Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Everything you need to know ahead of tomorrow's General Election


A ballot box at a polling station (Rui Vieira/PA)
A ballot box at a polling station (Rui Vieira/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Northern Ireland is set to go to the polls on Thursday to return 18 MPs to Westminster.

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The divisive campaign has been dominated by Brexit and many seats have been considered too close to call.

The DUP has shown the influence Northern Ireland's MPs can have in the Commons, with their votes key throughout the Brexit process in the Commons.

With many decisions in parliament decided on a handful of voters, the 18 MPs elected could have a huge say in the future of the UK should Boris Johnson fail to secure a working majority.

Northern Ireland's Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea encouraged people to come out and vote on Thursday.

She said that there had been around 74,000 applications to vote since November 7, meaning there would be around 50,000 more people eligible to vote than in the 2017 General Election.

"The polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm and I would assure anyone who's there at 10pm that they will be able to vote.

"Some people may wish to vote when it's quieter, the busiest times to vote are generally tea time and after the soaps end," she said.

"People don't need their polling cards to vote, but it will make it quicker. What everyone needs to have is some form of photographic ID, you can't leave home without it."

Mrs McVea said that anyone unsure of their polling station should phone the Electoral Office and it will be confirmed to them.

"The count will begin as soon as the first ballot boxes arrive at the count centre's, we're expecting the first to arrive in Belfast around 10.30pm. The later boxes will come from the likes of Fermanagh, Newry and Armagh.

"We're hoping he first results will be declared in the early hours of Friday morning."

The Chief Electoral Officer said that while the Rathlin Ferry was cancelled a number of times due to bad weather this week, she was confident the votes from the island, off the coast of Co Antrim, would be collected in time. Around 140 people live on Rathlin Island.

Mrs McVea said the Electoral Office would have 5,000 staff working all over Northern Ireland, 3,000 at polling stations and 2,000 at count centres.

"There are 1,343 ballot boxes and 608 polling stations," she explained.

Mrs McVea admitted it had been a "very challenging time" for the Electoral Office with three elections in the one year.

Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland Virginia McVea.
Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland Virginia McVea.

"I'd like to issue a huge thank you to our staff and to the general public, without them there would be no elections," she said.

Here's everything you need to know:

Who is eligible to vote?

Anyone who is listed on the electoral register, at least 18 years of age on 12 December 2019 and British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens living in the UK legally can vote. European electors are not permitted to take part in UK Parliamentary elections.

Where do I vote?

Everyone on the electoral register should receive a polling card to their home address listing their polling station. Anyone who's not sure can contact the Electoral Office.

How do I find out if I am on the electoral register?

Contact the Electoral Office on on 028 9044 6680 to find out if you are listed.

What ID do I need to bring to vote?

A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part) (provisional accepted), a UK or Irish passport, an Electoral Identity Card, a Translink Senior SmartPass, a Translink 60+ SmartPass, a Translink War Disabled SmartPass or a Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass.

The identification document does not need to be current, as long as the photograph is of a good enough likeness to allow polling station staff to confirm the identity of the holder.

Do I need my polling card to vote?

You can vote without your poll card, provided you are listed on the electoral register

How do I mark my ballot paper at this election?

On the ballot paper, mark a cross (X) against the candidate you wish to vote for. Do not write anything else on the paper or your vote may not be counted. Special facilities are available at polling stations to assist voters with disabilities.

Can I take photos inside the polling station?

You can take pictures outside the polling station but you must not take pictures inside the polling station - if you inadvertently disclose how someone has voted you would be breaking the law. You are not allowed to take photos of your ballot paper, but you can photograph your postal ballot paper.

Can I tell people how I voted?

You can share information about your vote in person and online but it is illegal to reveal anyone else's.

Can I wear political clothing when I vote?

There are no rules preventing the wearing of political clothing and slogans, but campaigning inside polling stations is not permitted. Political discussion is banned inside the polling station.

Can I leave my postal vote into a polling station?

No your postal vote must be returned to the Electoral Office, it will not be accepted at a polling station.

I applied for a postal vote but it turns out I'm going to be able to go to my polling station after all - is that ok?

No, the deadline for cancelling a postal vote was November 21.

I applied for a proxy but it turns out I'm going to be able to go to my polling station after all - is that ok?

Yes as long as you get there before your proxy you will be able to vote instead.

Can I bring my children into a polling station?

Yes children are welcome to enter the polling station with their parents.

Are animals and pets allowed in polling stations?

Usually only assistance dogs are allowed inside polling stations.

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