All important count

October 28, 2016

In a few short days’ time, a button will be pushed.

It will happen this Sunday afternoon or first thing on Monday morning and will be closely watched.

For 29 candidates it will confirm the outcome of a month of campaigning and solidify whether they have or have not been successfully elected to the new Greater Shepparton City Council.

But for Shepparton’s Victorian Electoral Commission returning officer Mick Bastian — the man tasked with pushing aforementioned button — it will usher in (hopefully) the end of a long and arduous process of extracting, counting and plenty of data entry.

Once the button is pushed, two or three minutes will pass, before nine names flash up on a screen — the new Greater Shepparton City Council.

‘‘Everyone wants to know,’’ Mr Bastian says.

Quiet, calm and diligent vote extraction was well under way at Shepparton’s VEC office this week, punctuated by the odd coffee run.

Mr Bastian, walking around the VEC’s temporary offices on Maude St this week, stressed the care with which the process was being taken.

‘‘You do have to be precise, accurate, rigorous,’’ he said.

‘‘Fortunately we’ve got these letter openers,’’ Mr Bastian said of the ballot extraction process, gesturing towards row upon row of anonymous returned ballots.

As of Tuesday, 26388 formal votes, 1077 informal and 49 rejected ballots had been received, however they were still arriving.

So long as the VEC could determine they were posted by last Friday, they would be counted, Mr Bastian said.

‘‘We will continue receiving these until noon Friday (today),’’ he said.

Mr Bastian said the data entry process which begins tomorrow at 8am sharp would likely flesh out more informal votes.

‘‘The data entry teams provide reports (of the running tally during the weekend),’’ he said.

‘‘That’s a reasonably good indicator.’’

Depending on progress, the ‘button pushing’ will take place shortly after all votes have been entered.

‘‘In the past it’s been wherever the count has been completed,’’ he said.

‘‘That’s a provisional result.

‘‘Sometimes it takes three minutes.’’

From memory, Mr Bastian said the final council hadn’t always been completely obvious as a result of the rolling reports.

And while the names popping up on the screen will serve as relief for some candidates, it will offer up a different kind of relief for Mr Bastian.

‘‘It’s a good chance to get to a stage where we can say we’ve done a thorough job,’’ he said.

He recalls the situation at the 2008 council election when less than 10 votes was all the difference between the seventh and eighth positions, triggering a recount.

‘‘We had to do the whole thing again,’’ he said.

A week later, once the recount had been completed, ‘‘It came out the same,’’ he said.

‘‘I couldn’t believe it ... that gave us confidence.’’

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