Northern Ireland voters prepare to go to the polls

A sign reading "polling station" in the window of a door as a cyclist goes past in the background
[Getty Images]

Polls will open later on Thursday in Northern Ireland's 18 Westminster constituencies as the UK votes in the general election.

Voters can cast a ballot at their local polling station from 07:00 until 22:00 BST.

It is the first general election since 2019 but it is the third election in as many years in Northern Ireland following the assembly poll in 2022 and council elections in 2023.

In total 136 candidates are standing in Northern Ireland.

Voters need a valid form of photo ID, with a full list of accepted types available to view here on the the Electoral Office website.

The election is first past the post, which means voters put an X in the box beside one candidate who they want to be elected to the House of Commons.

The number of registered voters in NI is the largest it has ever been for a general election - 1,363,961.

Lagan Valley has the biggest electorate - 82,000.

Chief electoral officer David Marshall said about 40,000 new voters had registered in the past few weeks.

There will be more than 25,000 postal votes this year - a 50% increase on the last general election.

When will we know the results?

The first results in Great Britain will come in quite quickly after polls close, probably at about 23:00.

The first Northern Ireland results are expected at about 02:00 but that is only an estimate.

There will be an exit poll published at 22:00, which will estimate the result before all the votes are counted but it does not apply to Northern Ireland.

Most of the results should be known by about 05:30 but it depends on how tight the race is in some constituencies.

A banner reading General Election 2024

Full details of BBC News NI's election coverage

How can I follow the results?

The BBC, like other broadcasters, is not allowed to report details of campaigning or election issues while polls are open on the day of the general election.

Live coverage leading up to the polls closing will begin on the BBC News NI website from 20:00, with results coverage from 22:00.

The live Northern Ireland results programme hosted by Mark Carruthers will be streamed on the website from 21:55 and will also be broadcast on BBC One NI and the iPlayer.

The UK-wide results programme hosted by Laura Kuenssberg and Clive Myrie will start at the same time on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

An extended edition of Good Morning Ulster will begin at 06:00 and will also be streamed on the BBC News NI Website, where live coverage will continue throughout Friday with analysis of and reaction to the full picture of results across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.