Titanic Exhibition Centre Count Information pack

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1 Titanic Exhibition Centre Count Information pack Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2 March 2017

2 Contents 1 Introduction 3 2 Admission to the count 3 3 Health and safety 4 4 Evacuation procedure 4 5 Count centre layout 5 6 Cafeteria and refreshments 5 7 Conduct in the count centre 5 8 Information point 5 9 Twitter 5 10 Plasma screens 6 11 The Count process 6 Appendices Appendix 1 Requirement of Secrecy 12 Appendix 2 Count centre layout Appendix 3 Ballot box allocations Appendix 4 Doubtful ballot papers placemat 18 2

3 1 Introduction The counting of votes for the Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South and Belfast West constituencies in the Northern Ireland Assembly election will start at 8am on Friday 3 March 2017 at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, 17 Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9DU. Key personnel: Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) Count Co-ordinator Marie Louise Lappin - Belfast South & Belfast West Stephen McCrory - Belfast East & Belfast North Wavell Moore Senior Count Managers Jim Hanna - Belfast East Mark McBride - Belfast North Rose Crozier - Belfast South Andrew Wilson - Belfast West 2 Admission to the count The only persons who can be present at the count are: the DRO and their staff candidates and one other person chosen by each of them election agents sub-agents (if they have been appointed for the area in which the count is located) counting agents constables on duty Electoral Commission representatives observers accredited by the Electoral Commission other persons permitted by the RO The number of counting agents each candidate may appoint to observe the counting of the votes is calculated by dividing the number of count assistants by the number of candidates. The DRO will advise how many counting agents will be permitted per candidate for each constituency count no later than Friday 10 February. Car parking On entrance to the car park a parking attendant will check your name against the Admissions List and ask to see photographic identification. Please have your identification ready to avoid any unnecessary delays. Entry to the count centre is through the main entrance. The count centre will be open from 7.15am. There will be a security search of bags at the entrance. Please do not bring any unnecessary baggage as this will slow down the search process. No alcohol is allowed on the premises and will be confiscated if found. 3

4 Admission process There will be an Admissions Desk for candidates and agents inside the centre. Access to the count centre will be strictly controlled and attendees will be asked to produce one of the following forms of photographic identification: a UK, Irish or EEA Driving Licence (photographic part, provisional licence accepted) a UK, Irish or EU Passport an Electoral Identity Card a Translink Senior SmartPass a Translink 60+ SmartPass a Translink War Disabled SmartPass a Translink Blind Person s SmartPass Individual wrist bands will be issued to all those admitted and they must be worn at all times in the count centre. If you leave the building you will be asked to show your wrist band and photographic identification upon re-entry. Attendees must abide by any direction given by the DRO or their staff. Attendees must also read and adhere to the Requirement of Secrecy at Appendix 1 on page Health and Safety A risk assessment of the count centre has been carried out in advance of the count. There will be first aid provision within the count centre. The centre has disabled access and disabled parking spaces available. Please notify the DRO in advance if any candidates will require assistance within the count centre. 4 Evacuation procedure In the event of an emergency Electoral Office staff are available to assist and ensure that the centre is evacuated safely. Anyone who may need particular assistance with evacuation should contact the DRO in advance so their requirements can be accommodated. There are no fire alarm tests planned for count day. In the event of the fire alarm sounding you must leave the count centre immediately by the nearest fire exit and assemble at the meeting point advised by the centre staff. You must remain at the meeting point unless you are directed to somewhere else by either Electoral Office staff or count centre management. You must not re-enter the building until told to do so. 4

5 5 Count centre layout A diagram of the count centre layout can be found at Appendix 2 on page 13. Each constituency count will consist of 14 counting teams (4 staff per team) totalling 56 counters. 6 Cafeteria and refreshments The cafeteria will be open from 8am on Friday 3 March and 9am on Saturday 4 March. A mobile catering van will be available outside. 7 Conduct in the count centre Taking photos or video where the contents of any ballot could be identified is not permitted. This also applies to cameras on mobile phones, ipads etc. and is necessary to ensure the secrecy and integrity of the election. Mobile phones must be kept on silent when in the Count Area. Candidates, agents and observers must not intrude on the count staff s work area. While they have a role to scrutinise and ensure a transparent process, they must respect the staff and give them space to do their work. They must not lean over the barriers or otherwise physically intrude upon the counting area or distract count assistants. The Count Supervisor can advise on the current process being carried out. Accredited media representatives will be present within the count centre. This may include TV cameras and press photographers. Cameras will not be allowed to approach the counting tables or, in the case of television, to focus on the tables in close-up. 8 Information point There will be an Information Point for candidates and agents within the Count Area. An Information Officer will be present to assist with any enquiries. A Media Liaison Officer will be available to answer any media enquiries. 9 Twitter Updates from every count centre will be posted on Twitter. Candidates, agents and observers may use mobile phones to view this information in the Count Centre but only outside the Count Area. If you wish to follow this Twitter feed then please 5

