Bibles and ballot boxes
Sir, – There was much comment on the occasion of the marriage equality referendum that bibles were on every table in the polling station. This has always been the case for some reason. The Electoral Act allows citizens to swear to affirm their identity.
The legislation, however, makes no reference to the requirement for a bible to be used for this purpose and there is certainly no need for a bible on every table.
When casting my vote at the marriage equality referendum, a Catholic bible with a picture of St Ignatius on the cover was beside the ballot box in which I placed my vote. That material of any kind, and in this case related to an institution actively campaigning in the current referendum, is allowed in polling stations, is most disturbing. What is the plan for polling stations for May 25th?
The Electoral Act also prohibits the display or distribution of any notice, sign or poster (other than a notice, sign or poster displayed by the returning officer) or card, circular or other document relating to the election with a hundred metres of the polling station.
On two occasions in recent years we have gone to the polls, this clear and unambiguous law has not been adhered to or enforced by the local gardaí at my polling station. On both occasions this was reported but nothing was done. On one occasion, I was told very directly they were short-staffed and had other priorities.
I would have thought ensuring the Electoral Act is implemented in full was a priority and critically important in a democracy. Maybe the acting Garda commissioner might take the opportunity to remind his staff that the enforcement of the Electoral Act is not an optional extra in advance of this referendum. – Yours, etc,