It was a quite a contrast to the previous referendum – the Good Friday Agreement poll – which was announced to vast crowds of waiting politicians, campaigners and the world’s media.
With the final count completing in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, tonight’s 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.
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! Broadcasters should note that the exclusive HD video and audio of the UK’s final declaration can be downloaded – though if used, please attribute the source as both clips are released under a Creative Commons license.
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
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.
Across the eight centres, around 2 million ballot papers were verified and counted on Friday. While there will be questions about the length of time it took Northern Ireland’s count centres to all complete the referendum count, there are some positives in the process.
Ignoring the verification of the three separate ballots at the start – which took longer than anyone expected – the time taken to process each round of the Assembly election is at least as fast as four years ago. Election officials are predicting that the end-to-end count time for the verified Assembly ballots will be significantly less than the 2007 election.