Friday, September 11, 2009

Election Night

I have previously expressed in this blog my admiration of the old British TV series Monty Python's Flying Circus. One of their sketches that is relevant to this blog is their parody of BBC election night coverage of a British general election.

These days, we political junkies can watch the real thing on C-SPAN, and I have been doing so since, I suppose, 1992. I was surprised by how close the Python version was to reality. In each constituency serious candidates stand next to an opponent from the Silly Party (with an outrageous costume and a silly name), while an officious local grandee reads out the result. The only difference between reality and the TV version is that the actual name is the Monster Raving Loony Party.

A large part of the charm of the British ceremony is that the official vote count in each constituency is completed on election night. By contrast, it's typical in the U.S. for the news media to immediately gather data from individual polling places, but for the official count to be delayed by several days, while reports are sent in to the state authorities, from local election officials. Or, in the case of one recent U.S. Senate election, delayed for a further several months by judges.

That British procedure allows for the ceremony described above to be held in each constituency on election night, or early in the morning thereafter.

But now that great tradition is in peril! Some local authorities want to wait until the next day to count and report the votes. Looking to conserve the tradition, as seems fitting for a Conservative, the Tory chairman, Eric Pickles (no, that's not a Monty Python character, that's his real name) wants to prevent such procrastination, according to this BBC report.

I'm certain that Screaming Lord Sutch, the late Monster Raving Loony leader, would turn over in his grave, if his successors were deprived of their right to participate in the election-night show.

No comments: