As today at 5pm is the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming referendum I asked the Minister to extend the right to vote to our friends and family who are living abroad. A number of constituents who are living abroad have been in contact with me and are disappointed that they do not have the right to vote. One person who is working with an NGO in one of the worlds poorest countries has expressed a severe disappointment that their voice will not be counted in a referendum that will effect and impact many future generations on the 22nd of May. I fully agree that Irish people abroad should have their voice heard, particularly given the waste of tax payers money and the entire farce that went into the famous E-Voting a number of years ago, I was disappointed with the response that there are no plans to re-look at this issue for future elections and referendums.
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the growing interconnected world in terms of employment and travel, his views that the postal vote system is not adequate and that Irish persons abroad working, for example for Non Government Organisations, should be provided the chance to exercise their right to vote on major social issues such as the May 2015 referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Maureen O’Sullivan.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly)
In order to be able to vote at elections and referendums, a person’s name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides.
Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of certain categories of person who are entered in the register of electors – whole-time members of the Defence Forces; members of An Garda Síochána; Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses or civil partners; electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability; electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day and full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State; certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside; and electors who because of the circumstances of their detention in prison pursuant to an order of a court are likely to be unable to go in person on polling day to vote.
Qualifying voters can apply to their local authority for inclusion in the postal voters lists. Electors who are eligible for, but not already included in, the postal voters list may apply for entry into the supplement to these lists. Such applications must be received by the relevant registration authority by 25 April 2015 in order to be considered for the referendums being held on 22 May 2015.
While electoral law is subject to ongoing review, I have no proposals at present to extend existing arrangements for postal voting. In responding to the recommendation of the Constitution on the Convention in their fourth report that there should be greater access to postal voting, the Government proposed that an E lectoral C ommission be tasked in due course with considering the issue and advising in detail on the electoral and operational implications, including costs, of implementing change in this area. As regards the Electoral Commission, I published a consultation paper on 27 January 2015. I discussed the paper with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on 10 March 2015 as part of the pre-legislative process for an Electoral Commission Bill. The Committee is now engaging in a consultation process on the paper and will report their recommendations to me in due course.