Today we ran training for Counting Agents with particular emphasis on ballot box sampling. There was a time when Conservative Counting Agents would automatically sample each ballot box, but this has declined in recent years, with increasingly counts being seen as a "jolly" or a social event - to my great and often vocal irritation.
Sampling each ballot box not only provides the candidate with a heads-up but more importantly it pinpoints areas of strength and weakness, vitally important for future campaigning.
So today, as well as going through the theory we also spent time conducting a "dummy count" with a proper ballot box, 2,200 dummy ballot papers, count staff, a Presiding Officer and Counting Agents armed with clipboards and spreadsheets.
We sampled about 20% of the dummy votes in the ballot box and based on that relatively small sample we predicted the outcome to within 1.8% - proving it does work!