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Changes to voting systems considered by Constitutional Convention

ALLOWING voting for a local Dail candidate without affecting overall party strengths is among electoral changes being considered by the Constitutional Convention, it was revealed.

The proportional representation system known as mixed member voting is used in Germany and New Zealand and elects a set of members by geographical constituency rather than party. The member's seat would not affect the overall party composition of the legislature, decided by a second vote, but could give local factors greater prominence.

Party strengths are crucial to forming a coalition government.

Tom Arnold, the Convention's chairman, said: "I am pleased that this weekend was conducted in a fair and transparent manner which allowed all members to make their views on Dail electoral reform known. The result of the ballot this weekend will inform the discussion for our next meeting in June."

The Convention has decided to focus on amendments to the existing Dail electoral system and a separate mixed member system at its next meeting in June.

A total of 69% of Convention members, made up of politicians and citizens, voted for a mixed member system. In most models the voter casts two votes, one for a constituency representative and one for a party. It means electors can opt for the person they prefer as their local politician without affecting the party make up of the legislature, which is reflective of the second, party vote.

At present many people vote on party label, which can leave alternative voices with less prospect of winning election.

Compulsory voting is among other measures being considered by the Convention to improve turn out at Dail elections. Other possibilities include alterations in constituency sizes or the number of TDs.

Turnout in the February 2011 Dail election was 70%, with 2.2 million first preference votes cast.

Mr Arnold added: "I would like to thank all the participants for their focused contributions throughout the weekend. Particularly, I would like to thank the expert panel and advocacy groups who explained the issues in a clear and understandable fashion."

"The work of the Convention will resume on the second weekend in June when the Convention members will focus their attention on possible amendments to our current Dail electoral system.

"I look forward to continuing this process of citizen engagement with a view to making clear recommendations to Government on the issue."

PA Media