Sluggish turnout: logjams later?

With turnout figures falling in a similar but often quite a bit lower ballpark to 2010 (from our unscientific survey), several polling stations are currently experiencing queues way beyond those of 2010. We also hear EONI were still seeking polling clerks this morning (and appealing for counting staff in several areas we know of).

Is a lack of manpower adding to delays caused by the number and extent of ballot papers? Will 10pm see people turned away with stations unable to cope with people visiting late? Will staffing shortfall impact on the count too?

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Just walked past St. Teresa’s in West Belfast and there must have been about 15 – 20 people queuing outside and I assume more inside.

    Maybe the clearer weather this evening is helping too!?

  • RyanAdams

    Polling also busy in Drumbo in the Lagan Valley Constituency.

    Carryduff East (Carryduff Primary) polling station markedly busier than West (Lough Moss Centre)

  • alan56

    Rosetta in South Belfast. queuing at 7.45pm

  • Sean Og

    Queues across South Belfast. With 3 ballot to complete voters are taking their time filling in the papers.

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    Queues at Ballygolan Primary in the Castle DEA and North Belfast constituency. Doesn’t appear a bad turnout but certainly down on last year.

  • Mark McGregor


    I’m trying not to future too much but the turnout is looking pretty poor unless there is a strong later surge – and can the stations cope with that?

    Are we heading towards disappointed voters and low turnout?

  • DC

    The voters, especially the elderly ones, seem to me to be confused. I think adding the AV vote into the mix has increased confusion, but the delays I blame moreso on the council elections, there are a hell of a lot of nondescript candidates / independents. Every one seems to be offering ‘vision’ and ‘progress’ etc. Making it more difficult to decide in a rational way, it has been 6 years since the last election, so this has probably not helped either, making the whole council election thing sort of novel.

    An elderly neighbour of mine stopped me going into the voting station, she said she felt that people needed A levels to vote nowadays what with all the ways to vote and slips needing completed.

    I told her I was here mainly for the AV vote and thanked her for giving me the heads up and all that.

    But it just goes to show how uninformed the electorate really are.

    I suppose each slip should have been coloured better so that the stark contrast in colours helped to make each slip more unique – maybe better use of images like Stormont Buildings for the Stormont election, the local council building for the Council list and maybe Westminster Parliament plus a voting box image for the AV vote?

  • I was told that RNIB had advised on the ballot slips … but the lack of wording on the slips to say which election they are for [ok, it says on the back in small print but no one looks at that side!] has been confusing. And in poor school assembly hall light, buff and white look the same.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’ve not seen massive queues but the stations are certainly busier. It took me rather longer than usual to vote as I had two ballot papers to think about, and I was being really careful that I didn’t mix them up. There seems to be a bit more work required by the polling station officials as well.

  • Two boxes in our Polling Station.
    Nobody at all at one box.
    Twelve at other box.
    Bit strange looking.
    I voted around 7pm and the impression that I had was more cars than usual outside.
    Spoke to people from two Parties. One said “steady”. Other said “fantastic”.

  • alan56

    Why could they not have used clear contrasting colors on the ballot papers? There is bound to be confusion and I would wager a higher proportion of invalid votes.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Now we know why SF spent so much effort printing the sample ballot papers – made it all very straightforward.

    Was round at Crumlin polling station – didnt get the figs but I spoke to one of the workers who said that it is quite a bit busier than 2010 – but that would be expected.

  • Dáithí Ó Muirí

    Just back from Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church Hall (Castlereagh West) and there are long queues, particularly for certain ballot boxes. It’s not helped by, what appears to be, slow distribution of ballot papers.

    5pm turnout showed 261 out of possible 1168 votes in my box, with 12 noon only showing 89 ballots issued.

  • Mark McGregor

    Mr Crumlin,

    Crumlin figures:

    noon – 11%, 11%, 10.7%, 10.6%
    5pm – 25%, 23.6%, 22.7%, 21.6%

    Whoever said it was busier than 2010 is talking nonsense.

  • al

    I filled in a postal vote some weeks back and without help and no idea how to fill in a voting card for the first time it took me probably 5 minutes or so to make sense of it all.

    I understand how the older folk must feel and I’m only in my twenties and study Politics!

  • Orchardville

    Just drove past St Aidan’s, St Johns and Belfast Met in the greater Ballymurphy area of West Belfast- no one going in at all. Usually there would be a queue!

  • Mr Crumlin

    thats disappointing mark – is this part of Ireland becoming as lethargic about politics as everywhere else?

  • Orchardville

    Who will benefit most from a low turnout?

  • Zig70

    Monkstown was quiet but steady. Free burgers and hotdogs again. Not sure who is providing them.

  • joeCanuck

    Who benefits? The people who do vote. Their vote is potentially much more valuable, for the winning party anyway.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Whoever said it was busier than 2010 is talking nonsense.

    It’s definitely busier Mark, clearly due to the fact we have three polls (two of them STV) compared to 2010’s single FPTP poll.

  • Mark McGregor


    Not a single one of the direct comparisons between 2010 and 2011 has shown an increase – we do have real EONI numbers to compare.

    It’ll take some late evening surge to overturn what has been going on throughout the day.

    I’d suggest polling stations appear busier despite feweer voters because those voting are having to take substantially longer and the staff are processing them much slower. A queue does not mean increased turnout.

  • Was the busiest I have seen Coagh Primary School but I usually voted in the morning and didn`t get roung til 8pm this time. Both booths full.

  • Are postal votes more or less than last 2010?

