Northern Ireland

NI voters 'happy' with election

Confidence in the way the 2010 general election was run was higher in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.

The findings came in an independent report published Tuesday by the Electoral Commission.

Satisfactions levels in NI topped the poll at 86%, with Wales at 73%, Scotland 71% and England 68% despite it being the first time overnight counts were held in all constituencies.

Chief Electoral Officer, Douglas Bain, said he welcomed the reports findings.

"It comes as the result of hard word and dedication of all my staff to ensure the delivery of a democratic process for everyone despite often challenging circumstances."

The 2010 general election was the first time votes were counted overnight in Northern Ireland.

Overnight counts did not take place for security reasons during the Troubles.

Overall, the report found that the election in Northern Ireland was well run but with a number of electoral events planned for 2011, there was no room for complacency.

Public opinion research showed that almost nine out of ten voters in Northern Ireland (86%) were confident that the election was well run.

However across the UK as a whole, this fell to seven out of ten - a significant drop compared to the 2009 elections.

Recommendations

This followed a small number of high profile cases in England where voters were unable to cast their votes and suggests that voter confidence can be fragile.

However the votes in Northern Ireland were not without their own problems.

In Fermanagh, South Tyrone Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew was re-elected with a margin of four votes.

She defeated the independent unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor on the third count.

The report highlights that there was a significant drop in postal vote applications from people in Northern Ireland compared with the last UK Parliamentary election in 2005.

Around one in five applications to vote by post were rejected for reasons including, people not providing complete information or applying after the deadline had passed.

The Commission's report sets out an agenda for the current Parliament to ensure confidence in the electoral system is strengthened.

It includes a number of UK-wide recommendations including a comprehensive modernisation strategy.

It also suggested changing the law to allow people still queuing at polling places at the close of poll to be able to vote.

Henrietta Campbell, Electoral Commissioner for NI, said: "We were reassured to find that the parliamentary elections were well run, particularly given the fact that this was the first time that the votes were counted overnight.

"Next year will be a busy time for voters in Northern Ireland with assembly, local government elections and a possible UK referendum on the voting system used for Westminster elections.

"It is vital that all those involved in planning for these events, including the Electoral Commission, are well prepared and that confidence in the electoral process is further enhanced."