Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLAs for short, are politicians who represent people in Northern Ireland.
Each MLA represents people from a particular part of the country. These areas are called constituencies. There are six MLAs from each of the 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland. The people who live in these areas are called their constituents.
MLAs hold regular meetings, known as surgeries, where their constituents can talk to them about their concerns or any problems they are having. Constituents can also get in touch with their MLA by writing to them or contacting them at their office.
When an MLA is not in his/her constituency, they are in Belfast at the Northern Ireland Assembly. Here, they can tell the Northern Ireland Executive about the issues that are affecting their constituents.
In the Northern Ireland Assembly, MLAs take part in debates and vote on whether new laws should be made.
MLAs also help to make sure the Northern Ireland Executive is doing its job properly by scrutinising it and asking questions.
Constituents get to decide who their MLAs are by voting at elections. The elections use a voting system called the Single Transferable Vote.
MLAs usually represent a political party. However, this is not always the case. Those who don’t represent a political party are called independent MLAs.
Anyone can stand for election as an MLA as long as they are at least 18 years old and are registered to vote.