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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Park pioneers electronic counting
Picture from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Park Authority
The machine can scan 10,000 papers an hour
Electronic counting has been used for the first time in a statutory election in Scotland.

Votes for new members of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority were cast by postal ballot and counted on Thursday.

It was a demonstration of how electronic counting for next year's Scottish Parliament and Local Government elections will take place.

The returning officer said it was an "efficient way" to count results.

The authority was set up four years ago to look after the running of the newly-created national park.

It has 25 board members, five of whom are elected by residents of the park area.

Competitive recruitment

A further 10 members are appointed by Scottish ministers following nominations by the four local authorities in the area.

The final 10 are appointed by ministers after competitive recruitment.

The five members elected by local residents were Russell Bruce, Owen McKee, Mike Luti, William Nisbet and Iain Wragg.

Electronic counting has already been used in England for elections such as the London mayoral vote but it is the first time it has been used in an official ballot in Scotland.

Votes
The tradition of counting by hand is on the way out

It involves scanning ballot papers through specially designed machines, rather than counting them by hand.

However, the actual number of ballot papers is counted manually before the scanning process.

The machines, provided by DRS Data & Research Services, rapidly check the number of ballot papers, count the clearly-marked votes and separate those which cannot be read.

The returning officer can then adjudicate on the unclear ballot papers via a computer screen which can be viewed by all interested parties.

'More reliable'

The Loch Lomond count processed 4,000 votes in about 45 minutes but those operating the system said that it should be possible to scan about 10,000 papers per hour with each machine.

Keith Yates, chief executive of Stirling Council and returning officer, said: "This has been a very positive and efficient way to count election results.

"It gives some assurance to those involved in the Scottish Parliament and local government elections next May that this will be a far faster and more reliable way of counting the most difficult set of results we will have encountered, as the local government elections will be cast on a single transferable vote."


SEE ALSO
'Simpler' voting system for polls
09 Jun 06 |  Scotland
National park 'goes live'
08 Jul 02 |  Scotland

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