Online voter registration system to deal with dead voters and multiple votes
Training of polling station staff part of major review of abortion referendum
A Dublin polling station: Photograph: Julien Behal/PA
Online registration for voters is to be introduced, the Department of Local Government has said.
The online system will use a “single identifier” which is most likely to be an individual’s Personal Public Service (PPS) number.
It is expected to take two to three years to implement and will replace 23 different forms with one form for registration. The array of forms currently include change of address, the supplementary registration and various postal voting forms.
Minister of State John Paul Phelan said the voter registration problem was the biggest issue that continually arose in elections and referendums; that “people are registered in multiple places because they’ve moved houses and also the continuation of people being on registers years after they’ve passed away”.
Senior officials from the franchise section of the Department of Local Government will also meet the national returning officers for each constituency to review the operation of the abortion referendum.
Mr Phelan met franchise officials last week ahead of the review and said that “there’ll be a full discussion about what happened and what we need to do to fix any problems”.
Referring to the training of polling station staff, Mr Phelan said “it may well be that extra training is needed or just renewed because a lot of these people have done it for years and know it inside out”.
The Minister added that in most rural areas very experienced staff are involved, “but often in urban areas there’s a higher turnover of polling station staff”.
He said “it’s the role of the constituency returning officer to ensure that training and facilities are provided and everything is ready on the day of the vote”.
Complaints about breaches of regulations on postering near polling stations were raised in the Dáil by Independents4Change TD Clare Daly.
Mr Phelan acknowledged her concerns but said the postering regulations were usually implemented fairly well across the country.
“Certainly it’s within the remit of the presiding officer to ask the Garda to remove [posters] because it is a breach,” the Minister said.
“It’s 50 metres from the curtilage of the entrance to the site of the polling station, not 50 metres from the desk itself,” he said referring to the poster-free zone.
Ms Daly also highlighted complaints about the prevalence of religious symbols and statues in polling stations.
Mr Phelan said the only regulation in relation to religious symbols is about bibles which are permitted for use by a voter to swear they are who they say they are if they do not carry identification.
In relation to statues and religious pictures, Mr Phelan said “they [polling stations] are schools and we need their co-operation,” but “all of that will be part of the discussion”.