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Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962

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Part IV N.I. Counting of Votes

InterpretationN.I.

42In this Part of these rules—

  • continuing candidate means any candidate not deemed to be elected and not excluded;

  • count means all the operations involved in the counting of the first preferences recorded for candidates, the transfer of the surpluses of elected candidates, and the transfer of the votes of excluded candidates;

  • deemed to be elected means deemed to be elected for the purpose of the counting of the votes but without prejudice to the declaration of the result of the poll;

  • mark means a figure, a word written in the English language or a mark such as X;

  • non-transferable vote means a ballot paper—

    (a)

    on which no second or subsequent preference is recorded for a continuing candidate, or

    (b)

    which is excluded by the returning officer under rule 50(4);

  • preference as used in the following contexts has the meaning assigned below:—

    (a)

    first preference means the figure 1 or any mark or word which clearly indicates a first (or only) preference;

    (b)

    next available preference means a preference which is the second or, as the case may be, subsequent preference recorded in consecutive order for a continuing candidate (any candidate who is deemed to be elected or is excluded thereby being ignored), and

    (c)

    in this context, a second preference is shown by the figure 2 or any mark or word which clearly indicates a second preference, a third preference by the figure 3 or any mark or word which clearly indicates a third preference, and so on;

  • quota means the number calculated in accordance with rule 48;

  • surplus means the number of votes by which the total number of votes for any candidate (whether first preference or transferred votes, or a combination of both) exceeds the quota; but, references in these rules to the transfer of the surplus means the transfer (at a transfer value) of all transferable papers from the candidate who has the surplus;

  • stage of the count means—

    (a)

    the determination of the first preference vote for each candidate;

    (b)

    the transfer of a surplus of a candidate deemed to be elected; or

    (c)

    the exclusion of one or more candidates at any given time;

  • transferable paper means a ballot paper on which, following a first preference, a second or subsequent preference is recorded in consecutive numerical order for a continuing candidate;

  • transferred vote means a vote derived from a ballot paper on which a second or subsequent preference is recorded for the candidate to whom that paper has been transferred;

  • transfer value means the value of a transferred vote calculated in accordance with paragraph (4) or (7) of rule 49, as the case may be.

Place and time for, and manner of, counting of votesN.I.

43(1)Subject to paragraph (3), the returning officer shall make arrangements for counting the votes in the presence of the counting agents at 9 in the[F1 morning on the second day after] the day of the poll and shall give to the counting agents notice in writing of the time and place at which he will begin to count the votes.

[F1(1A)For the purpose of determining the day for counting under paragraph (1) a Saturday, a Sunday and a public holiday must be disregarded.]

(2)There shall be a separate count in respect of each district electoral area in the local government district.

(3)Nothing in paragraph (1) shall require the returning officer to commence counting the votes for all the district electoral areas in any local government district at the same time.

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Attendance at counting of votesN.I.

44(1)No person other than—

(a)the returning officer and his clerks,

(b)the candidates,

(c)the election agents,

(d)the counting agents,

(e)the constables on duty,

[F2(f)a person who is entitled to attend by virtue of any of sections 6A to 6D of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.]

may be present at the counting of the votes, unless permitted by the returning officer to attend.

(2)A person not entitled to attend at the counting of the votes shall not be permitted to do so by the returning officer unless he is satisfied that the efficient counting of the votes will not be impeded.

(3)The returning officer shall give the counting agents all such reasonable facilities for overseeing the proceedings at the counting of the votes (including in particular, facilities for satisfying themselves that the ballot papers are correctly sorted) and all such information with respect thereto as he can give them consistently with the orderly conduct of the proceedings and the performance of his functions.

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Preliminary proceedings and conduct of the countN.I.

45(1)Before the returning officer proceeds to count the votes, he shall—

(a)in the presence of the counting agents open each ballot box and, taking out the ballot papers in it, count and record the number of them and in the presence of the election agents verify each ballot paper account;

(b)count such of the postal ballot papers as have been duly returned and record the number counted; and

(c)then mix together the whole of the ballot papers mentioned in the foregoing sub-paragraphs.

(2)A postal ballot paper shall not be deemed to be duly returned unless

[F3(a)it is returned in the proper envelope so as to reach the returning officer before the close of the poll and is accompanied by the declaration of identity duly signed and authenticated, and

(b)in the case of an elector, that declaration of identity states the date of birth of the elector and the returning officer is satisfied that the date corresponds with the date supplied as the date of the elector's birth pursuant to section 10(4A)(b), 10A(1A)(b) or section 13A(2A)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (as applied by Schedule 1 to the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989).]

[F3(2A)In the case of an elector, unless section 10(4B), 10A(1B) or 13A(2B) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (as applied by Schedule 1 to the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989) applies, the declaration of identity referred to in paragraph (2) shall be taken not to be duly signed unless the returning officer is satisfied that the signature on the declaration corresponds with the signature supplied as the elector's signature pursuant to section 10(4A)(a), 10A(1A)(a) or 13A(2A)(a) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (as so applied)]

(3)The returning officer shall not count any tendered ballot paper.

(4)The returning officer, while counting and recording the number of ballot papers and counting the votes, shall keep the ballot papers with their faces upwards and take all proper precautions for preventing any person from seeing the numbers printed on the back of the papers.

(5)The returning officer shall verify each ballot paper account by comparing it with the number of ballot papers recorded by him, and the unused and spoilt ballot papers in his possession and the tendered votes list (opening and resealing the packets containing the unused and spoilt ballot papers and the tendered votes list) and shall draw up a statement as to the result of the verification, which any election agent may copy.

(6)The returning officer shall so far as practicable proceed continuously with counting the votes, allowing only time for refreshment and excluding (except so far as he and the agents otherwise agree) the hours between 11 in the evening and 9 on the following morning.

For the purposes of this exception the agreement of a candidate or his election agent shall be as effective as the agreement of his counting agents.

(7)During the time so excluded the returning officer shall—

(a)place the ballot papers and other documents relating to the election under his own seal and the seals of such of the counting agents as desire to affix their seals; and

(b)otherwise take proper precautions for the security of the papers and documents.

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F3SI 2002/2835

Rejected ballot papersN.I.

46(1)Any ballot paper—

(a)which does not bear the official mark; or

(b)on which the figure 1 standing alone is not placed so as to indicate a first preference for some candidate; or

(c)on which the figure 1 standing alone indicating a first preference is set opposite the name of more than one candidate; or

(d)on which anything (other than the printed number on the back) is written or marked by which the voter can be identified; or

(e)which is unmarked or void for uncertainty,

shall be void and not counted, but the ballot paper shall not be void by reason only of carrying the words one, two, three, (and so on) or any other mark instead of a figure if, in the opinion of the returning officer, the word or mark clearly indicates a preference or preferences.

(2)The returning officer shall endorse rejected on any ballot paper which under this rule is not to be counted and if an election agent objects to his decision shall add to the endorsement the words rejection objected to.

(3)The returning officer shall prepare a statement showing the number of ballot papers rejected by him under each of sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of paragraph (1) and shall, on request, allow any candidate or agent of a candidate to copy such statement.

(4)The decision of the returning officer on any question arising in respect of a ballot paper shall be final but shall be subject to review on an election petition.

First stageN.I.

47(1)The returning officer shall sort the ballot papers into parcels according to the candidates for whom first preference votes are given.

(2)The returning officer shall then count the number of first preference votes given on ballot papers for each candidate and shall record those numbers.

(3)The returning officer shall also ascertain and record the number of valid ballot papers.

The quotaN.I.

48(1)The returning officer shall divide the number of valid ballot papers by a number exceeding by one the number of members to be elected.

(2)The result, increased by one, of the division under paragraph (1) (any fraction being disregarded) shall be the number of votes sufficient to secure the election of a candidate (in these rules referred to as the quota).

(3)At any stage of the count a candidate whose total vote equals or exceeds the quota shall be deemed to be elected, except that at an election where there is only one vacancy a candidate shall not be deemed to be elected until the procedure set out in paragraphs (1) to (3) of rule 51 has been complied with.

Transfer of votesN.I.

49(1)Where the number of first preference votes for any candidate exceeds the quota, the returning officer shall sort all the ballot papers on which first preference votes are given for that candidate into sub-parcels so that they are grouped—

(a)according to the next available preference given on those papers for any continuing candidate, or

(b)where no such preference is given, as the sub-parcel of non-transferable votes.

(2)The returning officer shall count the number of ballot papers in each parcel referred to in paragraph (1).

(3)The returning officer shall, in accordance with this rule and rule 50, transfer each sub-parcel of ballot papers referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (1) to the candidate for whom the next available preference is given on those papers.

(4)The vote on each ballot paper transferred under paragraph (3) shall be at a value ( the transfer value) which—

(a)reduces the value of each vote transferred so that the total value of all such votes does not exceed the surplus, and

(b)is calculated by dividing the surplus of the candidate from whom the votes are being transferred by the total number of the ballot papers on which those votes are given, the calculation being made to two decimal places (ignoring the remainder if any).

(5)Where, at the end of any stage of the count involving the transfer of ballot papers, the number of votes for any candidate exceeds the quota, the returning officer shall sort the ballot papers in the sub-parcel of transferred votes which was last received by that candidate into separate sub-parcels so that they are grouped—

(a)according to the next available preference given on those papers for any continuing candidate, or

(b)where no such preference is given, as the sub-parcel of non-transferable votes.

