Friday 23 March 2018

How to make the most out of your vote

Dr Theresa Reidy

THE Constitution states that the president of Ireland is elected using proportional representation by the single transferable vote (PR-STV).

The electoral system is the mechanism used to convert votes into seats at elections.

The voting rules at presidential elections are quite restrictive and only Irish citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to vote. The same is true for each referendum.

When you arrive at the polling station, you will be presented with a ballot paper with the names of the seven candidates on it. Voters will be asked to rank candidates in order of their choice.

You may vote number '1' for your preferred candidate and no more if desired. However, you may choose to vote all the way from one to seven. You may decide on any combination in between one and seven.

The major benefit of the system is that it is accessible for voters, who rank candidates in order of their preference. If your preferred candidate does not perform well and is eliminated, your vote has a continued life if you have expressed a second preference for another candidate.

This is the 13th occasion that the position of president has become vacant, but this will only be the seventh election. As a result, many of us are unfamiliar with the process.

Counting will take place at count centres around the country tomorrow and Saturday. The first thing which will occur is that the quota (number of votes needed to be elected) will be calculated. The president of Ireland must reach 50pc + 1 of the total valid votes cast.

Votes are sorted by preference and counted in all of the constituencies across the country. The results are communicated to the central count centre in Dublin Castle where the quota is calculated by the returning officer, Riona Ni Fhlanghaile.

In the 1990 presidential election, the quota was 787,326 votes and in 1997 the quota was 634,919 votes. With such a large number of votes required to be elected, it is unlikely that any candidate will reach the quota on the first count. At that point, the returning officer will instruct centres across the country to eliminate the candidate with the lowest votes.

The second preference on each ballot of the eliminated candidate is checked and transferred to the candidate given the number '2' vote on the ballots.

Once this process has been completed in every constituency and the results communicated to the returning officer in Dublin, she will then announce the next step.

If no candidate has reached the quota, the next lowest candidate will be eliminated.

This process will be repeated until one candidate reaches the quota and is elected president of Ireland.

Dr Theresa Reidy is a lecturer in the Department of Govern-ment at University College Cork

Irish Independent

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