Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where were you when ... the NI referendum count finally finished?

Elections can bring about powerful political moments that become firmly lodged in society's civil memories. Perhaps the most classic example happened 14 years ago in the 1997 General Election: "Where were you when Portillo lost his seat?"

Last Friday night - well, technically last Saturday morning - I realised that for most people the answer to "Where were you when the NI referendum count finally finished?" was going to be, quite sensibly, "tucked up in bed fast asleep". But for eight people, their alternative answer was "at the Kings Hall!"

Referendum hub door

It was a quite a contrast to the previous referendum in Northern Ireland – the Good Friday Agreement poll – which was announced in the same Kings Hall venue to vast crowds of waiting politicians, campaigners and the world’s media.

Lonely YES campaigners waiting for the NI referendum result

After the final constituency count completed in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, the regional AV referendum result for Northern Ireland was finally declared at 2.10am in an almost empty Kings Hall … shortly after the overall UK result was finally able to be announced in London.

No official media were present when the announcement was made by Graham Shields, EONI’s Chief Electoral Officer, who stood at the special referendum podium that had otherwise remained unused all day and addressed the gathered group. Two Electoral Commission staff, one former Chief Electoral Officer, three Yes Campaign reps, and a blogger/electoral observer.

NI AV referendum result

Collating the results together for the referendum ballot boxes that had been verified and counted in the eight count centres across Northern Ireland, the local results were less negative than much of the rest of the UK.

But it was a little piece of history – the final piece in the AV referendum jigsaw – so I slightly blurred my electoral observer role and recorded the moment for posterity!

Total number of ballot papers counted – 668,869

The number of votes cast in favour of Yes was – 289,088 (43%)

The number of votes cast in favour of No was – 372,706 (57%)

The number of ballot papers rejected was as follows:

a) No official mark – 0

b) voting for both answers to the question asked – 637 – this includes people who voted 1 2

c) Writing or mark by which the voter could be identified – 24

d) Unmarked or void for uncertainty – 6,401

The total rejected votes was – 7,062

Declaration of count total - for Northern Ireland

The sharp eyed amongst you will realise that the numbers don’t quite tally, and there were in fact 13 missing votes – which is not unusual with a poll of this size. And the pre-printed date had to be changed from 6 May to the 7th!


Timothy Belmont said...

I think I'd moved on and became oblivious by that stage. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think I was 1 of the missing - I put in the wrong box by mistake oops :o

Alan in Belfast said...

Anonymous - oh, no. As long as it went in any of the ballot boxes in that polling station, it would have been found and reunited with the right ballots. The verification stage looked at all 2 million ballots (across the 3 elections) and sorted that out. There were a lot more than 13 put in the wrong box!