(6)The returning officer shall, in accordance with this rule and rule 50, transfer each sub-parcel of ballot papers referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5) to the candidate for whom the next available preference is given on those papers.

(7)The vote on each ballot paper transferred under paragraph (6) shall be at—

(a)a transfer value calculated as set out in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (4), or

(b)at the value at which that vote was received by the candidate from whom it is now being transferred,

whichever is the less.

(8)Each transfer of a surplus constitutes a stage in the count.

(9)Subject to paragraph (10), the returning officer shall proceed to transfer transferable papers until no candidate who is deemed to be elected has a surplus or all the vacancies have been filled.

(10)Transferable papers shall not be liable to be transferred where any surplus or surpluses which, at a particular stage of the count, have not already been transferred, are—

(a)less than the difference between the total vote then credited to the continuing candidate with the lowest recorded vote and the vote of the candidate with the next lowest recorded vote; or

(b)less than the difference between the total votes of the two or more continuing candidates, credited at that stage of the count with the lowest recorded total numbers of votes and the candidate next above such candidates.

(11)This rule shall not apply at an election where there is only one vacancy.

Supplementary provisions on transferN.I.

50(1)If, at any stage of the count, two or more candidates have surpluses, the transferable papers of the candidate with the largest surplus shall be transferred first, and if—

(a)the surpluses determined in respect of two or more candidates are equal, the transferable papers of the candidate who had the highest recorded votes at the earliest preceding stage at which they had unequal votes, shall be transferred first, and

(b)the votes credited to two or more candidates were equal at all stages of the count, the returning officer shall decide between those candidates by lot and the transferable papers of the candidate on whom the lot falls shall be transferred first.

(2)The returning officer shall, on each transfer of transferable papers under rule 49—

(a)record the total transfer value of the votes transferred to each candidate;

(b)add that value to the previous total of votes recorded for each candidate and record the new total;

(c)record as non-transferable votes the difference between the surplus and the total transfer value of transferred votes and add that difference to the previously recorded total of non-transferable votes, and

(d)compare—

(i)the total number of votes then recorded for all of the candidates, together with total number of non-transferable votes, with

(ii)the recorded total of valid first preference votes.

(3)All ballot papers transferred under rule 49 or 51 shall be clearly marked, either individually or as a sub-parcel, so as to indicate the transfer value recorded at that time to each vote on that paper or, as the case may be, all the papers in that sub-parcel.

(4)Where a ballot paper is so marked that it is unclear to the returning officer at any stage of the count under rule 49 or 51 for which candidate the next preference is recorded, the returning officer shall treat any vote on that ballot paper as a non-transferable vote; and votes on a ballot paper shall be so treated where, for example, the names of two or more candidates (whether continuing candidates or not) are so marked that, in the opinion of the returning officer, the same order of preference is indicated or the numerical sequence is broken.

Exclusion of candidatesN.I.

51(1)If—

(a)all transferable papers which under the provisions of rule 49 (including that rule as applied by paragraph (11)) and this rule are required to be transferred, have been transferred, and

(b)subject to rule 52 one or more vacancies remain to be filled,

the returning officer shall exclude from the election at that stage the candidate with the then lowest vote (or, where paragraph (12) applies, the candidates with the then lowest votes).

(2)The returning officer shall sort all the ballot papers on which first preference votes are given for the candidate or candidates excluded under paragraph (1) into two sub-parcels so that they are grouped as—

(a)ballot papers on which a next available preference is given, and

(b)ballot papers on which no such preference is given (thereby including ballot papers on which preferences are given only for candidates who are deemed to be elected or are excluded).

(3)The returning officer shall, in accordance with this rule and rule 50, transfer each sub-parcel of ballot papers referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (2) to the candidate for whom the next available preference is given on those papers.

(4)The exclusion of a candidate, or of two or more candidates together, constitutes a further stage of the count.

(5)If, subject to rule 52, one or more vacancies still remain to be filled, the returning officer shall then sort the transferable papers, if any, which had been transferred to any candidate excluded under paragraph (1) into sub-parcels according to their transfer value.

(6)The returning officer shall transfer those papers in the sub-parcel of transferable papers with the highest transfer value to the continuing candidates in accordance with the next available preferences given on those papers (thereby passing over candidates who are deemed to be elected or are excluded).

(7)The vote on each transferable paper transferred under paragraph (6) shall be at the value at which that vote was received by the candidate excluded under paragraph (1).

(8)Any papers on which no next available preferences have been expressed shall be set aside as non-transferable votes.

