Behind the Scenes - Election Night
National Tally Room Preparations
The NTR for the 2004 federal election was located at Exhibition Park in Canberra. It took about two weeks to build, three days to dismantle and many months of detailed planning to organise.
Transforming the empty hall into the central point on election night was a massive logistical exercise. The AEC had access to the building from 27 September when the work began on:
- laying the temporary floor
- building the 35 metre x 7 metre tally board
- allocating space to the media, parties and television networks
- organising the electricity supply, air conditioning, telecommunication lines and computer cabling.
Elaborate security arrangements were in place during the building of the tally room and on election night. To ensure the smooth running of the NTR the AEC also conducted a rehearsal on the Thursday before election day to test the computer system and to provide training for the casual staff employed on the National Tally Board and in divisional offices throughout Australia.
The NTR cost approximately $650 000 to organise. This included the hire of venue, communication and computing facilities, equipment hire, casual staff wages and security. The television networks met the costs of constructing their own sets.
National Tally Room Logistics
The NTR included:
- 700 members of the media
- four major and two minor purpose-built television studios
- 100 political party workers and Members of Parliament
- 160 international and other official guests
- 150 AEC and other NTR workers
- 2 400 members of the public (a maximum of about 300 at any one time).
On the technical side there were:
- 84 terminals, four printers and 7 separate data feeds
- six kilometres of telephone cables
- 8.5 kilometres of computer cabling
- two mobile telephone repeater stations
- in excess of 300 mobile and 150 static telephones
- up to 650 amps of electrical load (enough to power a small town).
The US does not have a more perfect electoral system, despite their more perfect union. Having a public tally where nation-wide results get collated and posted would make a big difference. For that matter, having a single election management body that (subject to judicial review) administers elections transparently, impartially, and professionally would be a good thing too.