NI Assembly election: all you need to know about voting today

Voting is now underway in the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

Five candidates will be elected to represent each of the 18 Assembly constituencies using a system of proportional representation called the single transferable vote.

Counting of votes will begin tomorrow morning, with 90 of the hopeful candidates being returned to Stormont.

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If you are going to vote today (Thursday, May 5), here’s what you need to know (details supplied by the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland).

Polling station across Northern Ireland open for voting for the 2022 Assembly election. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

What ID do I need to bring to vote?

* A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part) (provisional accepted)

* A UK, Irish or EU passport (or Irish Passport Card)

* An Electoral Identity Card

* A Translink Senior SmartPass

* A Translink 60+ SmartPass

* A Translink War Disabled SmartPass

* A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass

The Electoral Office says 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.

Will the polling station be Covid-19 secure?

The Electoral Office says it has put arrangements in place to help voters stay safe at polling stations.

You can expect to see the following measures:

* Face coverings should be worn in all polling stations unless exempt

* Perspex screens between staff and voters

* Polling booths cleaned down between electors

* Ballot pencil cleaned between use (you may also bring your own pencil if you would prefer)

* Regular cleaning of high touch points and surfaces throughout the day

* Doors and windows (excluding fire doors) will be kept open to ensure the polling station is well ventilated

Do I have to wear a face covering at the polling station?

The Electoral Office recommends that voters should wear face coverings in the polling station. You will however be asked to briefly remove your face covering whilst the staff check your ID.

Can I go and vote at a polling station if I have Covid-19 symptoms or have tested positive?

In accordance with current public health advice, if you have Covid-19 symptoms or have tested positive for Covid-19 you should stay at home.

If you have to go to the polling station to vote in this circumstance, you should take the following extra precautions to protect electoral staff and other voters:

* You must wear a face covering in the polling station except for the ID check

* Wash your hands thoroughly with the hand sanitiser provided as you enter the polling station

* Keep at least 2m distance from staff and other voters at all times.

* Conduct your vote as quickly possible to limit the time you are in the polling station

How do I mark my ballot paper at this election?

On the ballot paper, mark a ‘1’ against your first preferred candidate, a ‘2’ against your second preferred candidate and so on, for as many candidates as you wish.

What facilities are available to help people with a disability to vote?

The following facilities are available at polling stations to assist voters with disabilities:

* a polling booth with a shelf at a height suitable for people in wheelchairs

* a polling booth with extra lighting

* a large print version of the ballot paper

* a device with Braille (known as a selector device) to help voters mark their ballot paper

* If you want to use any of these items, please tell the staff at the polling station when they give you your ballot paper.

If you cannot mark the ballot paper yourself due to a disability, you can have it marked for you by a companion or by the person in charge of the polling station (the Presiding Officer).

You will need to tell the polling station staff that this is how you want to vote and why. If your companion is voting for you they will be asked to fill in a form. Your ballot paper will be marked and placed in the ballot box on your behalf.

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