The DUP hopes to consolidate its position as a three-MLA party in Lagan Valley having lost Jonathan Craig’s seat in 2016 when fielding four candidates.
Last time around, the defection of DUP whistle-blower Jenny Palmer to the UUP helped the UUP two seats – much to the relief of the party which lost its only sitting MLA when Basil McCrea jumped ship to form the ill-fated NI21.
With only five seats up for grabs this time, and the likelihood of the reasonably even spread of first preference votes, then transfers will be particularly crucial as the count goes on.
Jonathan Craig lost out in 2016 despite polling almost 400 more first preference votes than long-serving assemblyman Trevor Lunn. However, the Alliance candidate traditionally fares best from transfers - the number two or three on many ballot papers - and cruised home.
Outside of the established DUP/UUP/Alliance order in Lagan Valley, the nearest challenger is Pat Catney of the SDLP who typically attract around 7% of the first preferences.
If the DUP combined vote of more than 18,000 holds up, and is evenly spread around the three candidates, then Paul Givan, Edwin Poots and Brenda Hale should be safe. Trevor Lunn’s avalanche of transfers makes Alliance look a relatively safe bet leaving one of UUP pair Jenny Palmer and Robbie Butler potentially vulnerable – unless the DUP suffers a significant loss of support in what has been a party stronghold.
• Dan Barrios-O’Neill (Green Party)
• Robbie Butler (UUP)
• Pat Catney (SDLP)
• Peter Doran (Sinn Fein)
• Paul Givan (DUP)
• Keith John Gray (Ind)
• Brenda Hale (DUP)
• Trevor Lunn (Alliance)
• Samuel Morrison (TUV)
• Jonny Orr (Ind)
• Jenny Palmer (UUP)
• Edwin Poots (DUP)
• Matthew Robinson (Conservative)
• Paul Givan (DUP) 5,364 (13.8%
• Edwin Poots (DUP) 4,638 (11.9%)
• Robbie Butler (UUP) 4,376 (11.3%)
• Brenda Hale (DUP) 4,236 (10.9%)
• Jonathan Craig (DUP) 4,087 (10.5%)
• Jennifer Palmer (UUP) 3,871 (10.0%)
• Trevor Lunn (Alliance) 3,707 (9.5%)
• Pat Catney (SDLP) 2,899 (7.5%)
• Lyle Rea (TUV) 1,291 (3.3%)
• Dan Barrios-O’Neill (Green) 1,118 (2.9%)
• Jacqui McGeough (Sinn Féin) 1,045 (2.7%)
• Jonny Orr (Independent) 817 (2.1%)
• Brian Higginson (UKIP) 768 (2.0%)
• Jack Irwin (Conservative) 341 (0.9%)
• Peter Dynes (NI Labour) 171 (0.4%)
• Frazer McCammond (Democracy First) 124 (0.3%)
Votes cast 39,227 (53.2%)