Northern Ireland council elections: Everything you need to know

Northern Ireland heads to the polls once again for the council elections.

Northern Ireland returns to the polls to elect a new set of councillors on Thursday, May 18.

A total of 462 seats are up for grabs in 11 councils as voters decide who will make the decisions on issues such as leisure services and bin collections in their area.

The election, which had been due to take place earlier this month, was delayed due to King Charles' Coronation on May 6.

When is voting taking place?

The big date for your calendar is Thursday May 18, 2023.

How do I vote at this election?

You will receive a polling card before the election indicating where you should vote.

This election uses a single transferable vote system - the same as the Northern Ireland Assembly election.

On your paper, you should 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.

Who is eligible to vote at the Local Council elections?

All persons who are:

  • Listed on the electoral register

  • At least 18 years of age on 18 May 2023

  • British, Irish, European Union and qualifying Commonwealth citizens*

* "qualifying Commonwealth citizen" means that the applicant must have leave to remain in the United Kingdom or not require such leave, i.e. they must be in the UK legally.

What ID do I need to bring to vote?

There are a number of IDs you can bring with you to vote on May 18.

These are listed below...

  • 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 Half Fare SmartPass

  • A Translink Senior SmartPass 

  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass

  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass

  • A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass

  • A Biometric Immigration Document

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.

When will the count be held and the results published?

The verification and count of ballot papers will begin at 8am on May 19 with results published on Council websites.

Who is running in each council area?You can find out who is running in each council area from each of the 11 council's websites.

What are the responsibilities of local councils?

Local councils are responsible for a number of service areas, including:

  • waste collection and disposal

  • recycling and waste management

  • local planning functions

  • civic amenity provision

  • grounds maintenance

  • street cleaning

  • cemeteries

  • public conveniences

  • food safety

  • health and safety

  • environmental protection

  • environmental improvement

  • estates management - building design and maintenance

  • building control-inspection and regulation of new buildings

  • dog control

What happened in the last election?

In 2019, the DUP won 122 seats remaining the largest party overall despite losing eight seats, with Sinn Fein winning 105 seats - a total which was unchanged from the previous election.

The UUP finished third, recording a total of 75 seats with the SDLP picking up 59 - the parties losing 13 and seven seats respectively.

The Alliance Party enjoyed a surge of support in 2019 as they claimed a total of 53 seats, a gain of 21 overall.

Independents won 24, the Green Party 8, TUV 6, PBP 5, PUP 3, Aontu 1 and the Cross-Community Labour Alternative 1.

Every count covered....

Counting starts on Friday May 19 - and UTV will have special programming that afternoon and will have updates throughout online and across our social channels.

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