Voter turnout down on State’s first Saturday general election

Numbers casting ballot slip on day of rugby, GAA and wind warnings around Storm Ciara

Voter turnout appears to be down on what was the first general election held on a Saturday in the history of the State.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called the weekend election date, claiming it would help families and younger voters living or studying away from home get to the ballot boxes.

But the emerging trend as counting continued is that the number turning up at polling stations has decreased since the last general election in 2016.

In some areas, the drop was pronounced. In Dublin Bay South, turnout slid to less than half the electorate for the constituency. At 49.35 per cent, it was a decrease of more than 5 percentage points from 54.77 per cent in 2016.


The constituency is traditionally seen as "true blue" Fine Gael territory, which would raise questions over Fianna Fáil suspicions that Mr Varadkar had called a Saturday election because he scented electoral advantage.

Fine Gael are fighting to keep a second seat in Dublin Bay South.

Fall in figures

In Tipperary, the turnout was down from 69.79 per cent last time out to 65.01 per cent at the weekend.

In Galway East 66.66 per cent of voters cast a ballot in 2016. In General Election 2020, that figure dropped to 61.9 per cent.

In Mayo, former taoiseach Enda Kenny's heartland, turnout was down from 69.11 per cent to 66.12 per cent.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney’s Cork South Central constituency dropped from 66.39 per cent of voters in 2016 to 63.2 per cent.

In Dublin South West, where Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is battling to keep her seat, turnout dipped from 64.43 per cent to 62.27 per cent.

In Limerick, the figure was down from 62.35 per cent to 59.87 per cent.

Day vs evening

A few constituencies which have confirmed turnout figures have so far bucked the trend. They include Wexford where turnout was up slightly from 65.86 per cent to 66.72 per cent and Meath West, up from 60.25 per cent to 61.52 per cent.

Waterford (63.79 per cent) and Meath East (63.45 per cent) were more or less the same as last time out.

On Saturday, turnout was reported to be generally high across the country by midday and by 5pm.

That it appears to be down overall suggests a rush to the polls during the day, with many choosing not to spend their Saturday evenings travelling to the local school or community centre to exercise their franchise.

It was anticipated that the Ireland vs Wales rugby match and GAA fixtures would also have an effect on what time people would go to their local polling station.

Add to that the arrival of Storm Ciara – with severe wind warnings in place along with rain for much of the afternoon – and a number of variables could be behind the disruption to traditional weekday voting patterns.