Polling stations at UK parliamentary elections always operate from 7.00am to 10.00pm. This proud winner, Bridget Phillipson M.P., displays the time at which her result was declared 48mins and 41seconds, from close of polling. It is the all-time record*.
The 650 parliamentary constituencies have an average electorate of 60 to 70,000 people. The overall result, for the whole country, and which party is to form the next government, even in close contests is almost always known by dawn. (In 2019 535 of the 650 constituencies had declared by 6.00am. However the unitary nature of the British electorate means that often with a dozen results in, the final overall state of the parties can easily be predicted - the swing being relatively consistent.)
The idea of counters going home at 9.00pm, to recommence the next day, as apparently happened in some US states, would be unthinkable.
And it is done entirely transparently under the view of representatives from all political parties, TV cameras etc. When all votes are counted the person in charge of the count - the Returning Officer - stands on a stage, flanked by all the candidates and declares the numbers of votes cast for each. There is no need, for a TV network to "call" a result. Everyone awaits the RO's declaration of the count.
The following link gets you to videos of count declarations. Where the seat being declared is that of a senior member of the government or the opposition it regularly attracts a number of joke candidates, and candidates who want to obtain publicity for their cause. The UK has a number of parties with names like "The Monster Raving Looney Party", and characters like "Lord Buckethead". They add a bit of colour and fun to election night, and ensure we do not take ourselves too seriously. The link shows first a declaration involving former Prime Minister, Theresa May, and then one for current PM, Boris Johnson.
Voting is manual with a pencil cross on a piece of paper. All counting is by hand. It is rare for there ever to be any suspicion of irregularity. This seems like quite a contrast to the much slower and more laborious process in parts of the US, particularly Pennsylvania.
Where exactly does the problem lie in the US?
- I fully recognise that this is not a representative example. Because of its rivalry with neighbouring Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sunderland employed students who literally ran the ballot boxes from the taxis to the counters. However even in very close elections such as 1964, the two elections of 1974 and 2010 - the parliamentary numbers were almost precisely known by about 4.00am - six hours after closing time. In 2010 it then took several days to form a government because David Cameron was forced to take the Liberal Democrats into coalition. And prior to that there were abortive negotiations between the Lib Dems and Labour.