KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Do I need to register to vote in next month's referenda?

February 25th, 2024 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

There will be several opportunities to use your right to vote this year, including two referenda in March. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Advice from the Citizens Information Service

THERE will be several opportunities for people in Ireland to exercise their right to vote this year, with the first opportunities next month. There will be two constitutional referenda on March 8th, while local and European elections are due to be held in June. On March 8th, citizens will be asked to vote in two referenda to change our Constitution.

The first referendum concerns the concept of Family in the Constitution. The second referendum proposes to delete an existing part of the Constitution and insert new text providing recognition for care provided by family members to each other.

You have two separate votes on whether you wish to make the proposed changes to the current text of Article 41 of the Constitution. To vote in any election and referendum in Ireland, you must be entitled to vote. Your entitlement is based on your nationality. You must also be 18 years or over on the day of the vote and resident in Ireland. You must also be registered to vote.

How can I register to vote?

Each local authority is legally obliged to maintain, update and publish its Register of Electors. The Register must be maintained and updated on an ongoing basis. You can now register to vote online for the first time and update the register throughout the year. You must be at least 18 years old and be resident at an address in Ireland.

If you have no address, you can register with ‘no fixed address.’ You can give an address where you can get correspondence. If you have more than one address, you should give the address where you want to be registered. You can only be registered at one address.

If you provide your PPS number, you do not need to have your identification and forms witnessed at a Garda station. Applications to register and to change the register can be made online at checktheregister.ie.

If you prefer, you can use a paper form. If you are registered, you should check your details and add your PPS number, date of birth and your Eircode on checktheregister.ie.

Everyone is being asked to do this to keep the register up to date. Your PPS number and date of birth will not be published on the electoral register. You can add your details to the ‘pending elector list’ if you are 16 or 17 and you are ordinarily resident in Ireland.

Is there a deadline for registering to vote?

Your application must be received by the local authority at least 15 days before an election or referendum (excluding Sundays, Good Friday and public holidays). If it is received on or after 14 days before an election or referendum is taking place, you will not be registered to vote in that election or referendum. If you are not registered to vote and you want to vote in the upcoming March referendums, you must apply to your local authority by February 20th to register or to change your details. The deadline for postal or special voting arrangements has passed since February 12th.

Who is allowed to have a postal vote?

Most voters have to vote in person at an official voting centre. However, you may be eligible for a postal vote if you are:

• An Irish diplomat posted abroad, or their spouse or civil partner abroad with them

• A whole-time member of the Defence Forces.

You may also be eligible for a postal vote if you cannot go to a polling station because:

• You have an illness or disability

• You are studying full time at an educational institution in Ireland, which is away from the home address where you are registered

• You cannot vote at your local polling station because of your occupation, service or employment

• You are unable to vote at your polling station because you are in prison as a result of an order of a court

• You are a Garda

• You are registered as an anonymous elector, or you are part of the household of an anonymous elector

People eligible to vote by post are registered on the Postal Voters list. The latest date for receipt of applications is: Two days after the date of dissolution of the Dáil in the case of a general election; Two days after the date of the order appointing polling day in the case of a Dáil bye-election; 22 days (excluding Sundays and public holidays) before polling day for other elections or referenda. Application forms are available on checktheregister.ie and from your local authority. Postal voters can only vote by post. You cannot vote at a polling station.

What is the Special Voters List?

You may qualify to be on a Special Voters List if you live in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution and wish to vote at these locations. If you are applying for the first time you must send a medical certificate with your application. The latest date for receipt of applications is the same as for postal voters. Application forms are available on checktheregister.ie and from your local authority, Garda station or post office.

What are the rules in relation to student voters?

• If you are studying away from home while attending college, you can register at either your home address or your student residential address. You must be registered at one address only.

• If you live away from the address at which you are registered, you will need to update the register.

• If you leave your address but you plan to return there within 18 months, you can continue to be registered there, as long you do not register at any other address.

Students can register to vote by post if they are currently registered, but unable to go to their polling station because they are studying away from home. To register to vote by post, complete form PV4 and send it to the local authority in the area where you want to vote.

What are the rules about the nationalities that are allowed to vote in elections and referendums in Ireland?

Irish citizens who are registered can vote in local, Dáil, European, and presidential elections, and referenda. Only Irish citizens can vote in presidential elections and referenda. British citizens who are registered can vote in local and Dáil elections but not European elections. EU citizens can vote in local elections but not Dáil elections. They may vote in European elections.

Non-EU citizens can vote in local elections only. What happens if my citizenship changes? If your citizenship changes, you can update your details on the Register of Electors.

If you become an Irish citizen, and are already registered to vote, you should complete form ERF1 to add your new citizenship details to the Register of Electors. You will need to supply proof that you are now an Irish citizen (either a copy of your naturalisation certificate, or a copy of the photo page of your Irish passport).

Who can vote in Seanad elections?

To vote in Seanad elections, you must be an Irish citizen who is:

• A graduate of the National University of Ireland (or an NUI recognised college) or

• A graduate of Trinity

• A TD or senator

• A member of a county or city council (a councillor) If you are eligible, you can vote in the NUI and Trinity College constituencies, even if you are resident outside Ireland.

For further information call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in West Cork on 0818 07 8390.

They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you.

The offices are staffed from 10am-5pm from Monday to Thursday and on Friday from 10am-4pm. Alternatively you can email [email protected] or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie

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