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NI Assembly Election: Turnout may go over 60% for first time in a decade

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland’s crisis Assembly election looked on course last night to produce the highest voter turnout in 10 years.

While a final figure will not be announced until later today, there was plenty of speculation last night that it could be over 60%.

In the last election, just 10 months ago, the turnout was 54.9% — slightly down on the May 2011 figure of 55.7%.

But a source at one polling station in South Down told the Belfast Telegraph that turnout had soared to 70%.

At Arlene Foster’s polling station of Brookeborough in Fermanagh, early indications were that turnout was up from 77.5% last May to 81.3%.

At 9pm in one polling station in Bangor West, turnout was already estimated at over 62%. Last May it was just 50% across North Down.

In Mid Ulster boxes indicated turnouts of 65% and 76% in parts of Castledawson, and between 56% to 66% in Magherafelt.

In West Tyrone’s Holy Family Primary School, Omagh, boxes at 9pm had seen turnouts of 58% and 61% already.

But there were significant regional discrepancies last May, ranging from 64.6% across Fermanagh and South Tyrone to 49.6% in North Down.

Signs of a potentially higher turnout in the Assembly election were reinforced at polling stations yesterday.

Even in the first five hours after polling began voting was described as “brisk”.

It comes after higher audiences for the televised leaders’ debates fuelled speculation of an increased turnout.

Facing a baptism of fire only a month after taking up her post, new chief electoral officer Virginia McVea reported that voting seemed to have been “steady in all places”.

“There were no real lulls. Staff reported that usually there are lulls in people coming, but that did not happen this time,” she said.

“Voting seems to have been steady in all places. Some places are reporting that it seems to be a bit busier than they were at the same stage last year. But of course that’s anecdotal at this stage.”

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