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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018
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It's polling day: Here's everything you need to know about the next 48 hours

The chair of the Referendum Commission is urging people to “use your vote” today.

Presiding officer Carmel McBride looks on as votes are cast on Inishboffin yesterday.
Presiding officer Carmel McBride looks on as votes are cast on Inishboffin yesterday.
Image: Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA Images

SO TODAY’S THE day.

All the canvassing is over, and the Irish public will go to the polls today to decide whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Many of you will have made up your mind but, if you’re unsure of how to vote and have questions, we have answered many of them here.

We’ve had weeks of intense campaigning from both sides, and the chairperson of the Referendum Commission Ms Justice Isobel Kenney has strongly urged people to inform themselves and to “use your vote” today.

So, when can you vote? When will we know the result? What happens next? Let’s take a look.

When do the polls open?

The polls open at 7am this morning, and close at 10pm tonight. If you don’t know where your polling station is, its address will be on your polling card. If you don’t have one but are registered, your local council will be able to steer you in the right direction.

There’s often a morning and evening rush at the polling booths as people go to vote before or after work.

It may be sunny out there today, but people are being urged not to leave it too late. Strictly speaking, once you get to your polling station a minute before 10pm you’ll still be able to cast your vote. But beware the last-minute rush, too.

Do I need to bring anything to the polling station?

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

It’s a good idea to bring your polling card if you have it, as it makes the process of voting easier for you and the staff at the polling station.

If you don’t have it, you should definitely bring some form of ID instead and, ideally, proof of address.

One thing you shouldn’t bring is any campaign material. Canvassing is banned within 50 metres of a polling station, and is considered an offence.

So – if you have a Together for Yes badge, a Repeal jumper, a Love Both hoodie or a Save the 8th sticker – you should probably leave it at home.

Now, it’s actually up to the presiding officer as to what they consider “campaigning material”, but it’s probably best to be safe.

What does the ballot paper look like?

It looks like this:

original (6)

The whole debate has been about the Eighth Amendment, but don’t be put off that is says the “Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution”.

It’s fairly straightforward. If you want to repeal the Eighth, put an X in the box next to yes.

If you want to retain the Eighth, put an X in the box next to No.

In the event of a Yes vote, the existing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution - which contains the Eighth Amendment (right to life of the unborn), 13th Amendment (right to information about seeking a termination), and 14th Amendment (right to travel for a termination) – to be replaced with the line:

Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

So, what you’re voting on is this constitutional change, rather than the government’s planned legislation. If you want to know more about the government’s planned legislation in the event of a Yes vote, click here.

What happens after the polls close?

Well, officially, nothing happens until Saturday morning.

But we’ll have a very strong indication of the result of the referendum before midnight tonight, when RTÉ announces the result of its exit poll from Behaviour & Attitudes.

David McCullagh will announce the result live on The Late Late Show, and we will be covering it as it happens on TheJournal.ie.

Previous exit polls have been largely accurate, so it should give us a good indication of which it has gone.

So, before the nation goes to sleep this evening, we should have a very good idea of which way the referendum has gone.

And then the counting starts tomorrow morning?

It does.

The ballot boxes will be opened and counting begins at 9am.

We’ll be kickstarting a liveblog here on TheJournal.ie before the counting starts and keep you updated throughout the day as the results start to filter in.

There are count centres all over the country, so we should get initial results filtering through from late morning into afternoon. Here’s a list of the counting centres.

Dáil constituencies are used to organise the voting, so the results of the 40 constituencies will be added up to give the full vote. The returning officer for each centre has been appointed by the local city or county council.

Each set of results is sent to the national returning officer at Dublin Castle.

When will we know the result?

The final result will be declared from Dublin Castle, which was the setting for jubilant scenes on the day of the marriage equality referendum in 2015. (And, just like that day in May 2015, it’s set to be another warm, sunny day.)

Now, we didn’t have an official result in the marriage equality referendum until around 7pm – although we knew that it had passed a few hours prior.

We’ll likely know far sooner this time around, because last time out there were actually two votes to be counted (lowering the presidential age anyone?).

There’s a certain amount of guesswork here but it’s likely that results will start to come thick and fast from centres around the country from midday onwards. By 1-2pm, it’s likely that there’ll be a clear result, albeit not an official one.

The official announcement from Dublin Castle will most likely be around 4pm, or just afterwards.

And what happens afterwards then?

That obviously depends on the result. If the No side wins, then the constitution doesn’t change.

If it is a Yes vote, though, things still do not change overnight.

The government still has to pass the legislation it said it would in the event of a yes vote, which includes the provision of legalised access to abortion up to 12 weeks in all circumstances.

That would take a period of time to pass through the Oireachtas, and then the necessary arrangements would need to put in place to be able to provide abortions.

In all likelihood, in the event of a Yes vote, being able to procure an abortion legally under the government’s proposed legislation will not be possible until the end of this year at the very earliest.

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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