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Register of electors was ‘in a state’ for referenda

March 18th, 2024 7:00 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

The results of the referenda for Cork South West. Councillors say the register of electors was 'in a state'.

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SEVERAL errors and inconsistencies in the electoral register were reported after the recent referenda votes, including instances of many deceased people still being on the list.

As a result, calls have now been made for an urgent overhaul of the register before June’s local and European elections.

At this week’s meeting of Cork County Council, several councillors recounted stories from constituents about problems they encountered while attempting to vote in the referenda, which saw West Cork resoundingly reject both amendments.

Some voters found out they had been taken off the register without their knowledge, others hadn’t received polling cards, and others reported long-deceased family members still on the list.

Social Democrat Cllr Chris Heinhold said he was contacted last Saturday morning by a very concerned poll worker in his local electoral area, who said he was ‘shocked at the state of the register’, with a large number of deceased people still on it.

‘He was also concerned about the new voters not being on the register, and had contacted the register about this five years ago to address these issues. But from what he could see, no changes had been made at all,’ said Cllr Heinhold.

He said it was an issue that needs to be addressed urgently before the upcoming local and European elections.

‘We want everyone who is eligible to get out and vote and we should not be putting barriers in their way,’ he told the meeting.

‘We also don’t want to be upsetting people by sending polling cards to deceased relatives, especially when they have made efforts to remove their loves ones from the register.’

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said he heard of one person who was observed with three polling cards in their hands at one polling station, while another person’s late wife was still on the register, despite notifying the franchise office several years ago.

‘It is upsetting for people who have always had a vote and it must come from national government to find a way of streamlining it,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

‘The register could be out by up to 10%, and that’s a fair amount, especially when you think back to West Cork in 2019 where one vote elected one candidate over the other,’ he added.

Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) said she knows of one household in her area with four voters, but only two received polling cards.

‘When the four of them, who have been living there for 20 years, went down to vote, only one of them was on the register. It makes no sense – three of them had voted before,’ she said.

Meanwhile, Cllr Karen Coakley (Ind) said there are lots of incidents of people receiving polling cards for their deceased relatives and said it’s very upsetting for them.

Her colleague, Cllr Kevin Murphy, said he gets ‘umpteen’ complaints on this issue, as well as complaints from people who find themselves knocked off the electoral register.

‘It’s a national issue, and it has to be rectified before both the local and European elections, because people won’t know if they’re coming or going,’ said Cllr Murphy.

A Council spokesperson said it was a ‘national issue’ that several local authorities including Cork County Council face.  They added that they don’t take people off the register ‘willy-nilly’.

The franchise section said they will have a full debriefing with their team following the referenda.

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