All you need to know about NI council elections

time:2023-06-02 12:24:07 source:CNN (Cable News Network)

Voters across Northern Ireland will go to the polls on 18 May to choose new councillors for the first time in four years.

The elections give people the chance to decide who is responsible for a range of local issues - such as leisure services, bin collections and the rates bills paid by every household.

On 18 May, 462 seats will be contested in all of Northern Ireland's 11 councils.

The elections have been pushed back by two weeks due to the coronation of King Charles III on 6 May.

The elections use the single transferable vote (STV) system, the same as is used for elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Voters mark the ballot paper in order of preference - with a 1 beside their favourite candidate, a 2 beside their second-favourite and so on.

Voters choose councillors in their district electoral area (DEA). Each DEA is represented by five, six or seven councillors.

There are three ways to vote:

You will get a polling card before election day telling you where your polling station is. You do not need this card to vote.

Voters must be:

You need photographic ID to vote, such as a passport or driving licence.

A full list of acceptable ID is available on the Electoral Office website.

The deadline to register to vote by post or proxy is 26 April. The deadline for those voting in person is 28 April.

The big story of the 2019 local elections was the rise in support for the Alliance Party, which gained 21 seats across all councils to claim a total of 53.

It remained the fifth-largest party overall but closed the gap on the Social Democratic and Labour Party, which dropped by seven seats to 59.

The Democratic Unionist Party won 122 seats - a drop of eight - to remain the largest party while Sinn Féin was second with 105, unchanged from the previous election.

The Ulster Unionist Party was third with 75 seats - a drop of 13.

Smaller parties the Greens and People Before Profit both gained four seats each while the Traditional Unionist Voice dropped by seven to hold six overall.

Council elections are also often used by voters to give their opinion on the various political parties, even on issues which are not directly related to councils, so the results can often be a sign of things to come.

For example Alliance's strong performance was followed by its success in European, Westminster and Stormont elections over the course of the following three years.

Councils are responsible for a range of services, including:

They also look after some local tourism, off-street parking and elements of heritage such as managing conservation areas.

These services are paid for by rates. Every council votes each year on what the district rate will be in their area, which is added to the regional rate set by Stormont and sent out to every eligible household as a rates bill.

The elections will decide the make-up of each council, which has an impact on their approach to the services run by each local authority.

Earlier in the year, all 11 councils agreed their highest rate rises since local government reform in 2015, so the upcoming election will be a chance for voters to give their views on that, as well as on candidates' plans for rates in the future.

Voters may also use the elections to give a verdict on the parties' approaches to the Windsor Framework - the amended Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

Animals - apart from assistance dogs - are not usually allowed in polling stations.

However, as dogs aren't specifically mentioned in UK electoral law, they are admitted to polling stations at the discretion of the local authority.

Voters are encouraged to bring children to polling stations to help educate them about democracy, but they are not allowed to mark your ballot paper.

Counting of the votes begins on 19 May, the day after the election.

In 2019, counting continued past midnight and into the next day..

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