Referendums 2013: Voters’ guide

Every Irish citizen who is 18 years of age or over and included in the register of electors is entitled to vote

Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 01:00

When can I vote?
Polling stations will be open today from 7am to 10pm.

Where is my polling station?
A polling card is ordinarily sent to each voter, informing them of the date of the poll and the location of their polling station. If you haven’t received one, or have mislaid it, you can check your polling station at checktheregister.ie

Who is eligible to cast a vote?
Every Irish citizen who is 18 years of age or over and included in the register of electors is entitled to vote. The total electorate currently stands at 3.1 million. To check whether you’re on the register go to
checktheregister.ie

Is it too late to have my name added to the register?
Yes. The closing date for inclusion on the supplementary register was September 17th.

Do I need proof of identity to vote?
You may be required to produce evidence of identity. Anyone who doesn’t do so when requested, or who fails to satisfy the presiding officer that the ID is theirs, will not be allowed to vote.

The documents accepted as proof of identity are (a) a passport (b) a driving licence (c) an employee identity card containing a photograph (d) a student photo-ID card issued by an educational institution (e) a travel document containing name and photo or (f) a bank or savings or credit union book containing your address in the constituency.

Alternatively, you can produce one of the following items if it is accompanied by a further document which establishes your address in the constituency: (a) a cheque book (b) a cheque card (c) a credit card (d) a birth certificate (e) a marriage cert. You do not need a polling card to vote in the referendums.

I have a physical disability that makes it difficult to access my polling station. What should I do?
Anyone with a physical disability may apply to the local returning officer to be authorised to vote at a more accessible station in the same constituency, but the closing date for such applications was September 27th.

At the polling station today an elector with a physical disability, visual impairment of reading/writing difficulty may be assisted in voting by the presiding officer or by a companion.

What will the ballot papers look like?
Two referendums are being held today, each with its own ballot paper.

The first question, on whether to abolish the Seanad, will be on a white ballot paper and will refer to the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013. If you approve of abolition you should mark X in the square beside TÁ/YES. If you do not approve of abolition you should mark X in the square beside NÍL/NO.

The second question, on whether to establish a court of appeal, will appear on a green ballot paper and will refer to the Thirty-third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013. If you approve of the proposal to establish a court of appeal you should mark X in the square beside TÁ/YES. If you do not approve of the proposal you should mark X in the square beside NÍL/NO.

When will we know the results?
Results from each constituency will be sent to the central count centre at Dublin Castle tomorrow and posted on referendum.ie

SEANAD

What is the Seanad?
Seanad Éireann is the upper house of the Oireachtas, which also comprises the President and Dáil Éireann. It has 60 members, of whom 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach and six are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin. The remaining 43 senators are elected through Seanad panel elections, in which only TDs, outgoing senators and councillors can vote. Seanad members must be Irish citizens aged 21 or over.

What does it do?
The main business of the Seanad is the revision of proposed laws, or Bills, sent to it by the Dáil. With the exception of money Bills and Bills that amend the Constitution, the upper house can also initiate legislation. Its powers are much weaker than those of the Dáil, however. It can delay a Bill by up to 90 days but has no power to prevent it becoming law or to change it unless the Dáil agrees. The Seanad also debates issues.

What happens if the amendment is passed?
If the constitutional change is passed, the Seanad will be abolished the day before the Dáil meets after the next general election. The Oireachtas will in future consist of the President and the Dáil, and a Bill will become law if it is passed by the Dáil and signed by the President. If the proposal is rejected, the constitutional position of the Seanad will not change.

Will reform of the Seanad be an option on the ballot paper?
No. Under the proposal being put before the people, there are two choices. You can vote to abolish the Seanad or to retain it.

How much money would abolition save?
The annual cost of running the Seanad is about €20 million, according to the Oireachtas Commission. This includes members’ salaries (€4.2 million), expenses (€2.5 million) and staff (€2.1 million). The commission says it is unable to estimate the net savings that would follow the abolition of the Upper House.

COURT OF APPEAL

What is it?
The establishment of a court of appeal, as proposed in today’s referendum, would be the biggest shake-up in the courts system since 1937. At present there are four key rungs on the courts ladder: at the apex is the Supreme Court, followed by the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court. There is also a three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal, whose rotating membership includes two High Court judges and a member of the Supreme Court. Voters will be asked to amend the Constitution so as to allow for the creation of a new court between the High Court and the Supreme Court.

What would it do?
The court of appeal would hear most of the appeals currently heard by the Supreme Court, and its decision would in most cases be the final word. The Supreme Court could hear a challenge to a court of appeal decision if it considered that the decision involved a matter of general public importance or that the interests of justice required such an appeal. The Supreme Court could also hear an appeal directly from the High Court in certain circumstances. The court of appeal would hear civil and criminal appeals, and would therefore take over the functions of the Court of Criminal Appeal.

What else would change?
The referendum also proposes to remove the one-judgment rule, which compels the Supreme Court to issue only a single judgment when deciding on whether or not a law passed by the Oireachtas is constitutional. If the referendum is passed, each judge will be allowed to give his or her opinion in such cases.