(9)After the returning officer has completed the transfer of the ballot papers in the sub-parcel of ballot papers with the highest transfer value he shall proceed to transfer in the same way the sub-parcel of ballot papers with the next highest value and so on until he has dealt with each sub-parcel of a candidate excluded under paragraph (1).

(10)The returning officer shall after each stage of the count completed under this rule—

(a)record—

(i)the total value of votes, or

(ii)the total transfer value of votes

transferred to each candidate;

(b)add that total to the previous total of votes recorded for each candidate and record the new total;

(c)record the value of non-transferable votes and add that value to the previous non-transferable votes total, and

(d)compare—

(i)the total number of votes then recorded for each candidate together with the total number of non-transferable votes, with

(ii)the recorded total of valid first preference votes.

(11)If after a transfer of votes under any provision of this rule, a candidate has a surplus, that surplus shall be dealt with in accordance with paragraphs (5) to (10) of rule 49 and rule 50.

(12)Where the total of the votes of the two or more lowest candidates, together with any surpluses not transferred, is less than the number of votes credited to the next lowest candidate, the returning officer shall in one operation exclude such two or more candidates.

(13)If where a candidate has to be excluded under this rule, two or more candidates each have the same number of votes and are lowest—

(a)regard shall be had to the total number of votes credited to those candidates at the earliest stage of the count at which they had an unequal number of votes and the candidate with the lowest number of votes at that stage shall be excluded; and

(b)where the number of votes credited to those candidates was equal at all stages, the returning officer shall decide between the candidates by lot and the candidate on whom the lot falls shall be excluded.

Filling of last vacanciesN.I.

52(1)Where the number of continuing candidates is equal to the number of vacancies remaining unfilled the continuing candidates shall thereupon be deemed to be elected.

(2)Where only one vacancy remains unfilled and the votes of any one continuing candidate are equal to or greater than the total of votes credited to another or other continuing candidates together with any surplus not transferred, the candidate shall thereupon be deemed to be elected.

(3)Where the last vacancies can be filled under this rule, no further transfer of votes shall be made.

Re-countN.I.

53(1)The returning officer on completion of each stage of the count shall, before proceeding with the next stage, inform all the candidates and their election agents then present of his intention, subject to a request for a re-count, to proceed to the next stage.

(2)Before the returning officer so proceeds, any candidate or his election agent present at the count may request that a re-count be undertaken of the last completed stage.

(3)If a request is made under paragraph (2), the returning officer shall then proceed to carry out the re-count of the last completed stage, but if no such request is made, he shall proceed with the next subsequent stage of the count.

(4)The returning officer may also, if he thinks fit, re-count ballot papers either once or more often if he is not satisfied as to the accuracy of any stage.

(5)Nothing in this rule shall require the returning officer to re-count the same parcel or sub-parcel more than once.

(6)Where as a result of a re-count an error is discovered, the returning officer shall, where necessary, amend any results previously announced by him.

Ballot papers in wrong boxN.I.

[F453A(1)The returning officer may make arrangements for—

(a)ballot boxes for the local election to be opened and any ballot papers for the parliamentary election to be taken out;

(b)those ballot papers to be taken into account for the purposes of the parliamentary election;

(c)ballot boxes for the parliamentary election to be opened and any ballot papers for the local election to be taken out;

(d)those ballot papers to be taken into account for the purposes of the local election.

(2)Paragraph (1) applies notwithstanding anything else in these rules or the parliamentary elections rules.

(3)Nothing in these rules or the parliamentary elections rules requires the counting agents to be given facilities for overseeing the proceedings mentioned in paragraph (1)(a) or (c).]

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Order of election of candidatesN.I.

54(1)The order in which candidates whose votes equal or exceed the quota are deemed to be elected shall be the order in which their respective surpluses were transferred, or would have been transferred but for rule 49(10).

(2)A candidate credited with a number of votes equal to and not greater than the quota shall, for the purposes of this rule, be regarded as having had the smallest surplus at the stage of the count at which he obtained the quota.

(3)Where the surpluses of two or more candidates are equal and are not required to be transferred, regard shall be had to the total number of votes credited to such candidates at the earliest stage of the count at which they had an unequal number of votes and the surplus of the candidate who had the greatest number of votes at that stage shall be deemed to be the largest.

(4)Where the number of votes credited to two or more candidates were equal at all stages of the count, the returning officer shall decide between them by lot and the candidate on whom the lot falls shall be deemed to have been elected first.

Decisions of returning officerN.I.

55The decision of the returning officer, whether expressed or implied, on any question which arises in relation to the exclusion of any candidate under rule 51 or to any ballot paper or transfer of votes shall be final, but may be reviewed on an election petition.

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