Equipping Christians for the NI Assembly Elections

Northern Ireland – How Does It Work

Stormont small 2'election' word picNI Chamber

How Does it Work?

What is a snap election?

A snap election is basically an election that is called earlier than expected. On this day 90 MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) will be elected to make up a new Assembly.

Why is it happening?

When the First Minister or Deputy First Minister resigns, both ministers cease to hold office. On 9 January the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned from office. The Assembly then have one week to appoint a new First Minister or Deputy First Minister. If no one is appointed, or even nominated, the Executive collapses. As this took place, the Secretary of State James Brokenshire then set out that an election would be held on Thursday 2 March. By Order in Council, the Assembly is dissolved and the election is brought forward to that date.

When will it take place?

Assembly elections originally took place every four years; however this was extended by the Secretary of State to five years in 2013. This meant that elections were due to take place on 6 May 2021. However, due to the snap election, this will now take place on Thursday 2 March.

Where will I vote?

There are 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland, voting will take place in each. To see which candidates are standing for election in your constituency and find a polling station, click here. You can also apply to vote by proxy, having someone vote on your behalf, or by post.

How will it work?

Five MLAs will be elected from each constituency. It is important to note that this is reduction from the last Assembly election where six MLAs were elected for each constituency. MLAs are elected on the basis of Proportional Representation (PR). This means that candidates with the highest proportion of votes will win a seat in the Assembly.

By way of Single Transferrable Vote (STV), voters mark the candidates in order of preference (although you do not have to state a preference for all candidates). Each voter has only one vote which will then transfer from their first preference to their second preference and so on depending on whether their preferred candidate has already secured enough votes or simply has no chance of being elected. This means their vote goes further and there is greater choice in representation.

Who will be in government?

In Northern Ireland, we have a mandatory coalition government which means that ministerial seats in the Executive are allocated based on the number of seats a party gains in the Assembly elections. This results in power sharing between the main parties in the province. Since 2016, parties can opt to go in to opposition rather than joining the Executive.