Tuesday 24 October 2017

New ballot paper fuels speculation that early general election will be called

Poles are voting in a tight presidential election run-off
Poles are voting in a tight presidential election run-off

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Voters at the next election will be benefit from a new, more simple ballot paper, following changes agreed at Cabinet today.

To eliminate or at least minimise voter confusion, the Government agreed changes to the new ballot paper. Following widespread complaints about confusing ballot papers, the new more simplified papers should be in place in time for the upcoming General Election.

At the General Election in 2011, 22,817 votes were spoilt or deemed invalid.

The bringing of the new paper has fuelled speculation that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, is preparing to call an early general election.

Proposed new ballot paper
Proposed new ballot paper

At present, political party emblems are placed along the left-hand side of the ballot paper.

In the case of ‘non-party’ candidates the space for the emblem is required to be left blank.

“It is reported that some voters express their voting preferences by placing their marks in these boxes in the left-hand column.  While it is understood that such marks may not necessarily make a ballot paper invalid the Minister is of the view that any potential confusion should be eliminated where possible,” a Department of the Environment statement said.

Following on from a review, Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s department also consulted with the National Adult Literacy Association and with the National Council for the Blind in the review of the Dáil election ballot paper.

“The revised form of the ballot paper should help voters to avoid misplacing voting preferences and it should be more user friendly for voters with visual and literacy difficulties,” the statement added.

The main change proposed is to move the space for including the emblem of a political party from the left-hand side of the ballot paper to a new location to the left of the photograph.  There will therefore be no boxes along the left-hand side of the ballot paper.

Current form of ballot paper
Current form of ballot paper

“This should help voters avoid misplacing voting preferences as there is only one box that can be marked for each candidate after voters have read across, from left to right, all of the information on each candidate,” said the statement.

“In addition italics and parentheses will be removed from the front of the ballot paper and the wording on the back of the ballot paper and the counterfoil will be in both Irish and English. Arrangements will now be made for the necessary legislative drafting of the amendment to be completed,” it added.

The debate on the Bill is expected to commence in the Dáil before the end of October  and continue into  November. “I hope that the changes proposed will receive the support of all members of the Oireachtas and

I look forward to the new format of the ballot paper being used at the next general election,” Mr Kelly said.

The Minister committed to a review of the ballot paper in the Dáil last April. At that time concerns were raised about voters misplacing their marks on the ballot paper.

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