Calling the Election
The date for the election is chosen by the Taoiseach. The time for polling is set by the Minister for the Environment by order. It is generally 14 to 16 hours. Offshore islands generally vote a few days in advance.
The notice of the poll must be publicised and displayed in various places such as Garda stations, libraries, and post offices and advertised. The returning officer issues polling cards to electors on the register with details of the polling station and other information required, such as identity. The entitlement to vote does not depend on holding a polling card if the electorate can otherwise prove he is entitled to vote.
Several polls may be taken on the same day. This included elections and referenda. In this case, ballot papers are different colours. The same or different ballot boxes may be used.
Once the elector attends the polling station, he is handed a ballot paper, which is marked and authenticated by perforation. This is essential to its validity. The name of the elector is crossed off the copy of the register at this point.
Each polling station is presided over by a presiding officer who has responsibility for the conduct of the poll. Polling Clerks and assisting polling Clerks are employed on a temporary basis for each election.
Candidates in Dáil elections may nominate election an election agent to assist them. Candidates and election agents may attend or appoint others to attend on certain occasions. A candidate or his election agent may appoint a person to be a personation agent at each polling station to assist in the prevention of impersonation and double voting.
It is unlawful to canvas or display election posters or use public address systems within 50 meters of any polling station within 30 minutes before or after the commencement of voting. The breach is an offence prosecutable summarily or an indictment.
Electors on the premises at closing time for the vote may be permitted to vote after completion time. The presiding officer seals each ballot box and seals other unused documents and counterfoils at the end of the period.
The presiding officer may request a member from Garda Siochana to remove a person from a polling station who refuses to obey orders or engage in misconduct. They may require a Garda to arrest a person who is suspected of impersonation.
Polling may be postponed where there is disruption, obstruction or damage to a polling station. The poll might be held at a later date within seven days. If there is any question mark over the integrity of the poll, a fresh poll may be ordered.
The Constitution provides that Dáil, Seanad and presidential elections must be by proportional representation with a single transferable vote. Attempts to amend the Constitution to provide otherwise were rejected in 1959 and 1968.
The country is divided into multi-seat constituencies of between three and five seats for Dáil elections and European Union elections. In the presidential election, there is a single national constituency. The voter indicates preference by indicating numbering. Other means of expressing a preference may be accepted.
Ballot boxes are taken to the central counting points for each constituency. The count takes place on the days after the election. If there have been two elections, the separate coloured ballot sheets must be separated. Counts, once commenced, continue constantly except for nighttime adjournment.
Candidates or their agents may attend the counting of the votes. A number of agents may be allowed. Agents are given facilities to enable them to satisfy themselves that the ballot papers have been correctly sorted.
There are special provisions in relation to the opening of postal votes. They are opened at the count centre. The candidate’s agents may be present. This is separate to the general count.
The opening of ballot boxes takes place in the presence of agents. A reconciliation is made between the number of ballot papers issued at the station and the numbers appearing. Ballots are then mixed and sorted into votes.
A vote may be invalidated if it does not bear the official mark. A vote from which it is not possible to discern a first preference is spoiled. Any mark which is intended to give effect to a preference may be accepted. It must be put after the relevant name or otherwise near a candidate’s name.
A ballot on which anything is written or marked apart from the preference, which is calculated to identify the voter, in the returning officer’s opinion, is invalid. The returning officer must reject votes he deems invalid.
The quota in the constituency is calculated by dividing the total valid poll by the number of candidates plus one plus one; ((poll/(candidate +1)) +1 In normal course, preferences are indicated on a ballot, and it becomes transferable. A ballot mark with number “1” , “” X” or another indication of preference is non-transferable.
A candidate who reaches the quota on a count is elected. Where all other candidates are eliminated and there remains only the number of candidates as there are unfilled seats, then those candidates are deemed elected. That may be deemed elected where he has votes greater than the remaining candidates plus undistributed surpluses.
When a candidate is elected, his surplus votes are distributed. All of the votes are examined, and the transferable ones are arranged in accordance with the next preference. If the surplus is less than the number of transferable votes, they are transferred proportionately in accordance with the size of the surplus on the first count.
In later counts, the votes are made up of the first preferences and transferred votes. In this case, the votes in the bundles of transfers last received are examined and distributed proportionately.
Where more than one candidate exceeds the quota, the larger surplus is first distributed. If there is no surplus or the surplus may not elect the remaining one of the remaining candidates, affect the count (or issues as to expenses, etc.), the lowest remaining candidate is eliminated. His or her ballot papers are distributed according to the next preference.
More than two candidates may be eliminated where their total vote and any untransferred surplus are less than the votes of the next highest candidate. This is provided that they could not attain one-quarter of a quota (and obtain re-election expense reimbursement). When all other candidates have been eliminated, the remaining candidates are elected.
A recount does not involve a fresh count and mixing of ballot papers. The existing count and bundles are checked. A candidate or election agent may request a re-examination or recount. The returning officer may grant a recount. The returning officer may recount at his own initiative. The decision of the returning officer may only be challenged in an election petition to the High Court.
After completion of the count, the counted ballots are separated from other papers, sealed and forwarded to the Clerk of the Dáil. They are retained for six months and may only be inspected in the context of a High Court petition. After six months, they are destroyed.