One issue that has been raised by many people, including most recently Independent candidate for Balbriggan, Garret Mullan, has been the shocking state of the Electoral Register. Candidates for next year’s local elections have found that there are significant areas where voter registration is less than 50%. This particularly affects estates that were built in the last 10 years.
Candidates and political parties are now engaged in a voter registration drive. The reason for this is that the Register is being currently updated, and the closing date to be included on the Register for next year’s local elections is the 25th November.
I have been in contact with Fingal Country Council on this issue since the summer. While they have been very helpful and have put resources into updating the Register the fact remains that they simply do not have the staff available to them to ensure everyone gets on the Register.
The Fine Gael/Labour government talks about political reform, but it is hard to take such claims seriously as they have made no attempt to tackle this democratic deficit since taking office two years ago. This government, and indeed previous governments, have stood over an obsolete and archaic system of voter registration. The current register is inaccurate partly because the process of registering voters has not changed since the pre-digital age.
More of the same isn’t good enough.
There needs to be root and branch reform of the registration process. I propose:
- Removing this function from local authorities and establishing a dedicated electoral commission whose task would be to manage and maintain the Register.
- A once-off audit of the current Register to resolve anomalies and remove names that are on the Register twice.
- Introducing the option of registering to vote on line. All aspects of our lives from filling in tax returns to booking flights is now done online. Surely it’s democracy’s turn?
- A person’s registration could be linked to their PPS number so if they moved to a different constituency the process to amend the Register would be simpler.
- The option of filling out a written application to get on the Register should be maintained but the forms need to be made widely available throughout the community.
November 25th deadline
To get on to the Electoral Register you can download a form (RFA Form) from this website or by going to www.checktheregister.ie and returning to Electoral Register, Fingal Council, Swords, Co Dublin. Remember that you do not have to be Irish, or even an EU citizen, to vote in the 2014 local elections!
It is possible to get on the Register after November 25th, but you will need to apply for the Supplementary Register (RFA2 Form) and in this case you will need to get a Garda Stamp.
More details on this are on my earlier post on Registering to Vote.