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Here's the great TheJournal.ie guide to voting in an Irish election

Everything you ever wanted to know about voting, but were too afraid to ask…

4/10/2013 Seanad Referendums Campaigns Source: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

THE BIG DAY is finally upon us.

Today, all those registered to vote in the Republic of Ireland get to cast their vote and have their say on what direction they want the country to take next.

Will the outgoing coalition get another shot at running things? Or will it be all change? Only time will tell.

But for those of you haven’t voted before, or who have just registered for the first time the whole process may be something of a mystery. Not to worry, we’re here with a quick guide to making your voice count in the general election 2016.

vote or die

First things first

To vote in an Irish election you must be: (a) an Irish or British citizen, (b) 18 years of age or older, and (c) registered to vote.

To start with, assuming you have received no voting card you’ll have to make sure you’re registered to vote. You can do so online at this link. If you can’t find yourself there, not to worry. You may be on a supplementary register, or your registration may not yet have been updated.

Give your local authority a ring if you’re not sure – they should be able to confirm whether or not you’re on the list for your constituency.

Assuming you are registered, you should have received your polling card by now. It’ll look like this:

vote2

This will tell you what polling centre you’ve been assigned to.

Polls will open today from 7am until 10pm this evening. You can cast your vote any time at your centre between those hours.

You don’t need your polling card to vote, although it certainly won’t do any harm – it makes life a lot easier for those working in the polling centre for starters as the card displays your electoral number.

Identification

However, not having it is not an impediment to voting. On the other hand you ARE required to bring appropriate identification with you (although you may not necessarily be asked for it). That can be any of the following:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • An employee identity card with photograph
  • Student identity card with photograph
  • Any other travel document with photograph
  • Bank / Credit Union book with address
  • A public services card

Or any of the following with documentation establishing the address of the holder in the constituency (so, a bank statement or bill for example)

  • A cheque book
  • A cheque card
  • A credit card
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate

What to do

Once the people in the polling centre are happy that you are in fact who you say you are they’ll issue you with your ballot paper proper.

This will look a little something like this:

ballot Source: Vote.ie

Head into one of the voting booths provided and fill it out. This involves putting a number beside each candidate in order of preference, starting with a number “1″, then “2″, “3″ and so on. There are different ways to approach this as you might imagine.

Generally speaking, fill out the candidates in order of preference, and if you really DON’T want a certain candidate to get in then you should leave their name unmarked entirely. Otherwise they may inadvertently end up inheriting your vote, as unlikely as that may seem. We have a full guide to the Irish electoral system of Proportional Representation (PR)/Single Transferable Vote (STV) here. This particular system is quite rare – Ireland and Malta are the only countries which currently use it.

Once you’re finished, fold your ballot paper and put it in the box provided.

If you’re unsure about who to vote for, you can try consulting TheJournal.ie‘s candidate database, or use a vote guidance system like Smartvote. Or you could simply vote for whoever you think looks nicest. All approaches are (unfortunately) equally valid – but if you don’t attend your voting centre you get no say whatsoever. So be sure to get out there.

23/5/2014. Voting Begins Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

What not to do

Above all, you want to avoid spoiling your vote. This generally involves putting any mark on the ballot paper that isn’t a number adjacent to a candidate’s face. You will also spoil your vote if you simply don’t fill the paper out at all, or if you fill it out incorrectly. Also marking the voting boxes in any way other than with sequential numbers starting with one will render the ballot invalid, as will submitting a paper that hasn’t been given an official stamp by the polling officer.

We were initially under the impression that should you mark your paper in such a way your vote is gone – but it seems that is not always the case.

Should you require a second ballot paper having spoiled or otherwise marked your first, the decision on whether or not to do so is “at the discretion” of the individual polling station presiding officer. This is more likely to happen in cases of a genuine mistake being made. Still though, it makes most sense to get it right first time round. Once you’ve posted a ballot to the ballot box there are no comebacks, so take your time and make sure you’re voting as you would wish.

As you might imagine, the polling station is a no-camera-phone zone. So taking a photo of what you’re doing isn’t a good idea – it could lead to a fine and or spoiling your vote.

And once you’ve spent your two minutes voting, your job as a good citizen is over and done with. Until the next election anyway. Time to sit back and spend the weekend poring over the results – the first counts from the various constituencies will be in at around 2pm on Saturday afternoon. As always, we’ll be here to keep you up to date with all the counts, tallies and general brouhaha from the various count centres around the country.

Happy voting one and all.

Read: Last poll: Fine Gael and Labour could be within touching distance of re-election

Read: AS IT HAPPENED: Politicians scramble for last few votes before broadcast ban

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