Voting

Voting in the Chamber

In the Assembly Chamber, votes are usually carried by a majority. When a motion is read, those in favour say ‘Aye’ and those against (contrary) say ‘No’. If it is unclear whether the Ayes or Noes ‘have it’, or if the apparent result is challenged, the Speaker rings the Division Bell throughout the buildings. MLAs not already in the Chamber have three minutes to get there. The Speaker calls for another ‘voice vote’. If the result remains unclear, a Division takes place. Members enter either the Aye or the No Division Lobbies to register their vote.

In this clip, Sinn Fein MLAs have put forward a motion for debate. They hope that the Assembly will pass it. Two Alliance MLAs have suggested amending the wording of the motion. The amendment is debated and voted on. See what happens...

Voting

Cross-Community Voting

There are special voting arrangements in the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure that one side of the community cannot dominate the other. Certain Assembly decisions require cross-community support to be passed. It is possible to get cross-community support on a voice vote, for example William Hay MLA was unanimously elected as Speaker. However, a count usually takes place in two stages. The first stage is a normal count. The second stage is to count the number of nationalists and unionists who support the motion. There are two ways to get cross-community support:

  • The Parallel Consent method requires 50 percent of all those voting and 50 percent unionist support and 50 percent nationalist support.
  • The Weighted Majority method requires 60 percent of all those voting and 40 percent support from both nationalists and unionists.

The Assembly decisions that require cross-community support are:

  • election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers;
  • changes to the rules of the Assembly, called Standing Orders;
  • ratification of the Budget;
  • decisions about how many Ministers there should be and what areas of government they should be responsible for;
  • exclusion of a Minister, or members of a political party, from holding office; and
  • petitions of concern, allowing 30 MLAs to submit a request to the Speaker for a particular vote to be taken on a cross-community basis.