Wednesday 21 March 2018

Calls to lower voting age to 17

The Government was urged today to lower the voting age for Dail elections by a year to 17.

The recommendation was among a raft of proposals drawn-up to reform the electoral system, including having voting take place at weekends over two days.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution also suggested by-elections should be held within six months of a seat becoming vacant, but said there should be no change to the number of TDs.

Jim O'Keeffe, vice-chairman of the committee, said the current system could be significantly improved.

"Over the course of our deliberations we considered a broad body of evidence from academic experts with specialised knowledge of electoral systems, parliamentarians, advocacy groups and other interested persons, together with evidence of international best practice in electoral administration," Mr O'Keeffe said.

The Fine Gael TD said the changes could be introduced immediately.

Key reforms include:

:: Voting age for Dail elections be lowered from 18 to 17;

:: Voting takes place at weekends over two consecutive days;

:: A minimum constituency of four seats, but three would do in certain constituencies because of size;

:: A Citizens' Assembly to review the working of the current system of Proportional Representation using a Single Transferable Vote and to recommend changes, if needed.

The Government has faced criticisms from the opposition for failing to announce a date for three by-elections.

Dublin South has been free since the resignation of Fine Gael TD George Lee, Donegal South West since Pat "The Cope" Gallagher went to Europe last June, and Waterford has been vacant since Martin Cullen resigned in March.

Parties will also have to show what they are doing to ensure a more even balance of men and women within their ranks.

The committee said the electoral registration process in Northern Ireland be used as a model of best practice in designing and implementing the new voter registration system.

Press Association

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