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Home » Elections and Governance, electoral

London Elects gears up for 2012 Mayor and London Assembly Elections

Submitted by on 09 Mar 2011 – 17:28

2012 is going to be a big year for London politics as well as sport with Londoners going to the polls to elect the Mayor of London and 25 members of the London Assembly.

On 3 May 2012 up to five million Londoners will cast four votes on three different ballot papers, each of which uses a different electoral system[1]. Preparations for the poll are already underway with the establishment of an independent elections team, London Elects, to support the Greater London Returning Officer in planning, communicating and delivering a fair and accurate election.

Key to the success of the electoral process will be sorting, counting and recording millions of ballot papers[2]. A traditional manual count would take four days, but an electronic count can produce a result within 12 hours. To ensure a smooth and swift result London Elects has recently completed their first task, awarding an electronic counting contract to IntElect, a joint venture between  DRS Data Services Limited and Electoral Reform Services Limited[3]

Both companies have a track record of success in electronic counting and, together, they form the UK’s largest supplier of data capture solutions and election administration services. DRS have provided similar services for GLA elections in 2000 and 2004, and ERS have undertaken postal voting administration and electronic counting for a number of local authorities.

IntElect’s bid was the optimum submission in terms of price and quality. The contract will include an option to extend the term of the service through to the GLA elections in 2016. The combined cost of the e-counting service for both the 2012 and 2016 elections, and including a London site for testing, training and demonstrations in 2012, is approximately £6.8m, whereas the manual counting of votes in one GLA election alone would cost in the region (at 2012 prices) of £3.6m and, it is estimated would take approximately 4 days to complete.

Electronic counting, or ‘e-counting’, involves scanning ballot papers through machines that capture and store the votes on a secure database. As well as counting the ballots, the machines can handle multiple votes on one ballot paper and cope with different voting systems. Ballot papers where the voter’s intention is unclear are referred to the Returning Officer’s staff to be adjudicated. GLA elections have only ever used e-counting and this has been achieved, by different contractors, in a single day, successfully and accurately without a single recount being required. A dedicated e-counting team will manage the IntElect contract to ensure  a successful delivery.

London Elects is constantly evaluating the performance of its e-count projects and also learns lessons from others’ experience so the 2012 project is being developed to ensure the process is more transparent than ever and that there is better reporting of progress and statistical information throughout the count.

In addition London Elects will be commissioning independent consultants to undertake an even more rigorous testing regime than in the 2008 GLA elections, examining the new system and its software, and working with IntElect throughout the development, user acceptance testing, delivery and post-election phases.

As in 2008, -
• There will be separate ballot papers for each contest to make things more straightforward for the voter;
• The design used in 2008 was well received by voters so will be used again;
• There will be three sub-regional count centres, so that technical and electoral experience and knowledge is concentrated in just three locations[4].

Leo Boland, Greater London Returning Officer, said: “The London Mayor and London Assembly elections are the largest and most complex electoral event in the UK. This requires careful planning, good management and clear communication. I am confident that my experienced and skilled elections team will again do an excellent job, maintaining our track record of staging successful London-wide elections projects.

“We are looking forward to working with IntElect as our main IT supplier, and want to develop an ongoing partnership. That’s why the contract includes the option to extend for the 2016 elections. I am confident that, working together, we will ensure an accurate, fair and efficient election result on 4 May 2012.

“Any Londoner with questions about the elections should contact London Elects.”

On the tendering process, he continued: “It was pleasing to have four good bids from suppliers for an E-Counting system and it is worth mentioning that all the bidders achieved at least the minimum required standard for the technology solution.”

“IntElect’s bid offered a thorough, detailed and well thought-through response to the technical solution requirements, backed up by evidence of experience. As well as its technical solution, the company has a clear and comprehensive approach to the Project, Risk, Security and Change Management requirements that are so important if we want complete confidence in the solution.”

The CEO of DRS, Tony Lee, commented: “IntElect are delighted to have been selected to deliver the electronic counting of the 2012 Mayor and London Assembly Elections. We will be working closely with the Greater London Returning Officer and London Elects to ensure the benefits of this electoral modernisation technology are fully realised.”

On the project delivery, Sian Roberts, CEO of ERS commented: “This project will make use of the full range of products and services that IntElect have to offer, bringing experienced team members and the very best in software, hardware and print technologies. IntElect are extremely keen to begin work on this mission critical project, delivering to the exacting standards that London demands.”