Candidates in the Seanad elections have appealed for voters on the university panels to return their postal ballot for the deadline on Tuesday, March 31st.
Outgoing Trinity College Senators Ivana Bacik and Lynn Ruane expressed concern at the low turnout with just 9,500 completed ballots returned from an electorate of 70,000 graduates.
Returns for the NUI panel are however better than expected, according to returning officer Dr Attracta Halpin, with 24,900 completed ballots received from an electorate of 112,000 and a surge expected by the weekend.
Voting for the three seats on each panel closes at 11am on Tuesday, March 31st, and counting will begin shortly afterwards.
Seanad election turnouts for the university panels are notoriously low in what is a postal ballot, open to graduates of constituent NUI colleges and the University of Dublin. Ballot papers are posted around the world to wherever a graduate is based.
The NUI returning officer said the returns are better at this stage in 2020 than four years ago.
Senator Bacik said the most recent figures available showed 9,500 completed votes. A lot of the registered post ballot papers had been returned uncollected, she said, but fewer now than when voting began on February 24th.
“People are at home more now and will sign for ballots,” she said.
In both universities hundreds of ballot papers have been returned because of changes of addresses. However, voters can still contact both Trinity and NUI this week if they have changed address and not received their vote to have it re-issued.
Senator Bacik said “it’s vitally important that people remember to post their ballots”. She said that because it is all by post “it’s one election that can continue and the date won’t be extended and it’s vitally important people post their ballots this week”.
Senator Ruane said “I obviously want people to vote but I’m mindful that people’s situations are quite difficult. It’s an unusual time for people so they’re obviously not prioritising it but who’s in politics is very, very important in the months and years ahead while we try and recover from the situation we’re in now.”
Covid-19 will have an impact on counting with restrictions for social distancing. The count venue for the 43 vocational panel seats has changed from the members’ private dining room in Leinster House, to the Printworks Centre, Dublin Castle, but access will be restricted to candidates and their agents.
The NUI panel count will take place at the RDS and the Trinity College count in the university’s exam hall with social distancing restrictions.