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Northern Ireland Assembly election 2016: Voters urged not to spoil ballot papers as polls open

By Noel McAdam

Published 05/05/2016

Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at Holy Trinity Primary School in West Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at Holy Trinity Primary School in West Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Pacemaker press 05/05/2016 Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at Holy Trinity Primary School n West Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Pacemaker press 05/05/2016 Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at Holy Trinity Primary School n West Belfast. Pictured is West Belfast's Sinn Fein number 1 candidate Pat Sheehan with a young one direction fan. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Pacemaker press 05/05/2016 Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at Matt Talbot youth centre in West Belfast. picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at a polling station in Moneyrea, Co. Down. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
DUP Leader, Arlene Foster, arriving at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
NI Assembly Elections, Model Primary School Derry Pictured Foyle MP Mark Durkan. Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland NI Assembly Elections, Model Primary School Derry Pictured is SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, and Eamon McCann Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland NI Assembly Elections Sinn Fein Martin McGuinness, Maeve McLaughlin and Raymond McCartney. Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland NI Assembly Elections Sinn Fein Martin McGuinness, Maeve McLaughlin and Raymond McCartney. Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland Picture by Presseye.com DUP Leader, Arlene Foster, with friend Rhona McMahon and party collegue Paul Robinson arriving at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland Picture by Presseye.com DUP Leader, Arlene Foster, with party councillor Paul Robinson arriving at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland Picture by Presseye.com DUP Leader, Arlene Foster,arriving with councillor Paul Robinson and friend Rhona McMahon at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland Picture by Presseye.com DUP Leader, Arlene Foster, with councillor Paul Robinson arriving at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland Picture by Presseye.com DUP Leader, Arlene Foster, arriving at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
©/Presseye.com - 5th May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland Picture by Presseye.com DUP Leader, Arlene Foster, speaks to a local resident after arriving at Brookeborough Controlled Primary School to cast her vote in today's Assembly Election.
Colum Eastwood at the Polling Station Derry in the Northern Ireland Assembly Election on Thursday. He was accompanied by his wife Rachael and daughter Rosa. Pacemaker
Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness who voted in the Northern Ireland Assembly Election Polling Station in Derry. Pacemaker
UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt and wife Lynda at Gilnahirk Primary School to make his vote on polling day. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Jim Allister and wife Ruth one of the first to vote at Kells and Conner Primary School, Northern Ireland. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th May 2016 Alliance leader David Ford arrives Voters at Donegore Presbyterian Church polling station in Co Antrim to cast their vote. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th May 2016 Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at a polling station in Moneyrea, Co. Down. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th May 2016 Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at a polling station in Moneyrea, Co. Down. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th May 2016 Voters take to the polls across Northern Ireland as voting begins in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election. Voters cast their vote at a polling station in Moneyrea, Co. Down. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Voters are going to the polls across Northern Ireland today to elect the next Assembly.

The 619 polling stations open at 7am and will close at 10pm, atlhough anyone arriving before that time who is still waiting by 10pm will be able to cast their vote.

Counting will then begin tomorrow and is expected to continue into Saturday before all 108 MLAs - out of 276 candidates - are deemed elected.

Unlike last year's first-past-the-post system General Election, the Assembly is elected by proportional representation which allows voters to rank as many candidates on the ballot paper as they want.

But in the last Assembly election there were more than 12,000 ballot papers which had to be rejected as "spoilt" - many because the more complex system was misused.

Chief electoral officer Graham Shields has appealed to people to ensure their votes are counted.

"At the last Northern Ireland Assembly election in 2011 over 12,000 ballot papers were rejected as spoilt," he said.

"To ensure that your vote is counted remember to rank your candidates in order of preference by placing a '1' next to your first choice candidate, a '2' next to your second choice candidate and so on.

"You can vote for as few or as many candidates as you wish. If you place any other mark on the ballot paper it may not be counted. You can ask staff at the polling station if you need advice on the voting process and how to mark your ballot paper."

People were also being reminded they don't need polling cards to vote, but it can "speed up the process".

