Home > The Political Wing > Elections in Ireland to change with establishment of Electoral Commission

Elections in Ireland to change with establishment of Electoral Commission

Tucked away on page 120 of the programme for government is the section on electoral reform which makes for interesting reading for political nerds but does have wide ranging implications for future elections in Ireland.

How we apply to vote, how we actually vote and who are TDs are will all be effected by decisions made by the proposed Electoral Commission. The three party government states in the programme that it ‘will ensure that this Commission is in place by the end of 2021’ so it is not something that is going to be kicked too far down the road.

Election Posters
The use of the much maligned but very important election poster comes up whenever elections come around when posters adorn every lamppost across Irish towns and cities. The task of examining the use of posters will fall to the new Electoral Commission who will examine their use in both elections and referendums and will do so within 12 months of establishment of the Commission.

They will ‘consult on placing limitations on the number of posters that can be used or fixing certain locations for their use. The Government will legislate for its recommendations in advance of the 2024 Local Elections.’

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By-Elections

At present if a TD dies or resigns, a by-election has to take place to find their replacement and the Dáil must move the writ within six months of the requirement for a replacement. However, the new Electoral Commission is to examine the possibility of replacing by-elections with an alternate list system. Such a method is currently used to replace members of the European Parliament.

Currently any MEP vacancy is filled from a replacement list – this is a list compiled ahead of the election by each registered political party or independent candidate. The person who is at the top of the replacement list fills the vacancy when it arises.

Postal Votes

The issue of postal voting is in the news in relation to the upcoming US election. In Ireland the eligibility for voting via this method is very limited. The electoral commission is to examine the current use of postal voting with a view to expanding its provision.

At present in Ireland those eligible to get a postal vote are:
• Irish diplomats posted abroad, their spouse or civil partner who is living abroad with them
• Gardaí and full time members of the Irish Defence Forces

In addition if voters cannot go to a polling station, then can apply for a postal vote. This is for those who:
• have a physical illness or disability
• are studying full time at an educational institution in Ireland, which is away from the home address where you are registered
• cannot vote at local polling station because of their occupation, service or employment
• are in prison.

Election Register
Currently the election registers are controlled by each local authority. The plan is for the Electoral Commission to update and maintain a single national electoral register database and they will also look to move the registration option online.

Parental leave
At present there is no parental leave for elected members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The commission is to ‘develop supports and alternatives for members of the Oireachtas to take parental leave.’

Equality and Diversity
Away from the section on the Electoral Commission, the programme for government also notes that the new government will ‘introduce practical measures that will encourage more women to stand in local elections in 2024’.

They will also require ‘local authorities to be more flexible with meeting times and to use remote working technologies and flexible work practices to support councillors with parental or caring responsibilities, including childcare, and reduced travel times and absences from work.’

The plan is also to ‘examine further mechanisms informed by best practice internationally to encourage political parties to select more women for the 2024 local elections.’

  1. Kevin Chaffey
    July 6, 2020 at 11:25

    A change to by elections could be to recount the votes, this is what has been done in Tasmania for over 100 years. Another alternative would be to do what is done in Northern Ireland and that is the party to which the former member belonged nominate a replacement.

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