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Public survey finds satisfaction with electoral processes in Northern Ireland and support for online registration

Published: 11 Oct 2017

Over three quarters of people in Northern Ireland support the introduction of online electoral registration according to a new report published today by the Electoral Commission. The UK-wide report Voting in 2017 also found high levels of satisfaction amongst voters in Northern Ireland with how the March Northern Ireland Assembly election and the UK general election in June were run.

In addition to calling for online registration in Northern Ireland, the report also finds support across the UK for further modernisation of the electoral registration process, with the Commission recommending changes that would enable people to be automatically registered to vote when using other public services.

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

“It is positive to see that voters in Northern Ireland continue to have confidence in how well elections are run – particularly given how many times they have been to the polls over the last 18 months. However it is clear that there is an appetite amongst voters to improve and modernise the electoral process and this must start with the introduction of online electoral registration in Northern Ireland. We would hope that this will be put in place before the end of this year”.

The Commission’s report is based on surveys with over 6,000 members of the public, across the UK, following the polls that took place in 2017, as well as other insights from data gathered on the 2017 polls. It provides an overview of public attitudes towards the process of voting and democracy, as well as identifying wider trends around turnout, engagement and awareness.

The March Northern Ireland Assembly election turnout of 64.8% was the highest since the first Assembly election in 1998, and an increase of 10 percentage points on the previous Assembly election in May 2016. Voting ‘to get change’ was a strong motivation for voters going to the poll in March with 25% of respondents saying they voted for this reason compared to 6% and 7% respectively at the 2016 and 2011 Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

Electoral Integrity

Almost 80% of respondents across the UK felt the general election was well run and the vast majority of the public (79%) believe that voting is safe from fraud and abuse. However, perception of electoral fraud continues to be an issue at UK elections. The report indicates that lack of voter identification in polling stations in Great Britain contributes to this view. The requirement for photographic identification at the polling station has been in place in Northern Ireland since 2002.

Ann Watt continued:

“It is good that most people think elections are safe and well-run. But the Commission takes the risk of electoral fraud very seriously, and is bound to be concerned by public worries about this. We have previously recommended the introduction of an ID requirement for voters at polling stations in Great Britain, as has been in operation successfully in Northern Ireland for some years.”

The report is available on the Commission’s website.

Ends

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 028 9089 4023 Out of office hours 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
    • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
    • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

    The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

  2. In July, the Electoral Commission published a report on electoral registration at the general election which can be found here The Commission will issue further reports on accessibility, the administration of the poll and the regulation of political finance later this year.
  3. This report uses findings from public opinion surveys carried out for the Electoral Commission after every poll. These surveys are intended to measure attitudes towards voting and to monitor and understand the experience of voters. Our three 2017 surveys comprised 6,154 interviews the public in the weeks after each poll. A total of 1,000 adults were interviewed following the March Northern Ireland Assembly election and 501 interviews were conducted in Northern Ireland as part of the UK general election post-election survey.
  4. In 2017 over 44 million votes were across the UK at six different polls:
    • The scheduled local government elections in England, Scotland and in Wales
    • The six inaugural Combined Authority Mayor elections in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West of England and the West Midlands
    • The snap Northern Ireland Assembly election
    • The snap UK Parliamentary general election (UKPGE)
  5. To raise awareness of the elections and how to take part the Electoral Commission ran voter registration campaigns ahead of the polls on 4 May and 8 June. This included TV, radio and digital advertising.

Journalist