Coronavirus: Seanad election procedures changed over concerns

There are fears the count could be compromised if returning officers contract Covid-19

TDs and Senators have been urged to have their  votes witnessed at their local authority’s office or with their local Garda superintendent

TDs and Senators have been urged to have their votes witnessed at their local authority’s office or with their local Garda superintendent

 

Voting procedures in the Seanad election have been changed because of concerns over coronavirus.

There are fears the returning officer and assistant returning officer could be hit by the virus, also known as Covid-19, and put the count and the establishment of a new Seanad at risk.

There are fears the returning officer and assistant returning officer could be hit by the virus – and that could put the count and the establishment of the new Seanad at risk, as they are needed to conduct the count.

The clerk and clerk assistant of the Seanad and clerk and clerk assistant of the Dáil are authorised to witness the votes of TDs and Senators but will not do so for this election, to reduce the chances they contract the disease – and are unable to conduct the count.

They are “limiting our contact with others” in a bid to ensure the returning officer and his deputy can proceed with the count, which is expected to take several days.

Oireachtas members are being asked to go instead to their local authority or Garda superintendent to have their votes witnessed.

Arrangements are usually made for TDs and Senators to vote in Leinster House in front of the clerk or clerk assistant of the Seanad, or the clerk or clerk assistant of the Dáil as “authorised persons”. But they can also do so in front of the county manager of their local authority or a Garda superintendent.

Ballot papers for the election, conducted by postal vote, were issued on Monday.

In an email on Wednesday to TDs and Senators, clerk of the Seanad Martin Groves and clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan said they would be unable to authorise Oireachtas members’ votes because of concerns about the virus.

They said that “in the normal course, arrangements are made for Oireachtas members to vote in Leinster House in the presence of an authorised person. The Clerk and Clerk Assistant of the Seanad and Dáil are so authorised.

“Limiting our contact with others is an essential measure that will help us to proceed with the election and protect the legislative capacity of both Houses.

“We regret, therefore, that we will be unable to authorise votes for members of the Oireachtas.”

Calling on TDs and Senators to make arrangements to vote at their local authority’s office or with their local Garda superintendent, they expressed regret at the inconvenience it might cause “and we ask for your forbearance in view of the current difficulties”.

The 60 Senators in the outgoing Seanad, the 160 TDs in the new Dáil, and 941 city and county councillors are entitled to vote in the poll for the five vocational panels to elect 43 Senators. While councillors vote at their local authority, Senators and TDs usually have the additional option of voting in Leinster House.

The count for the vocational panels begins shortly after 11 am on Monday March 29th, when the poll closes.