276 candidates are battling it out for 108 seats across 18 constituencies in the Northern Ireland Assembly election 2016.
276 candidates are battling it out for 108 seats across 18 constituencies in the Northern Ireland Assembly election 2016.
Belfast East
Belfast East: Andy Allen UUP
Belfast East: Ross Brown, Green Party
Belfast East: Joanne Bunting, DUP
Belfast East: Amy Doherty, SDLP
Belfast East: Sammy Douglas, DUP
East Belfast: Andrew Girvin, TUV
Belfast East: Erskine Holmes, Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
Belfast East: Maggie Hutton, Independent
Belfast East: John Kyle, PUP
Belfast East: Jonny Lavery, UKIP
Belfast East: Naomi Long, Alliance
Belfast East: Chris Lyttle, Alliance
East Belfast: Chris McGimpsey, UUP
Belfast East: Tim Morrow, Alliance
Belfast East: Robin Newton, DUP
Belfast East: Niall O Donnghaile, Sinn Fein
Belfast East: Courtney Robinson, Cross-Community Labour Alternative
Belfast East: Neil Wilson, Conservatives
Belfast North
Belfast North: Ken Boyle, UKIP
Belfast North: Paula Bradley, DUP
Belfast North: Tom Burns, Independent
Belfast North: Lesley Carroll, UUP
Belfast North: Geoff Dowey, Northern Ireland First
Belfast North: Fiona Ferguson, People Before Profit Alliance
Belfast North: Fra Hughes, Independent
Belfast North: William Humphrey, DUP
Belfast North: Billy Hutchinson, PUP
Belfast North: Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein
Belfast North: Nichola Mallon, SDLP
Belfast North: Nuala McAllister, Alliance
Belfast North: Nelson McCausland, DUP
Belfast North: John Miller, TUV
Belfast North: Caral Ni Chuilin, Sinn Fein
Belfast North: Malachai O'Hara, Green Party
Belfast North: Abdo Tabeth, Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
Belfast North: Gemma Weir, The Workers Party
Belfast South
Belfast South: Brigitte Anton, Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
Belfast South: Clare Bailey, Green Party
Belfast South: Paula Bradshaw, Alliance
Belfast South: Sean Burns, Cross-Community Labour Alternative
Belfast South: Billy Dickson, South Belfast Unionists
Belfast South: Claire Hanna, SDLP
Belfast South: John Andrew Hiddleston, TUV
Belfast South: Lily Kerr, The Workers Party
Belfast South: Emma Little Pengelly, DUP
Belfast South: Ben Manton, Conservatives
Belfast South: Rodney McCune, UUP
Belfast South: Fearghal McKinney, SDLP
Belfast South: Duncan Morrow, Alliance
Belfast South: Mairtin O Muilleoir, Sinn Fein
Belfast South: Ruth Patterson
Belfast South: Ian Shanks, PUP
Belfast South: Christopher Stalford, DUP
Belfast South: Bob Stoker, UKIP
Belfast West
Belfast West: Alex Attwood, SDLP
Belfast West: Conor Campbell, The Workers Party
Belfast West: Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit
Belfast West: Jemima Higgins, Alliance
Belfast West: Gareth Thomas Martin, UUP
Belfast West: Alex Maskey, Sinn Fein
Belfast West: Fra McCann, Sinn Fein
Belfast West: Jennifer McCann, Sinn Fein
Belfast West: Rosie McCorley, Sinn Fein
Belfast West: Frank McCoubrey, DUP
Belfast West: Ellen Murray, Green Party
Belfast West: Pat Sheehan, Sinn Fein
East Antrim
East Antrim: Roy Beggs, UUP
East Antrim: Stewart Clyde Dickson, Alliance
East Antrim: Danny Donnelly, Alliance
East Antrim: David Hilditch, DUP
Ease Antrim: Margaret Anne McKillop, SDLP
East Antrim: Noel Jordan, UKIP
East Antrim: Noel Jordan, DUP
East Antrim: Jim McCaw, PUP
East Antrim: Margaret Anne McKillop, SDLP
East Antrim: Oliver McMullan, Sinn Fein
East Antrim: Maureen Morrow, UUP
East Antrim: Dawn Patterson, Green Party
East Antrim: Alastair Ross, DUP
East Antrim: Conor John Sheridan, Cross-Community Labour Alternative
East Antrim: John Robert Stewart, UUP
East Antrim: Ruth Wilson, TUV
East Londonderry
East Londonderry: Caomihe Archibald, Sinn Fein
East Londonderry: Jordan Armstrong, TUV
East Londonderry: Yvonne Boyle, Alliance
East Londonderry: Maurice Bradley, DUP
East Londonderry: Aaron Callan, UUP
East Londonderry: Stuart Canning, Conservatives
East Londonderry: Tor Christie, Independent
East Londonderry: Amber Hammill, Green Party
East Londonderry: David Harding, Conservatives
East Londonderry: William McCandless, UUP
East Londonderry: Adrian McQuillan, DUP
East Londonderry: Gerry Mullan, SDLP
East Londonderry: Cathal O'hOisin, Sinn Fein
East Londonderry: Steven Parkhill, UKIP
East Londonderry: George Robinson, DUP
East Londonderry: Claire Sugden, Independent
East Londonderry: Russell Watton, PUP
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Rosemary Barton, UUP
