THE eyes of the nation will be on Wearside tomorrow night, as Sunderland races to produce the first result of the General Election.
The city has been the first to announce in the last five General Election and council chiefs will be hoping to make it six in a row this time.
The prime aim is running an accurate and efficient election count for voters and candidates. If we happen to be first, that’s a bonus.City council chief executive Dave Smith
Sunderland declared the first three results of the 2010 election, with the counting all wrapped up in barely an hour-and-a-half.
Houghton and Sunderland South’s Bridget Phillipson was the first member of the new Parliament to be announced, with victory confirmed less than an hour after the polls closed.
The first declaration of the evening came at 10.52pm, followed by Washington and Sunderland West’s Sharon Hodgson, whose win was confirmed at 11.25pm, and Sunderland Central, where Julie Elliott’s victory was announced at 11.41pm.
It was the second time in a row Sunderland had declared the first three constituencies nationwide and the fifth General Election in a row in which the city has been the first to declare a constituency.
City council chief executive Dave Smith said the main aim was to provide an accurate count: “What we’re aiming to do is run an efficient election and declare accurate results as quickly as we can.
“The prime aim is running an accurate and efficient election count for voters and candidates. If we happen to be first, that’s a bonus.
“Many of the counters are council staff and they do this every election year, some are bank staff and there’s a lot of experience. The counters have induction sessions before joining and the city council has lots of experience at these counts, so we’ve honed and improved our techniques over the years.”
Preparations have been under way for months, said Mr Smith.
“There’s a lot of planning and improving on what we’ve done in previous years; so if you get a lot of marginal gains and improvements then these can help improve the bigger picture,” he added.
“Planning for this General Election has been, in a sense, going on for sometime now. Electoral staff have been taking feedback from previous counts, from last year’s local council elections and European election, speaking to other electoral officers across the country, and looking at the guidance that comes from the Electoral Commission.”
Being the leader of the pack means there is huge media interest in the Sunderland count.
Representatives of national press and TV will cram into the Silksworth Sports Complex for tomorrow night’s count, but Dr Smith is confident the team will not be phased by the attention.
“All election counts have their observers,” he said.