Northern Ireland Assembly –
Snap Election 2017
The next Northern Ireland Assembly election was due to take place in May 2021 but a snap election has been called less than a year after the previous election in May 2016.
This advisory details our coverage of nominations and results for this poll, focusing on messages sent on the wire.
For details of messages in XML format for digital products, please see the page on XML format at Message Specifications
Key dates and times:
- Nominations expected to close: Wednesday February 8 at 1300
- Polling Day: Thursday March 2 0700 to 2200
- Declarations: From about 1300 Friday March 3
Reduction in number of Members: The Northern Ireland Assembly currently has 108 Members but under legislation already in place this number will fall at the forthcoming poll to 90 Members. Previously six Members were elected in each of the province's 18 parliamentary constituencies but this will be reduced to five.
Voting and counting: Northern Ireland Assembly elections use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) proportional representation electoral system.
Counting will start during daytime on Friday March 3 with the last results not expected until later on Saturday March 4.
The Press Association will be transmitting nominations in advance and the full results from each round of counting. These easily can run to as many as a dozen rounds before all five Members have been declared elected in a particular constituency.
The voting system
Under the STV system electors are asked to number candidates on the ballot paper in order of preference
The count for Northern Ireland Assembly elections involves distributions of votes through many rounds:
- Candidates passing a quota – in this case one sixth of the turnout plus one vote (previously one seventh of the turnout plus one vote) – are declared elected and the number of their votes above the quota can be distributed to other candidates in accordance with their supporters' lower preferences.
- Low scoring candidates are progressively eliminated and their votes distributed to other candidates in accordance with their supporters' lower preferences.
A constituency's five seats are filled by candidates passing the quota or being the ones remaining when all others have been eliminated.
We will aim to file collated nominations for the 18 constituencies by about 2200 on the night of Wednesday 8th February but we could be delayed if authorities have difficulties publishing nominations.
They will be catchlined ULSTER Nominations and category coded: XTA
They will contain candidate names, titles, party abbreviations and whether they are sitting Assembly Members in the same constituencies (*) or in different ones (+).
Constituency data in TTY format will include the 2016 Assembly election first-count candidate voting figures and the names of those elected in that poll.
Candidates’ details will be given in the following party order: Ulster Unionist, Democratic Unionist, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Fein, Alliance, followed by other candidates in alphabetical order of party description.
Electorate figures are not expected to be available on nominations day and will not be included in our first nominations transmission. They will be included in a re-run as soon as they are available although NB this could be as late as the day before polling day.
Example of nominations in plain text (TTY) format:
Also sent at the same time will be a list of party names and abbreviations catchlined ULSTER Abbreviations and category coded: XTH
Rushes will be sent before count results giving the names of candidates elected. They will be catchlined POLL Ulster followed by the constituency serial number and category-coded XTJ. For example, a rush for Antrim East will be catchlined: POLL Ulster 1.
Example of rush wording:
John Jones (UUP) elected at fifth count at Belfast East
We will be transmitting results of each of the many counts in the 18 constituencies as they are completed.
They will be catchlined POLL Ulster followed by the constituency serial number, example: POLL Ulster 1.
Category codes for results messages will be:
XDP for data format
XTP for plain text (TTY).
The message information includes:
Valid turnout and, in data format only, turnout and quota
Candidates and their votes
Whether any candidates have been elected at that stage
Whether any have been eliminated
First count votes cast for parties and percentage vote share – with changes since 2011.
Second and subsequent counts will indicate whether votes are being distributed on the basis of a surplus for candidates exceeding the quota – a seventh of the valid turnout plus one vote – or alternative preferences of low scoring candidates who are being eliminated.
Example of a first count result in text format:
Example of a first count result in data format:
We will transmit successive results as the counts come in, giving the complete picture so far. For example, the third count result will give the figures for first, second and third counts.
Example of a ninth – and in this case final – count result in text form:
Example of the ninth count in data format:
If a result has to be corrected, the catchline will be styled POLL followed by Correction Ulster and the constituency number. Example: POLL Correction Ulster 14. Where there is a change to a winning party a rush correction will be sent, catchlined POLL Correction Ulster.
Statistics will be produced of votes and percentage vote shares of first count results. They will be catchlined POLL Parties Ulster and category-coded: XTH
We also send running totals of party candidates elected throughout all the counts. These will be catchlined POLL Seats Ulster and category-coded: XTH
In addition we will be sending lists of Members elected by constituency with, where counting has finished, party seat changes by constituency. These will be catchlined POLL Members Ulster and category-coded: XTH
When all results are in we will send collated results in both data format and plain text (TTY).
They will be catchlined POLL Collated Ulster and will be sent in 18 pages – one for each constituency.
Category codes for collated results messages will be:
XDP for data format
XTP for plain text (TTY).
Quick Reference Table
Catchlines and category codes:
:: Nominations: ULSTER Nominations – XTA (text)
:: Party abbreviations: ULSTER Abbreviations – XTH (text)
:: Rush: POLL Ulster (followed by constituency serial number) – XTJ (text)
:: Result: POLL Ulster (followed by constituency serial number) – XDB (data); XTB (text)
:: Rush correction: POLL Correction Ulster (followed by constituency serial number) – XTJ (text)
:: Result correction: POLL Correction Ulster (followed by constituency serial number) – as for results
:: Collated results: POLL Collated Ulster – XDP (data); XTP (text)
:: State of Parties: POLL Parties Ulster – XTH (text)
:: Combined State of Parties: POLL Seats Ulster – XTH (text)
:: Newly-elected Members: POLL Members Ulster – XTH (text)
Constituency serial numbers
1 Antrim East 2 Antrim North 3 Antrim South 4 Belfast East 5 Belfast North 6 Belfast South 7 Belfast West 8 Down North 9 Down South 10 Fermanagh & South Tyrone 11 Foyle 12 Lagan Valley 13 Londonderry East 14 Newry & Armagh 15 Strangford 16 Tyrone West 17 Ulster Mid 18 Upper Bann
Speak to Elections Editor Roger Smith on 020 7963 7992 or email via the Contact us page. During nominations or election events, phone the Elections Desk on 020 7963 7992, Newsdesk on 020 7963 7146 or Customer Services on 01430 455337.
Customers, especially digital-only customers who do not see PA wire advisories, may wish to follow @pressassocpolls on twitter for technical and operational updates from the Elections Desk.