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Kerri Blyberg, Alliance
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Donald Crawford, TUV
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: John Feely, Sinn Fein
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Phil Flanagan, Sinn Fein
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Arlene Foster, DUP
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Damian Harris, Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Tanya Jones, Green Party
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Sean Lynch, Sinn Fein
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Richie McPhillips, SDLP
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Maurice Morrow, DUP
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Alastair Patterson, UUP
Foyle
Foyle: Kathleen Bradley, Independent
Foyle: Maurice Devenney, Independent
Foyle: Gerard Diver, SDLP
Foyle: Alan Dunlop, Conservatives
Foyle: Mark H Durkan, SDLP
Foyle: Colum Eastwood, SDLP
Foyle: Mary Hassan, Green Party
Foyle: Julie Kee, UUP
Foyle: John Lindsay, Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol
Foyle: Eamonn McCann, People Before Profit
Foyle: Raymond McCartney, Sinn Fein
Foyle: Chris McCaw, Alliance
Foyle: Anne McCloskey, Independent
Foyle: Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein
Foyle: Maeve McLaughlin, Sinn Fein
Foyle: Gary Middleton, DUP
Lagan Valley
Lagan Valley: Dan Barrios-O'Neill, Green Party
Lagan Valley: Robbie Butler, UUP
Lagan Valley: Pat Catney, SDLP
Lagan Valley: Jonathan Craig, DUP
Lagan Valley: Peter Dynes, Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
Lagan Valley: Paul Given, DUP
Lagan Valley: Brenda Hale, DUP
Lagan Valley: Brian Higginson, UKIP
Lagan Valley: Jack Irwin, Conservatives
Lagan Valley: Trevor Lunn, Alliance
Lagan Valley: Frazer McCammond, Democracy First
Lagan Valley: Jacqui McGeough, Sinn Fein
Lagan Valley: Jonny Orr
Lagan Valley: Jenny Palmer, Ulster Unionist Party
Lagan Valley: Edwin Poots, DUP
Lagan Valley: Lyle Rea, TUV
Mid Ulster
Mid Ulster: Keith Alexander Buchanan, DUP
Mid Ulster: Alan Day, UKIP
Mid Ulster: Linda Dillon, Sinn Fein
Mid Ulster: Neidin Hendron, Alliance
Mid Ulster: Hannah Loughrin, TUV
Mid Ulster: Ian McCrea, DUP
Mid Ulster: Patsy McGlone, SDLP
Mid Ulster: Ian Milne, Sinn Fein
Mid Ulster: Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein
Mid Ulster: Sandra Overend, UUP
Mid Ulster: Hugh Scullion, The Workers Party
Mid Ulster: Stefan Taylor, Green Party
Newry and Armagh
Newry and Armagh: Paul Berry
Newry and Armagh: Cathal Damian Boylan, Sinn Fein
Newry and Armagh: Emmet Crossan, Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol
Newry and Armagh: Megan Fearon, Sinn Fein
Newry and Armagh: William George Irwin, DUP
Newry and Armagh: Danny Kennedy, UUP
Newry and Armagh: Alan Love, UKIP
Newry and Armagh: Martin McAllister, Independent
Newry and Armagh: Karen McKevitt, SDLP
Newry and Armagh: Justin McNulty, SDLP
Newry and Armagh: Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein
Newry and Armagh: Sam Nicholson, UUP
Newry and Armagh: Michael Watters, Green Party
Newry and Armagh: Craig Weir, Alliance
North Antrim
North Antrim: Jim Allister, TUV
North Antrim: Donna Anderson, UKIP
North Antrim: Jennifer Breslin, Green Party
North Antrim: Connor Duncan, SDLP
North Antrim: Paul Frew, DUP
North Antrim: Timothy Gaston, TUV
North Antrim: Kathryn Johnston, Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
North Antrim: Philip Logan, DUP
North Antrim: Stephen McFarland, Alliance
North Antrim: David McIlveen, DUP
North Antrim: Daithi Gerard McKay, Sinn Fein
North Antrim: James Simpson, Conservatives
North Antrim: Mervyn Storey, DUP
North Antrim: Robin Swann, UUP
North Antrim: Andrew Wright, UUP
North Down
North Down: Steven Agnew, Green Party

And they were advised not to forget their photo ID. You can't vote without it - and it can still be used even if it has expired.

Electoral Commission head Ann Watt said: "This year's elections are an opportunity for voters to have their say, and we don't want anyone to miss out because they didn't know what to expect on polling day.

"That's why it's important to remember to bring a correct form of photo ID with you to the polling station. Without it you won't be given a ballot paper."

ID documents which can be used include driving licence, passport or SmartPass.

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