Electoral Commission
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Northern Ireland Assembly poll was well run but more work to be done to improve electoral register

The Electoral Commission yesterday published its report on the administration of the May 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election and a separate report on the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register in Northern Ireland.

Report on the administration of the May 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election

The election report concludes that the May poll was well-run, with few problems. Public opinion research, carried out after the election, shows that 93% of respondents were confident that the Assembly election was well-run. The report also found that a number of changes made by the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland to the management of the count process addressed many of the problems that arose at election counts in 2011 and 2014.

Ann Watt, Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said:

“Following the polls in May 2016 we are pleased to be able to report that the Assembly election was well-run and would like to thank all those involved in administering it. The experience of voters is what matters and our report shows that participating in the elections was positive for them.

“Looking forward there is much more to be done to further improve public confidence in the electoral and democratic process in Northern Ireland. We have welcomed the UK Government’s commitment to introduce online electoral registration and hope to see it in place by the end of the year.”

“There also continues to be a public appetite for more information on how our political parties are funded. As such we are again calling on the UK Government to introduce legislation that will allow the Commission to publish information on the donations received by political parties in Northern Ireland.”

Report on the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register in Northern Ireland

Alongside the election report the Commission has also published its latest report on the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register in Northern Ireland.

The report finds that the UK Parliamentary register in Northern Ireland in December 2015 was 87% accurate and 81% complete. The local government register was 87% accurate and 79% complete.

The report finds that although improvements have been made to the management of the electoral register it is struggling to keep up with population movement and to effectively reach attainers (those aged 16 and 17 who can register to vote).

“It’s encouraging that both the accuracy and completeness of the registers in Northern Ireland have improved since our previous study in 2012. This is in part due to the full canvass of electors that took place in autumn 2013 and by the improvements made by the Chief Electoral Officer in how he handles and uses data available to him to manage the electoral register” said Ann Watt.

“However there is still considerable work to be done to ensure that the register is as up to date and complete as possible particularly for the next set of planned elections in 2019. The introduction of online registration will help but we are also recommending some additional actions for the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure people’s details are correct."

“In addition we are calling on the UK Government to consider the development of more automatic or direct enrolment processes which could have the potential to deliver more accurate and complete electoral registers more efficiently and with fewer resources”.

The Electoral Commission’s report on the election is available to view here. The electoral registration report is available to view here.

Contact

For further information please contact Cahir Hughes on 028 9089 4023 orchughes@electoralcommission.org.uk.

Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulations of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. On Thursday 5 May 2016 there was an election to the Northern Ireland Assembly election; Scottish Parliament; National Assembly for Wales; Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales (not Greater Manchester or London); City mayoral elections in Salford, Bristol and Liverpool; Local Government elections in parts of England
  3. This is the third report the Commission has published on the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register in Northern Ireland. Its previous report in 2012 found that the April 2012 UK Parliamentary register was 78% accurate and 73% complete. The local government register was 78% accurate and 71% complete.
  4. The Commission has published further reports on the conduct of each of the elections that took place across the UK on Thursday 5 May 2016. For information relating to other election reports please contact the Electoral Commission press office or see the Electoral Commission website.

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