum will be known continue to disturb.

1 comment:

A BCer in Toronto said...

This is weird. I worked for Elections BC when we had the referendum vote in STVm during the last election. All ballots also went into one (very full box.)

When the time came, flanked by my clerk and scrutineers I dumped the box on the table and separated election ballots from referendum ballots. I counted the election ones and did that paperwork, and then I counted the referendum ones and did that paperwork.

Took maybe an hour or so. Took some of the other polls a little longer (I remember we couldn't leave the room until they were all done) but not that much longer. We forwarded the figures for both votes to Elections BC and they were updated and published poll by poll in real time.

As the logistics are essentially the same in Ontario, I'm not sure what the reason for any delay could be.