Case study: Northern Ireland Assembly's successful campaign to increase voter turnout

Covering all comms bases for the recent Northern Ireland Assembly elections resulted in a surge in turnout, with the proportion of people voting at its highest since the first elections, in 1998.

Case study: Northern Ireland Assembly's successful campaign to increase voter turnout

This year saw the turnout leap to 64.8 per cent - up from 54.9 per cent during last year’s elections, according to an analysis by the Electoral Commission.

The report, released this month, stated "A total of 1,254,709 people were registered to vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March 2017."

It added: "812,783 votes were included in the count, representing an overall turnout of 64.8%. This was a 10 percentage point increase compared with May 2016 and was the highest turnout since the first Northern Ireland Assembly election in 1998."

A significant increase in the number of people who said they voted to ‘get a change’, rising from 7 per cent in May 2016 to 25 per cent in March 2017, "may have contributed to the higher turnout," according to the report.

A multimedia public awareness campaign to promote electoral registration included TV, radio, press and digital advertising. In addition, resources were produced such as a toolkit with examples of messages to share via websites, emails and social media channels, as well as poster templates and factsheets for use by other organisations.

At the start of February this year, Facebook promoted a message in the newsfeeds of all users in Northern Ireland reminding them to register to vote before the deadline, and created an 'I voted' tag on polling day.
Cahir Hughes, senior communications officer, the Electoral Commission, told PRWeek: "Our recent report on the March 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election found that there high levels of public satisfaction with the process of registering to vote and with how the election was run. There was almost 80,000 visits to our public information website and total of 20,375 registration forms downloaded. In addition the public helpline handled over 27,000 calls, an increase of almost 10,000 calls compared to the May 2016 campaign."

He added: "As a result of this we were pleased to also report that there was an increase in the electorate of 20,606 ahead of polling day."

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