Only 191 prisoners out of 4,500 register to vote in jail
Published 08/02/2011 | 05:00
SPECIAL arrangements have been made to allow prisoners to cast their votes in the general election.
But only 191 inmates out of a total prison population of 4,500 have bothered to ensure that their names are on the register of electors.
They won't enjoy the pleasures of candidates knocking on their doors or endless literature being stuffed into their letter boxes.
But the authorities are making every effort to keep them informed of political developments outside of the prison walls. Arriving at the prison, each offender is handed a poster advertising details of postal voting arrangements and an explanation of their voting entitlements under the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2006.
At the last general election in May 2007 a total of 12pc of prisoners voted for the first time from behind bars.
Leaflets compiled by officials from the prisons and the Department of the Environment are also widely available in all jails as well as a stock of ballot application forms.
Prisoners have access to newspapers, radio and TV to keep up to date on current affairs while educational facilities in the jails are also used to increase awareness of developments.
A group of governors attended a workshop on developing a strategy to promote increased voter participation and this is currently in operation.
Intending voters must be able to establish they were resident in the State before being imprisoned. Steps have also been taken to guarantee the confidentiality of the ballot box with prison censors banned from examining envelopes containing voting papers.
Under the law it is a criminal offence if anybody takes, destroys, conceals or interferes with a ballot paper sent to a postal voter or attempts to find out which candidate received the vote from the prisoner.
Conviction on indictment of such crimes result in a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and a fine not exceeding €3,174.35. If an inmate with a postal vote is released from jail before polling day, the returning officer can re-address the envelope to the voter at his or her home address.