North goes to the polls for EU referendum

Around 1,261,000 voters in Northern Ireland are entitled to vote in the referendum. Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire

VOTERS across Northern Ireland and Britain head to the polls today to decide whether the UK should remain part of the European Union.

Today's referendum is the first time since Britain joined the then EEC in 1975 that the electorate has had the opportunity to choose whether to remain a member or to leave.

Polling stations will open at 7am and close at 10pm and only those on the electoral register are entitled to vote.

It is not necessary to take a polling card to the polling station but a valid photographic ID is required, such as a driving licence, passport, electoral identity card or Translink SmartPass.

The ballot paper will pose the question: 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?'

There will be two options – 'Remain a member of the European Union' and 'Leave the European Union' – with voters asked to mark their preference with an X.

The total electorate for the referendum is 48 million, including 1,261,000 in Northern Ireland and 23,000 in Gibraltar. Irish citizens living in Britain are also allowed to vote if registered.

Pundits appear reluctant to predict what turnout will be, with those willing to guess forecasting an overall figure of between 60 per cent and 80 per cent. There is nothing to suggest turnout in Northern Ireland will be significantly different from Britain.

According to number of opinion polls carried out during in recent days, the overall result will be tight and could be decided by as little as one percentage point either way.

Northern Ireland is widely expected to vote to remain in the EU, as indicated by an opinion poll published last week.

The survey by market research firm Millward Brown showed 48 per cent of people in Northern Ireland support retaining ties with Brussels, while almost one third – 32 per cent – want to leave, with 20 per cent undecided.

There are eight count centres across Northern Ireland, covering the region's 18 parliamentary constituencies.

Verification of ballots will begin as soon as the polls close and counting will commence once verification is complete. Following verification of the ballots, a turn-out figure for each constituency s will be declared.

The result for each constituency will be announced as counting is completed. The Electoral Office anticipates that the first declaration will be in Derry at 12.30am and the last in Ballymena at around 4am.

When counts from all 18 regional constituencies are complete chief electoral officer Graham Shields will make an overall declaration for Northern Ireland.

This will be alongside 380 council regions in Britain and Gibraltar.

The overall result is expected some time between 5am and 7am.


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