The Electoral provides for the establishment of the Electoral Commission,
which will conduct a range of electoral functions and oversee Ireland’s electoral system and processes.
The Commission initially comprises seven members – a chairperson who is a serving or retired senior court judge nominated by the Chief Justice, two ex officio members (the Clerk of the Dáil and the Ombudsman) and four ordinary members. The ordinary members are selected by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), recommended by Government and appointed by the President, following the passing of supporting resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The chairperson is appointed by the President, following the nomination of the Chief Justice. Arrangements for the pre-establishment designation of members are also provided for in this section.
The Minister acts as focal point for the process, instigating the selection process by writing to the PAS and agreeing with PAS general selection criteria, receiving from PAS the details of the candidates which they recommend for appointment and bringing these recommendations to Government.
The PAS selection process involves the conducting of an open, publicly advertised selection process which seeks candidates who fulfil the aforementioned general criteria, as well as, having skills and experience across a range of disciplines set out .The process ensures that the selection of candidates is effected independently of Government.
This Commission may request that its membership be expanded to a maximum of six ordinary members. Any additional skills and/or experience which the Commission sets out as being required of the membership in its request will then be additional to the list of the desired skills and experience which apply to future selection processes.
The length of term for ordinary members is defined as being a maximum of four years, with the possibility of serving a maximum of two terms. Where a member seeks re-appointment towards the end of their first term and the re-appointment is approved, it will not be necessary for them to participate in a selection competition or have their re-appointment endorsed via supporting motions from either House of the Oireachtas.
Removal from office where certain grounds apply is effected via the passing of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas recommending the removal. These grounds include failure without reasonable excuse to discharge the duties of the office; incapacity through ill health of performing their functions; stated misbehaviour; or that their removal is necessary for the effective and efficient performance by the Commission of its functions.
The Commission is required to meet not less than once every three months, with a quorum of four members. Subject to the Act, the Commission regulates its own procedures.
The chief executive is appointed by the Government, on the advice of PAS, following an open, independent selection process conducted by PAS. The Act describes the role of the chief executive and sets out their accountability to the Commission.
The Commission is to prepare a strategy statement not later than 6 months. This statement will cover the period from its preparation to the third anniversary of the Commission’s establishment. The Commission is to outline its progress on implementation of the applicable strategy statement in each annual report. The Act provides for the preparation and publication of succeeding strategy statements, each of which shall cover consecutive three-year periods.
The functions of the Commission,
The Electoral Reform Act 2022 transfers the functions of Referendum Commissions to the Commission. This entails the repeal of the Referendum Act and the restatement of the appropriate legislative provisions, amended to take account of their new organisational context.
The Commission’s functions are the preparation of statements explaining the subject matter of the proposal for referendums, the publication and distribution of these statements, and the promotion of public awareness of referendums and the encouragement of the public to vote at referendums.
Members of the Commission or its members are prohibited from advocating for or promoting a particular result at a referendum. The Commission has some free advertising on radio and television and exempts the Commission from the general prohibition on adverts which are directed towards a religious or political end, where such adverts are placed by the Commission relating to a referendum.
The Commission may declare bodies as ‘approved bodies’ in respect of particular referendums, Approved bodies may have representatives present:
- when postal ballot papers are being sent out and opened,
- at polling stations, and
- at the counting of the vote.
Referendum notices are to be published once the holding of a referendum is in train. The Commission has the power to request such supporting documentation as may be required from a body seeking designation as an approved body in order for the Commission to rule on the application.
Approved bodies may appoint agents in a similar manner as applies to members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann under the Referendum Act 1994, and as applies in respect of personation agents at General Elections.
The 2022 Act amends the Referendum Act 1994 in respect of the grounds for referendum petitions, which can be brought to the High Court questioning the validity of results. The amendments replace references to Referendum Commissions with references to the Commission. The Commission is to report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the performance of its functions in respect of each referendum under this Act within six months of the polling day.
Electoral Reform Act 2022 provides for the transfer of responsibility and functions relating to the oversight and maintenance of the Register of Political Parties from the Houses of the Oireachtas to the Commission.
The role of ‘Registrar of Political Parties’ is assigned to the chief executive of the Commission. The Registrar is independent in the performance of his or her duties.
Electoral Reform Act 2022 sets out the fundamentals of a political party making an application to be registered in the Register of Political Parties. It includes transitional provisions to address potential applications which are in process on the Commission’s establishment day. It provides for the inclusion of an emblem on a political party’s entry in the Register of Political Parties for use by candidates of the party on ballot papers and includes qualifying criteria for such emblems.
The Act sets out the requirements governing eligibility for registration on the Register of Political Parties. It sets out the acceptability criteria for the titles of political parties put forward for registration. It specifies the information which is entered in the Register of
Political Parties in respect of each registered political party.
There is provision for the addition in the Register of Political Parties of information concerning membership of European political groupings or European political parties, where a party is registered as a party organised to contest a European election or applies for such registration.
Electoral Reform Act 2022 provides the procedures which govern appeals to the Commission against the decision of the Registrar in respect of an application for registration, amendment of particulars entered in the Register of Political Parties or the cancellation of a party’s registration. Appeals are adjudicated on by the Commission’s membership (which is termed the Board of the Commission).
Individuals and political parties applying for registration, or the amendment of their registration must comply with requests for information (as may be reasonably required) from the Registrar for the performance of his/her duties. Registration of parties may only have an effect in respect of the type(s) of election for which they are registered. Where a party’s registration is only in respect of contesting such types of election in specified parts of the State, that the registration only has effect in relation to that part of the State.
The Registrar is to provide returning officers with a copy of the register no later than three days after the issuing of a writ/writs at a Dáil election.
Electoral Reform Act 2022 gives the Commission a function conducting research on electoral policy and procedure, promoting public awareness and participation in democratic processes and conducting reviews and reporting on the administration of electoral events.
The Commission is to conduct research on electoral policy and procedure, including on matters relating to its other functions. A research programme is prepared annually (in this regard.
The Commission has an advisory role to the Minister and Government in respect of proposals for legislative change, or any other policy matters relating to electoral policy or procedures. It provides that any such reports are to be published shortly after submission to Government.
The Commission a broad public education role, requiring that it promotes public awareness of, and increases public participation in, the State’s electoral and democratic processes via information and education campaigns. It reviews and reports on the administration of electoral events. It provides that such reports include information on the assistance provided to persons with disabilities under existing legislation.