6 10 Plasma screens There will be plasma screens set up in the count centre. It will show a range of information including the following: general information timings for the adjudication of doubtful votes stage results 11 Count process 11.1 Verification After the close of poll the number of unused, spoilt and tendered ballot papers returned from polling stations will be reconciled overnight in each of the count centres. The opening of the ballot boxes at each count venue will begin at 8.00am on Friday 3 March. When opening each ballot box the count supervisor will state the name and number of the polling station. Each team of 4 counters will reconcile the number of ballot papers found in each ballot box against the number recorded on the ballot paper account by the Presiding Officer. If the number of ballot papers recorded on the ballot paper account and the physical checks correspond, the verification of that box is complete. If they do not, the ballot papers will be recounted until the same total is counted twice. Any discrepancies will be investigated by the Count Calculator who can check the result from other polling stations in the same polling place. Each count team will be allocated specific ballot boxes to open and verify and these will be displayed beside each count team on a poster stand. See Appendix 3 on pages 14 to 17 for the ballot box allocations for each count team for each constituency. On completion of the verification stage the Deputy Returning Officer will announce the following: eligible electorate total votes polled percentage turnout Printed copies of the turnout figures will be available from the Information Officer immediately after the announcement and they will be displayed on the plasma screens Verification statement The process will continue until all ballot boxes have been verified. The results for each box will be recorded on the verification statement, a signed copy of which will be available for election agents after the completion of the verification stage. 6

7 11.3 Mixing the ballot papers The legislation specifies that the DRO shall not count the votes on any ballot papers until: in the case of postal ballot papers they have been mixed with the ballot papers from at least one ballot box; and in the case of ballot papers from a ballot box they have been mixed with the ballot papers from at least one other ballot box. Whilst the verification is ongoing, and as soon as the ballot papers have been mixed with at least one other verified ballot box, count assistants will begin to sort the ballot papers according to the first preference votes cast for each candidate into the sorting frames First stage The counting of each candidate s ballot papers will not begin until the verification stage has been fully completed and the tables are set up for the first stage count. Each candidate s ballot papers will be removed from the sorting frames and moved to the count tables. The candidate s name will be displayed at each table to identify which papers are being counted by each count team. At all times the ballot papers will be kept face upwards. This is to ensure no one can see the ballot paper number or other unique identifying mark and so determine how any individual has voted. Candidates, agents and observers must not attempt to see the back of any ballot paper anyone who does so may be excluded from the count. Count assistants will: re-examine the sorted ballot papers in the presence of counting agents; set aside any papers that have been mis-sorted for re-distribution to the correct candidate; count the papers into bundles of 100s; check each bundle for the accuracy of the number of papers contained; remedy any shortage or excess; and complete the stage card. Counting agents are entitled to satisfy themselves that the ballot papers are correctly sorted Doubtful ballot papers All doubtful ballot papers will be removed from the sorting frames and taken to the Doubtful Votes area on a continuous basis (see the Doubtful Votes area on the count centre layout plan at Appendix 2 on page 13). A ballot paper is deemed to be invalid if it: does not bear the official mark; or the figure 1 is not placed so as to indicate a first preference for any candidate; or 7

8 the figure 1 indicating a first preference is set opposite the name of more than one candidate; or anything (other than the printed number and other unique identifying mark on the back of the paper) is written or marked by which the voter can be identified; or is unmarked or void for uncertainty A ballot paper is not considered doubtful if: the vote is marked elsewhere than in the proper place so long as the intention of the voter is clear; or it is marked by any other means instead of a figure if the mark, e.g. X or the words one, two, three clearly indicate a preference or preferences; or it is written on but the writing or mark does not identify the voter. Examples of allowed and rejected ballot papers are set out on the Doubtful Ballot Paper placemat, a copy of which is at Appendix 4 on pages 18 & Adjudication process An announcement will be made on the PA system, 10 minutes in advance, stating when the adjudication of doubtful ballot papers will take place to allow candidates/agents to be in attendance. The adjudication will not be delayed if candidates/agents are not in attendance. The DRO will show the candidates and agents each paper and give a provisional decision. They will hear any representations regarding their decision. Any ballot paper deemed to be acceptable for a particular candidate will be taken immediately to that candidate s table in the vote records area. The DRO will endorse the word Rejected on any ballot paper which is invalid and will add the words Rejection objected to where an objection to their decision is made by an election agent or counting agent. There is no appeal against the decision of the DRO and candidates and agents are not permitted to put their own stamps on the ballot papers. Ballot papers will only be adjudicated once and the DRO s decision is final. Any rejected ballot papers will not be counted if there is a request for a recount Statement of Rejected ballot papers The Statement of Rejected ballot papers will be completed showing the number of ballot papers rejected for the reasons stated at section 11.5, a copy of which will be available to candidates and agents at the end of the count. 8