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    I can’t see many stations coping with a surge. Mine was struggling with 4 or 5 people in at once. Imagine once the Shinners get everyone else out to vote and there’s 30 at once. Not gonna be a pretty sight. And as for spoiled papers. I can see quite a few being spoiled. Especially the AV ones. But that’s the sad facts.

  • Orchardville

    Would a low turnout disproportionally help the big parties? The DUP and Sinn Féin have more workers on the ground and traditionally have been better at getting their respective votes out. This could be very bad news for UUP and SDLP.

  • Sean Og

    Busy doesn’t equate to a higher turn out.

    As I explaned earlier voters are taking much longer to complete the 3 ballot papers. Voting stations will appear busier but I have no doubt the turn out is lower than 2007 or 2010. The figures all support my view.

    Delays are due to 3 elections on the same day – never a good thing as the EONI pointed out when it ws first proposed.

  • Clerks seemed to be completing three forms, one for each ballot, then they were handing out elections and then the referendum to make sure people knew x on last… Took longer to get the papers and then a very officious lady at boxes making sure the right paper went in right box. Although it seemed to take longer than usual, there were fewer around. Box full but that may be because of long paper and most only giving one fold. No rush early evening. East Londonderry, country area.

  • Cynic2

    Is it me but I find it offensive that so many here are patronising ‘older folk’ who may be too gaga to manage to make a ballot paper when they have been sued to doing it for perhaps 50 years.

  • Droagh

    Turnout in Larne town generally around or below 50% at 9pm and no sign of a last minute surge.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Overall turnout to be around 55%.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mark, I am not trying to gainsay your analysis (that would be stupid). By “busier” I don’t mean more turnout, but more activity per voter which means that people are staying in the polling stations longer so they look busier. Whiteabbey earlier had about 20 cars parked the whole way along at 8PM, which I’ve never seen before.

  • Mark McGregor


    Totally agree. Though we find out for real soon.

    I’m expecting turnout down circa 7.5% despite people having to queue at peak times due to factors Mick noted in the OP.

    Thankfully there doesn’t seem to have been a last minute rush that didn’t get to vote (or spoil) due to queues though.

  • The Raven

    I posted some figures over on the other page – I didn’t get any feedback from the other lads regarding last minute rushes in any of the stations.

  • Backbencher

    Agree with the observations above, a lot more cars outside my local polling station than normal. When I got inside I discover why. It was taking ages to vote. Staff at the desk seem to take ages to issue papers etc.
    Firmly believe it was not a good idea to have three votes on the one day.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Mark – a low turnout good for MacCoitir etc in Falls?

  • A Pluralist Elitist

    EONI mucked up my postal vote. They admitted this much but told me on the phone ‘it is too late to do anything about it’. Is there anything comeback against me being denied my democratic rights?

  • Drumlins Rock

    PE, you have no right to a postal so far as I know, it is a “courtesy” not a right.

  • Mark McGregor

    Mr Crumlin,

    I’d assume so. SF need to keep it tight to pull off their balancing act. A low turnout means a lower quota for Chopper and McCusker.

  • Backbencher

    How did it go for the UUP in the West?

  • A Pluralist Elitist

    Thanks DR, though if that is the as it is discrimination against students. We wouldn’t allow it against OAP’s, so why students?

  • Mr Crumlin

    I agree – I would assume eirigi supporters would be highly motivated to vote. I think this is a great chance for them and a few others – will be interesting.

    I think Tommy Burns will be disappointed with the Crum turnout – even the Shinners had the loud speaker in my estate (sorry, housing development! old habits) this evening!

    Tomorrow should be fun.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mark & Crumlin

    I’ve a feeling Tommy Burns will still make it at Assembly level, though it’ll be tight. I’d imagine a low Crumlin turnout will hit the third nationalist seat prospects at Council level in Antrim SE though.

    I can’t envisage a seat-winning performance by any of the non-SF republican candidates in Belfast regardless of turnout. Certainly in Lower Falls, I’d say the albeit dwindled core SDLP vote will prove stronger than Eirigi and, if SF don’t sweep the board there, I’d say it’ll be the SDLP who benefit.

    In Upper Falls there is a solid SDLP quota and SF should be quite confident of holding the four seats there.

  • Light23

    Wouldn’t low turnout help a party like Alliance? I’m an Alliance voter and I definitely wasn’t apathetic about voting, because I hate the way things are currently done.

    It’s much harder to get motivated to vote when it’s just going to go towards a meaningless sectarian headcount.

    The way I see it is that overall turnout will decrease, but Alliance votes will stay steady or increase, leading to a bigger slice.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Light – dont underestimate the power of tribal politics – gets me out every time.

    I think a low turn out will affect all but parties such as SF and DUP will fair a little better as they have stronger electoral machines – not many black taxis ferrying Alliance voters.

    I could be wrong ofcourse – we’ll have a better idea tomorrow.

  • Chris Donnelly

    not many black taxis ferrying Alliance voters.

    Mr C
    Very good.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I suspect a low turnout could only be bad for the SDLP/UUP. But it won’t be long before we’ll know.

    I don’t think the non-SF republican vote will amount to much more than it has before. Regular bombscares around Belfast and further afield have a nice way of reminding people of the past SF are campaigning to avoid a return to.

  • al


    you’re being cynical. What I was pointing out is that either I’m stupid or the voting does take time for first timers and will without doubt confuse some older people who may be used to voting with an X or a number but not three different forms especially as the assembly and council forms look very similar.