Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 16:03 UK

Your vote: How it works in NI

Elections to the European Parliament will take place on 4 June in Northern Ireland. Three members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be elected to represent Northern Ireland.

EU flag
The election will take place on 4 June

The way in which people in Northern Ireland will vote in the election differs from the rest of the UK. The province will use the single transferable vote (STV), as it does for local councils and all regional-level elections.

The 11 regions in Britain use a simple form of list proportional representation. Electors have one vote and may vote either for a party list or for an individual candidate.

Each political party prepares a list of candidates in rank order to match the number of seats to be filled in each region. Seats are allocated using the d'Hondt or highest average method. If the party wins two seats in a region their top two candidates on the list will fill these seats.

In each region, each party wins a share of the seats which roughly matches the share of votes each party gets.

Single Transferable Vote

In Northern Ireland, STV will be used for the election. It is a system of proportional representation which uses a preferential ballot.

The system allows voters to vote for individual candidates (as opposed to party lists) in order of their choice, both between parties and within parties.

Voters rank the candidates in order of preference.

Ballot box
Three members to the European Parliament will be elected in NI

After the votes have been verified, the count proceeds through a series of stages involving either the transfer of a surplus or the elimination of candidate(s).

1. The ballots are first arranged according to their first preferences and the Quota calculated.

2. Candidates exceeding the Quota are deemed elected.

3. The count continues, according to the preferences indicated on the ballots, through the transfer from candidates who have either been comfortably elected or who have done so badly that they are eliminated from the election.

'Stage' 1

The returning officer sorts the ballot papers into parcels according to the candidates for whom the first preference votes are given.

The numbers of first preference votes given to each candidate are recorded, along with the total number of valid ballot papers.

The Quota for election is then calculated from the formula : Total valid votes/ seats to be filled + 1; add 1 to the total

As there are to be three members to be returned to the electoral region of Northern Ireland, the total number of valid ballot papers will be divided by four, ignoring any fractions, and adding 1 to the total.

This number is the quota, that is the number of votes sufficient to secure the election of a candidate.

At any stage in the count, when the total number of votes for a candidate equals or exceeds the quota, the candidate in question is deemed to be elected.

'Stage' 2

The count proceeds through either the transfer of surpluses or the elimination of candidates according to rules.

Where the first preference votes for any candidate exceeds the quota, all ballot papers on which first preference votes are given for that candidate are sorted into sub-parcels.

These are grouped according to the next available preference given on those papers for any continuing candidate.

Where no further preference is given, the ballot papers are grouped as non-transferable votes.

Each sub-parcel of transferable ballot papers is then transferred to the candidate for whom the next available preference has been given on those papers.

The value of these votes, the 'transfer value' is calculated so that their total value is not greater than the surplus of the elected candidate.

Where a candidate(s) is being eliminated their ballots are allocated to continuing candidates according to the preferences indicated by the voter.

The total number of votes for each remaining candidate is recalculated, and where the number of votes for any candidate exceeds the quota, the candidate in question is deemed to be elected.

'Stage' 3

This process is repeated in a series of stages, involving the elimination of candidates and the transfer of consequential surpluses, until all the seats have been filled.

Each transfer of a surplus or exclusion of a candidate constitutes a further stage in the count.



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