Belfast Telegraph

Staff errors 'delayed poll counts'

Errors by staff delayed counting the results of Northern Ireland's elections this year, a report said.

Up to a third of ballot paper accounts contained mistakes because training for officers in charge of boxes was different from the paperwork to be completed on polling day.

There were also difficulties with the design and volume of material, the Electoral Commission added.

Votes were held for the Assembly, local government and a referendum on Westminster voting on May 5 this year.

"Poor planning, insufficient communication and the lack of an overall management plan for the count have been identified as the main reasons for the delays occurring," the independent elections watchdog said.

Although the Assembly, referendum and local government polling day on May 5 this year was handled largely successfully, there were problems with completing counts in a timely manner.

Part of that was due to significant inaccuracies in the accounts returned by presiding officers, the Commission warned.

The chief electoral officer (Graham Shields) decided not to reduce the pay of any officers for failing to complete essential tasks because of problems with the training given.

Some venues were unsuitable for hosting counts for the Assembly, referendum on Westminster voting and local government elections.

There were also challenges faced by the Area Electoral Officers (AEOs) who oversaw counts in specific areas.

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