May 2011 election count timetable – some ideas but still lacking clarity

Three different polls are expected to be scheduled for 5 May 2011 and it might well lead to a record number of posters adorning local lampposts next spring.

  • Northern Ireland Assembly elections
  • Local government (council) elections
  • National referendum on changes to the method of voting at General Elections

The date of the council elections will be formally confirmed when the NIO lay a General Amendment Order before Parliament in November. (This order is also expected to make some changes to the laws governing local elections, including the rationalisation of voter ID across the different polls being held on May 5th.) Similarly, the date of the national referendum will be confirmed in a Bill that will shortly be introduced at Westminster.

Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee discussed the Belfast count at their meeting on Friday 22 October. The council’s Democratic Services Manager reported to committee that

Assuming that all 3 events are held on 5th May, then it is anticipated that all papers from the two elections and the referendum will be held in a secure location overnight.

On the morning of Friday 6th May all ballot boxes will be opened for the verification process to take place.

In the situation where ballot boxes were shared across the different polls, verification could involve separating out the different papers, as well as verifying the number of papers in each ballot box (an important number to set the quotas for the STV counts for Assembly and Council.

When this is completed the ballot boxes for the two elections and the referendum will be separated and, potentially, taken to different count venues.

There’s still no decision about the timing of the referendum count. That’s a matter for the Chief Counting Officer. It is likely to be synchronised across the UK to ensure that the full result can be collated and announced without undue delay waiting for different regions to return their numbers.

Setting the referendum count aside, it is anticipated that the Assembly count will commence on the afternoon of Friday 6th May and be completed by the evening of Saturday 7th May.

The Local Council counts will commence on the morning of Monday 9th May and, in Belfast, conclude on Tuesday 10th May.

All subject to the referendum count changing that timetable.

One thing Belfast City Council was sure of was that they wanted the local government count to take place in the City Hall.

The Committee noted the information which had been provided and agreed that discussions commence immediately to ensure that the Count for the Local Government Elections were held in the City Hall.

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