Thursday 20 June 2019

'There was always only one ballot box' - government officials insists no other way to run multiple votes

Huge delays in counts starting as ballot papers had to be sorted

Military staff move European election votes from Shelbourne Hall in the RDS to Simmonscourt for counting. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Military staff move European election votes from Shelbourne Hall in the RDS to Simmonscourt for counting. Picture; Gerry Mooney
John Downing

John Downing

THE first half of this election count day was taken up with sorting and separating out three – and in some cases even four – ballot papers.

Once separated, in many cases, papers were then transported to different count centres to be officially counted.  The European Parliament election ballot papers were rather large in all three constituencies – in the case of the Ireland South Constituency, with 23 candidates, the ballot paper was almost two feet long.

Counting continued in these council, European Parliament elections, and in the divorce referendum, and the plebiscites about directly-elected mayors for the cities and counties of Waterford and Limerick and the city of Cork.

Counting in the European Parliament elections does not begin until Sunday morning.  And to stay in line with voting and results cannot be announced until later on Sunday night.

Away from the hubbub of the count centres there was some discussion about how long this should take.

We asked “the election police” at the Department of Local Government if there was a better and quicker way.

General Scenes at the Local and European Elections and divorce referendum counts in the RDS, Dublin.
Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
General Scenes at the Local and European Elections and divorce referendum counts in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

* Would time have been spared by having separate ballot boxes from the very start at the polling stations? Does that mean we need more ballot boxes?

* And does not all this moving about increase the risk of mishaps like ballots going astray – or even the risk of some form interference with the democratic process?

The answers to both questions were a straight and strong “No” and “No.”

The Local Government Department spokesman was adamant:

“There has always only been one ballot box per polling booth used. That is even where there is more than one vote being held on the same day,” the official told Independent.ie

“Having separate boxes for different issues or elections raises the risk of ballots going astray by being put in the wrong box. 

"It is not a question of us not having enough ballot boxes – in fact on this occasion we have a whole new range of boxes for these elections,” the official added.

The Local Government spokesman also said that transferring ballots to various count centres was done for a good reason – mainly to ensure all ballots for a particular council are counted under the one roof.  The European Parliament votes are counted in one central point for each of the three constituencies:  Ireland South in Cork; Midlands North West in Castlebar and Dublin in Dublin.

“There is tight security surrounding the transport and storing of ballots,” the official added.

On the length of those Euro ballot papers – the official said there was no real choice.

“Trying to shrink the ballot paper raises the risk of each candidate not getting the same treatment,” the official said.

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