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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 00:12 GMT 01:12 UK
Sunderland wins poll count race
Chris Mullin celebrates his victory
Labour's Chris Mullin was the first MP to be elected
Sunderland South has won the race to be first with its election result for a record fourth consecutive poll.

The returning officer, Ged Fitzgerald, said the constituency had beaten its time from 2001 by two seconds when it declared at 2243 BST.

Police helped the vans deliver the ballot boxes quickly but within the law to the 120 counters.

The sister seat of Sunderland North was second to declare its result, 44 minutes later.

Turnout in Sunderland South stood at 49%, about 1% higher than at the last election.

LATEST RESULTS
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324 seats needed to win

LAB
LAB 356
CON
CON 198
LD
LD 62

The constituency began its run of first declarations in 1992, the year when Sunderland became a city and its football team was in the FA Cup final.

To mark the year, council officials decided they would try to deliver the election result on the same day as the polls took place.

In the process, they were faster than any other constituency, a title maintained in 1997 and 2001.

The polling stations closed at 2200 BST, with vans ready at each polling station to take the ballot boxes across the city to the count. Council officials stressed no speed limits would be broken.

Bank tellers were among those chosen for the count. A council spokesman said the team was used to working together and calm temperaments were another key attribute.

The returning officer would stress the important thing is efficiency and accuracy in the count
Sunderland Council spokesman

"The returning officer would stress the important thing is efficiency and accuracy in the count," the spokesman added.

"It's nice to have the first return, that is the icing on the cake."

Election officers began checking postal ballots were valid before polling day. The different ballot papers were all counted at the same time.





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