9 11.8 Recording and storage of candidates papers The bundles of papers will then be transferred to the relevant Candidate s table in the Vote Records area where Vote Records assistants will: check the covering stage card for accuracy; flick through the bundles to check the papers are for their assigned candidate; and make up the bundles of 100 into larger bundles (1000). The total number of first preference votes for each candidate will be entered in the Candidate s Vote Record Sheet after all the papers have been received in the Vote Record area. Vote Records assistants will maintain a record of the number and value of the papers received and collated by them for each candidate at each stage and place the bundles of papers in the candidate storage area End of first stage The Vote Records Supervisor will collect all the Vote Record Sheets showing the total number of votes for each candidate (valid votes) and the Doubtful Votes Supervisor will provide the total number of rejected ballot papers (invalid votes). These figures will be passed to the Count Calculator and reconciled with the total the number of ballot papers counted at the verification. The Senior count team and the DRO will discuss the figures and the DRO will agree the result. When all invalid votes have been set aside and the total valid votes have been counted for each candidate, the total valid vote will be determined The quota When the aggregate first preference vote (the total valid vote) is agreed, the quota for the election will be determined by dividing the total valid vote by six (the number of seats to be filled plus one) and increasing the result, ignoring any remainder, by one. The quota will then be calculated using the following formula: Q = total valid votes 6 ignore any fraction and add 1 Where the total number of votes for a candidate at any stage or sub-stage of the count is equal to or exceeds the quota that candidate shall be deemed to be elected. 9

10 11.11 End of First Stage briefing The DRO will call the candidates and agents together and brief them on the result of the first stage and the next action to be taken. If a discrepancy has been found between the ballot papers counted at the verification stage and the total of the first preference votes plus the invalid votes, the DRO will explain this to the candidates/agents and advise them of which figure they propose to use Recount At the end of any stage of the count, a candidate can request a recount and this will be considered by the DRO. If a recount is granted there is no obligation upon the DRO to carry out a second or further recount for that stage. A request for a recount will only be acceded to if it is made when the stage has been finalised. As soon as the commencement of the next stage is formally announced any such request will be refused Announcement of the First Stage results The DRO will make a formal announcement of the results of the First Stage and a printed copy of the results will be available from the Information Officer and also displayed on the plasma screens. Any candidate who has attained or exceeded the quota will be deemed elected, pending the declaration of the result at the completion of the count. The DRO will announce what the next stage will be (as previously agreed with the candidates) and advise that the next stage of the count will proceed Subsequent stages Each subsequent stage of the count will either be a transfer of a surplus from a candidate whose vote exceeds the quota or the exclusion of the candidate(s) with the least number of votes. Surpluses will be transferred in descending size order. They will include any surplus that may have arisen as the consequence of an earlier transfer or exclusion. Exclusions will be made in ascending order from the candidate with the least votes. The DRO will brief candidates at the end of each stage and the results of each stage will be announced and information sheets will be made available. 10

11 11.15 Filling last vacancies The last vacancies may be filled and candidates deemed elected, without them attaining the quota. If, at the completion of any stage of the count, the number of candidates deemed to be elected is equal to the number of seats to be filled, no further exclusions or transfers of surpluses will be carried out. If, at the completion of any stage of the count, when the next stage is a proposed exclusion of one or more candidates, the number of continuing candidates would subsequently be equal to the number of seats to be filled, the continuing candidates will be deemed elected. The proposed exclusion(s) will not be carried out. If, during an exclusion, the number of candidates deemed to be elected at the completion of the redistribution of any batch of papers is equal to the number of seats to be filled, the stage will cease and the further redistribution of papers will not be carried out. In each case the action to be taken will be agreed by the DRO with the candidates and/or their election agents Declaration of Result Candidates previously deemed elected will now formally be declared elected by the DRO. The DRO will announce the five candidates in the order they have been elected. The following information will be made available: the names of the candidates declared to be elected; the number of first preference votes for each candidate whether elected or not; the transfer of votes; the total number of votes for each candidate at each stage of the count at which such transfer took place; and the order in which the candidates where elected. 11

