First council election results expected around midday
COUNTING for the local government elections is underway this morning at count centres across Northern Ireland.
The first results are expected around midday though it will be tomorrow before a full picture emerges.
A total of 819 candidates are vying for 462 seats across 11 councils.
Belfast City Council has 60 seats up for grabs, while Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council each have 41.
The remaining eight councils have 40 seats.
Ahead of the first successful candidates being declared, a major talking point will be voter turnout.
At the last local government election in 2014 turnout was just over half the registered electorate at 51.33 per cent.
The reasonably good spring weather is thought to have encouraged many people out to vote.
Chief electoral officer Virginia McVea told The Irish News that voting had been "steady" ahead of the usual teatime spike in numbers.
Yesterday saw the leaders of Stormont's parties cast their votes early.
DUP leader Arlene Foster voted in the Co Fermanagh village of Brookeborough, shortly after 9am, where she encouraged everyone to vote and "have their democratic say on the future of our local councils".
The former first minister said she hopeful the electorate would give the DUP the "strength to deliver, right across Northern Ireland".
"We have had a very good canvass right across Northern Ireland and people are saying that they want to come out and support us, so I am looking forward to results day," she said.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill voted in her home village of Clonoe, Co Tyrone.
She described the election as an "opportunity to stand firm against Brexit and an opportunity to stand firm against the arrogance of the DUP".
"It's also an opportunity to stand firm for equality, for rights and for Irish unity," she said.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann voted in Ballymena, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood voted in Derry and Alliance leader Naomi Long cast her vote in east Belfast.
Yesterday's election was conducted under the single transferable vote system, which means voters rank candidates in order of preference.
After the total valid vote is established, a quota is calculated to determine the minimum number of votes a candidate requires to be elected.
The quota is calculated by dividing the total number of valid votes by the number of available seats, plus one seat, and then add one vote.
Candidates who exceed the quota are elected automatically before their surplus votes are transferred to the other candidates. However the vote will have lower value since the surplus is only a fraction of the elected candidate’s original tally.
The process continues in this way until all the seats are filled.