On the first day the Assembly meets after an election, MLAs sign the Register and designate themselves as ‘nationalist’ or ‘unionist’. This is to facilitate cross-community voting, when certain decisions must be supported by a certain percentage of MLAs on both sides of the community. MLAs who do not wish to designate as ‘nationalist’ or ‘unionist’ are considered to be ‘others’.

Cross-community support for an Assembly decision can be achieved in two ways: parallel consent requires Aye votes from 50% of MLAs in the Chamber, plus 50% of unionists and 50% of nationalists; or by weighted majority which requires the support of 60% of all those in the Chamber plus 40% of unionists and 40% of nationalists. These voting arrangements are intended to protect the minority from domination by the majority.