Northern Ireland’s chief electoral officer has said he is disappointed that more politicians did not turn up for a demonstration of how electronic vote counting works. Only two MPs, a few local councillors and not a single MLA attended the event at Belfast City Hall on Thursday. Politicians were critical of counting times in the assembly and local government elections last May. Consultations with the parties on the new system are currently underway. But only two MPs, a handful of local councillors and not a single MLA were at Belfast City Hall for an e-counting demonstration – even though several indicated they would be there.
Graham Shields, the chief electoral officer, who bore the brunt of the criticism for last year’s counting chaos hoped more would have been there. “Everybody who has come along to this morning’s presentation has, I think, been impressed by what they’ve seen,” he said. “The only slightly disappointing aspect to the whole thing is that we didn’t have more politicians here, particularly given the number of complaints that were made last year about the length of time that was taken to complete the counts. “I can only speculate about why they didn’t come. Certainly invitations were issued and it would have been nicer to have seen more people along.”
The equipment and technical support for the demonstration was provided by Opt2Vote, a Londonderry company which provided the software for the electronic vote counting used in the recent Scottish local government elections. The plan was to recreate a live count scenario and provide an opportunity for politicians to increase their knowledge of e-counting.