12 Notification of Requirement of Secrecy Appendix 1 NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY ELECTION NOTIFICATION OF REQUIREMENT OF SECRECY Your attention is drawn to Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, and in particular to the maximum penalty set out in paragraph (6) for anyone found guilty of this offence. Level 5 is currently set at It is the policy of the Chief Electoral Officer to report to the police any person suspected of breaking any of these provisions. Section 66 (2) Every person attending at the counting of the votes shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of voting and shall not- (a) ascertain or attempt to ascertain at the counting of the votes the number or other unique identifying mark on the back of any ballot paper; (b) communicate any information obtained at the counting of the votes as to the candidate for whom any vote is given on any particular ballot paper. (6) If a person acts in contravention of this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months. 12

13 Count Centre Layout Appendix 2 13

14 Ballot Box Allocations Appendix 3 5, 19, 33, 47, 61, 75 TEAM 5 6, 20, 34, 48, 62 TEAM 6 7, 21, 35, 49, 63 TEAM 7 8, 22, 36, 50, 64 TEAM 8 9, 23, 37, 51, 65 TEAM 9 TEAM 10 10, 24, 38, 52, 66 4, 18, 32, 46, 60, 74 TEAM 4 TEAM 11 11, 25, 39, 53, 67 3, 17, 31, 45, 59, 73 TEAM 3 BELFAST EAST TEAM 12 12, 26, 40, 54, 68 2, 16, 30, 44, 58, 72 TEAM 2 TEAM 13 13, 27, 41, 55, 69 1, 15, 29, 43, 57, 71 TEAM 1 TEAM 14 14, 28, 42, 56, 70, POSTAL 14

15 Ballot Box Allocations 5, 19, 33, 47, 61 TEAM 5 6, 20, 34, 48, 62 TEAM 6 7, 21, 35, 49, 63 TEAM 7 8, 22, 36, 50, 64 TEAM 8 9, 23, 37, 51, 65 TEAM 9 TEAM 10 10, 24, 38, 52, 66 4, 18, 32, 46, 60 TEAM 4 TEAM 11 11, 25, 39, 53, 67 3, 17, 31, 45, 59 TEAM 3 BELFAST NORTH TEAM 12 12, 26, 40, 54, 68 2, 16, 30, 44, 58 TEAM 2 TEAM 13 13, 27, 41, 55, 69 1, 15, 29, 43, 57, 71 TEAM 1 TEAM 14 14, 28, 42, 56, 70, POSTAL 15

16 Ballot Box Allocations 5, 19, 33, 47, 61 TEAM 5 6, 20, 34, 48, 62 TEAM 6 7, 21, 35, 49, 63 TEAM 7 8, 22, 36, 50, 64 TEAM 8 9, 23, 37, 51, 65 TEAM 9 TEAM 10 10, 24, 38, 52, 66 4, 18, 32, 46, 60 TEAM 4 TEAM 11 11, 25, 39, 53 3, 17, 31, 45, 59 TEAM 3 BELFAST SOUTH TEAM 12 12, 26, 40, 54 2, 16, 30, 44, 58 TEAM 2 TEAM 13 13, 27, 41, 55 1, 15, 29, 43, 57 TEAM 1 TEAM 14 14, 28, 42, 56, POSTAL 16

17 Ballot Box Allocations 5, 19, 33, 47, 61 TEAM 5 6, 20, 34, 48, 62 TEAM 6 7, 21, 35, 49, 63 TEAM 7 8, 22, 36, 50, 64 TEAM 8 9, 23, 37, 51, 65 TEAM 9 TEAM 10 10, 24, 38, 52, 66 4, 18, 32, 46, 60 TEAM 4 TEAM 11 11, 25, 39, 53, 67 3, 17, 31, 45, 59 TEAM 3 BELFAST WEST TEAM 12 12, 26, 40, 54, 68 2, 16, 30, 44, 58 TEAM 2 TEAM 13 13, 27, 41, 55, 69 1, 15, 29, 43, 57, POSTAL TEAM 1 TEAM 14 14, 28, 42, 56, 70 17

18 Doubtful ballot papers placemat Appendix 4 18

19 19

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