#### So how does it work

In the Assembly election on 2 March there will be five seats per constituency to fill. When you go to your polling station you will be provided with a list of the candidates who are standing for election in your local constituency and you will be asked to rate those candidates in accordance with your preference. So, for your first preferred candidate you should put a ‘1’ in the box next to their name, a ‘2’ in the box next to the name of your second preferred candidate and so on. There is no maximum or minimum number of preferences to mark, so you could choose to give a preference to all candidates or to just one or two. When the polls close on March 2, the ballot boxes will be delivered to various counting stations throughout Northern Ireland. The actual count will not take place however until the following day, Friday March 3 and it may take a couple of days for all the votes to be counted.#### How are the votes counted?

Once the ballot boxes have been opened, the first task is to sort out which votes are valid and which are not, the total number of valid votes are then counted, verified and recorded. The valid votes are then sorted into piles according to first preferences and these too are recorded.#### What is the Quota and how is it worked out?

The quota is the number of votes each candidate will require in order to get elected and this is where it can get a little complicated but there is a formula to follow to work it out. The quota is calculated for each constituency by adding together the total number of valid ballot papers, dividing this by the total number of seats to be filled plus one. As an example, let’s say that there are 2,400 valid votes in constituency X and five seats to fill, we would add a one to the five seats and then divide the 2,400 votes by six, we then add a further one to this figure. This means that the quota is 401, so each candidate will need to get 401 votes to get elected.

**NB:**The whole number is always used in calculating the quota. Should there be a fraction, the numbers after the decimal point are ignored.

#### What is a transfer and how does it work?

So now that we have the quota and know the number of votes each candidate should receive to get elected, it’s on with the count. Voting papers are sorted into bundles according to first preferences and counted. Any candidate reaching or exceeding the quota is elected. If they are elected with more first preference votes than the quota, their extra votes are called a surplus.#### The Surplus

Surplus votes from candidates who exceed the quota are transferred to the remaining candidates who were chosen as number 2 (second preference) on the elected candidate/s’ ballot papers (which show a second preference). All votes are transferred at a fractional value. The surplus is calculated as follows:

**Example:**The quota in constituency X is 401 votes and candidate A received 500 votes. Surplus = 500 – 401. Therefore, candidate A has a surplus of 99.