THE results of the Holyrood election may not be known until the weekend after polling day, after the traditional overnight count was abandoned because of Covid.
Election managers have been ordered not to count ballots until 9am the following morning at the earliest, meaning the full results may not be known for days.
Counting normally begins as soon as possible after polls close at 10pm, with a race between the most compact constitutencies to declare within hours.
Every vote has to be counted before the 56 seats regional lists decided by proportional representation can be allocated.
Other changes this year include the limiting of electors to each polling station.
The cap of 800 voters per station means more places will have to be used, with more work involved in distributing and collecting ballot boxes.
The changes are included in an instruction issued earlier this month to council chief executives by the Electoral Management Board for Scotland.
EMB convener Malcolm Burr said counting the results of the May 6 election was expected to take “significantly longer than in previous Scottish Parliament elections”.
It would follow the “next day count procedure” used for local elections, as it would be unfair for staff to be asked to count overnight “where there is no prospect” of finishing by morning.
Mr Burr, who is also chief executive of Western Isles Council, said returning Officers must ensure first ballot boxes are opened “no earlier than 9am and no later than 10am” on May 7.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is to be no overnight counting of votes,” he said.