Willie Hay says council count should take place on polling day as election postponement debated

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Willie Hay has said counting in local elections in the north should get underway immediately after polling in line with the system in Britain.

The former Derry mayor was speaking in the British House of Lords as legislation postponing council elections in the north until May 18 was being discussed.

The elections were due to take place on May 4 but have been put back by two weeks due to the coronation of Charles III of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which will be held on May 6.

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Local government elections in England and Wales will proceed as planned on May 4 as it is expected the counts in Britain, which will commence on polling day, will have concluded by Saturday, May 6.

Charles III of Great Britain and Northern IrelandCharles III of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Charles III of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The veteran DUP figure, who takes the title Lord Hay of Ballyore, said the postponement will ‘allow the people of NI to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III’ and that it is ‘something that I very much welcome’ and ‘I know that people in NI do too’.

But he suggested it was time to move towards commencing counts in the north on polling day in local government elections.

“We know that, in the rest of the United Kingdom, the counting of votes starts after the polling stations close that evening. In NI, the count starts the next day.

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"I know from history and from fighting elections for over 40 years about the complex issue of proportional representation elections, but I still do not understand the system when I go into a count,” he admitted.

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The former Stormont speaker said that during the Troubles next day counts were a necessity but he suggested this now needs to be reviewed.

“I know the reasoning, some years ago, why we could not have the count on the same evening as the election, because of security reasons and a number of other things. That was understandable.

"Surely now is the time for us to come into line with the rest of the United Kingdom, where votes start to be counted on the evening of the election, when the polling booths close.

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"I know some Members might say, ‘Well, because there is proportional representation, it’s a very difficult situation’, but you could certainly have the first count on the evening of an election, and you could probably then finish up very quickly on the Saturday,” he stated.

The DUP grandee urged the government to bring the north into line with Britain.

“I have watched elections in NI over many years. There was certainly, as I said earlier, an issue over security. However, there is absolutely no doubt about it: I think the time has now come for the Government to look at this issue and find a way of addressing it.

"As I said earlier, we could have the first count for a proportional representation election on that evening and then finish it much earlier on the Saturday. That is one issue that the Government should now look at and find a way of dealing with.

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“As I said at the start, I very much welcome this draft order. I hope that all the people, not only in NI but across the United Kingdom, can get involved and enjoy the Coronation of King Charles III,” he said.