In British public
elections, ballot papers are traditionally counted by hand. That might sound
crude, inefficient and outdated, but the results usually come through within hours of the
polls closing, and there have never been any major problems like the infamous “hanging
chads” in the 2000 US Presidential election.
The system works because those involved have
However, for last
week’s London mayoral election, the Electoral Commission – a new organisation set up
to do a job no one had thought it necessary to do before – decided to use a new
form of electronic counting.
The results came in a
day later than those counted by hand in other parts of the country.
particular can learn two useful lessons from this.
First, do not try to
solve a problem you do not have: you may end up with one after all.
Second, high tech is
not always best – and technology is certainly no substitute for people who know
what they are doing.