Northern Ireland Assembly election well-run, but barriers to voting remain

Northern Ireland Assembly election well-run, but barriers to voting remain

Voters in Northern Ireland are confident that May’s Assembly election was well-run with the vast majority satisfied with the process of voting and registering to vote, according to a report published today by the Electoral Commission.

However, the report finds that the requirement to include a Digital Registration Number (DRN) on postal and proxy applications led to the rejection of almost 4,000 applications. A DRN is required for those who registered to vote online to apply for a postal or proxy vote, and is given out as part of the registration process.

Jonathan Mitchell, Manager of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland said:

“It is important that all eligible voters who apply for a postal or proxy vote can have their vote counted, and do not face unnecessary barriers. We’ve recommended that the UK Government reviews the operation of the DRN within the postal and proxy voting process to ensure it does not prevent people from accessing their vote.”

Although confidence in elections remains high, campaigners and those running elections face additional challenges. The report highlights concerns about resilience and capacity in relation to the delivery of elections, with the Chief Electoral Officer reporting issues recruiting and retaining staff to work at the elections. A majority of candidates reported experiencing abuse and intimidation, with issues primarily relating to the theft or damage of campaign materials, online abuse, and verbal abuse.

Jonathan Mitchell added:

“Action is needed to address intimidation and abuse of candidates at elections. It is vital that candidates can participate in elections without fear. We will work with the wider electoral community to make sure we understand what’s driving this issue and address it as a matter of urgency.”


You can access the report in full on our website.

You can find more information and press releases for the Scotland, Wales and England reports on our website’s media centre.

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 02890 894032, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or

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, Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

2. The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to report on the administration of the following polls held in May 2022: elections in England, Scotland and Wales and elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Today we have also published the following:

  • Report on the May 2022 elections in England
  • Report on the May 2022 elections in Scotland
  • Report on the May 2022 elections in Wales

3. The Electoral Commission gathered data in several ways as part of the reporting:

  • The post poll public opinion research, carried out online between 6 - 22 May 2022 by YouGov on behalf of the Electoral Commission, surveyed 987 eligible voters in Northern Ireland. 84% were satisfied with the system of registering to vote, 82% said they were confident that the elections were well-run and 95% of those who voted were satisfied with the process of voting.
  • The post-poll candidate survey ran from 9 May to 6 June and received 71 responses. Candidates were asked: On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being no problem at all and 5 being a serious problem, how much of a problem, if any, did you have with threats, abuse or intimidation in this election? Respondents who rated their experience as a 2 or above (71%) were counted as having experienced threats, abuse, or intimidation.