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Concerns at possibility of two votes in a single day

By Lisa Smyth

The announcement of a snap general election in June has prompted concerns the Northern Ireland Electoral Office may struggle to cope.

It comes amid uncertainty over the possibility of another Stormont poll, which many people are speculating could also happen on June 8, the day earmarked for the Westminster vote.

While the first past the post system is used for general elections, the single transferrable vote (STV) system is used to elect MLAs to the Assembly.

The difference could result in confusion among people at the polling stations and spark problems for Northern Ireland Electoral Office staff, who had expressed concerns they may not have been properly trained in time for the most recent Assembly election in March.

In February a polling station worker said that due to the short notice of the snap Assembly election, which was called after Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister in January during the Renewable Heat Incentive row, the Electoral Office was unable to train as many people as it usually would.

The problem related to the manning of the scores of polling stations across Northern Ireland on March 2.

Workers in polling stations ensure the process goes smoothly as voters arrive to cast their ballot, including checking they have brought the appropriate identification and that they are registered to vote.

They also have to ensure that political parties abide by the rules that canvassers may not attempt to electioneer inside the polling station.

However, in the run-up to the election, the Belfast Telegraph saw a letter sent from the Electoral Office to staff that warned of "an urgent need to fill staffing positions due to the short time frame".

It is unclear whether the Northern Ireland Electoral Office will be able to prepare in time if a general election and Assembly election were to take place on the same day.

No one from the office was available for comment yesterday.

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