Northern Ireland’s Chief Electoral Officer, Douglas Bain, confirmed this morning his intention to count the votes from the next General Election overnight, with constituency results expected to be “available in the early hours of the morning”. So Northern Ireland will no longer be the last to declare in the UK-wide vote.
He was speaking at the Electoral Commission’s post-election seminar attended by candidates (one - Steven Agnew), agents, Electoral Office staff, Commission staff and other stakeholder groups including RNIB, Disability Action Ofcom and Royal Mail.
Referring to one of this year’s electoral innovations, he commented that “the significant change to poll cards was that we included a map and in most cases it was correct” though the River Bann was briefly rerouted through Kilkeel on some voters’ cards!
And the change to allow Smartlink passes to be used as identification, and the withdrawal of the need for ID to be current on the day of the election, had been an unqualified success.
For the first time, late voter registration was possible in Northern Ireland during the run up to the European Election. So while the normal registration process closed on 7 April, 12,000 late registrants (with brand new or amended details) were processed before 19 May and issued with polling cards, subject to increased scrutiny and unable to request a postal ballot.
Despite the low turnout, the registered (potential) electorate was up by over 69,000 when compared to the 2004 EU election.
The number of permanent absent voters (often due to illness) increased by over 7%, in stark contrast to one-off absent votes which reduced by 76%.
And although it was the first time that the scheme was in operation here, Northern Ireland had more election observers (36 of us) than any other part of the UK. And one even got twenty minutes in the agenda to reflect back to the seminar about his experiences.