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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 26 June, 2019
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It's polling day: Here's your guide to voting in today's elections, referendum and plebiscites

Ireland goes to the polls on four different issues between 7am and 10pm today.

Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE BIG DAY is here.

After weeks of canvassing, Ireland is set to go to the polls to vote for new Members of European Parliament and local councillors.

As well as this, voters across the country will be asked whether or not they want to reduce the amount of time people in Ireland have to live apart before they can get a divorce.

And if that wasn’t enough, those in Cork, Limerick and Waterford will be asked to consider whether they want to vote for a directly elected mayor.

A lot of people will have already decided who they’re voting for, but for anyone who’s unsure, we’ve asked European hopefuls in each of Dublin, Midlands North West and Ireland South a list of big questions.

We’ve also compiled a quick guide to the referendum on divorce here.

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

When do the polls open?

Polls will 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 help.

There’s usually a rush in the morning and evening on polling day, as people go to vote before or after work, so you might want to prepare for that if you’re planning on voting then.

People are also being urged not to wait too late to vote. Strictly speaking, once you get to your polling station a minute before 10pm, you’ll still be able to cast your vote.

Just be prepared for a possible last-minute rush too.

Can I vote?

To vote in the local and European elections you must be: (a) an Irish or EU citizen, (b) 18 years of age or older, and (c) registered to vote.

If you’re an EU citizen but not from Ireland, you can only vote in the European elections here if you’re not already voting in your home country.

Only Irish citizens over the age of 18 who are registered can vote in the referendum on divorce.

And to vote in the plebiscite on directly elected mayors, you must be registered to vote in Cork County Council, Limerick County Council or Waterford City and County Council.

If you are registered, you should have received your polling card by now. It looks like this:

Polling card

If you haven’t received a voting card, you’ll have to check if you’re registered to vote.

Visit CheckTheRegister.ie to do this, and contact your local council if you don’t appear there – they can confirm whether or not you’ll be on the list for your constituency.

Do I need to bring anything to the polling station?

Bring your polling card if you have it, because this will make the process of voting easier for you and the staff at the polling station.

You also have to bring ID with you, which 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

In the event that you don’t have a polling card, bring some form of ID instead and, ideally, proof of your address.

Any of the following with documentation can be used as proof of address:

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

However, if you feel particularly strongly about one candidate or an outcome in the divorce referendum, make sure you don’t bring anything showing your support with you.

Canvassing is banned within 50 metres of a polling station, and is considered an offence. While it’s up to the presiding officer as to what they consider “campaigning”, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You should also note that the polling station is a no-camera-phone zone, so taking a photo of what you’re doing isn’t a good idea and could lead to a fine and or spoiling your vote (but more on that later).

What does the ballot paper look like?

For the local and European elections, the ballot papers will look like this:

Sample Ballot Source: Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

You take this with you into one of the voting booths to fill it out.

To do this, put a number beside each candidate in order of preference, starting with a number 1, then 2, 3 and so on.

However, there are different ways to approach this. Generally speaking, you’re supposed to fill out the ballot paper marking the candidates in order of preference.

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.

A full guide to the Irish electoral system of Proportional Representation (PR)/Single Transferable Vote (STV) can be read here.

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

For the referendum on divorce and plebiscite and directly elected mayors, the ballot paper will look like this:

Ballot paper Source: Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

This one is more straightforward. In the divorce referendum, if you want to reduce the amount of time a couple has to wait to get a divorce, put an X in the box next to Yes.

If you don’t want to reduce the amount of time a couple has to wait to get a divorce, put an X in the box next to No.

In the event of a Yes vote, the existing Article 41.3.2(i) would be removed. The government would then have to introduce legislation that would serve a similar function.

The laws currently planned by Fine Gael would reduce the time frame to two of the previous three years, rather than four out of the previous five years.

A No vote would keep the Constitution as it is.

In the plebiscite on directly elected mayors, if you want your council area to directly elect a mayor with executive functions for a five-year term, put an X in the box next to yes.

If you want to continue the system whereby mayors are elected for a one-year term by other councillors, put an X in the box next to No.

If the proposal is accepted by a majority of voters in a council’s area, the Minister for Housing will submit a report to the Oireachtas with proposals for the election of mayor by the people of that area.

Regardless of how you’re deciding to vote in either the elections, the referendum or the plebiscite, more than anything, 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 in the local and European elections, or an X next to your preferred outcome in the referendum and plebiscite.

You will also spoil your vote if you simply don’t fill the paper out at all, or if you fill it out incorrectly.

In the case of the two elections, 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.

What happens after the polls close?

Officially, nothing will happen until tomorrow morning.

There’ll be a good indication of the results of the European and local elections and the divorce referendum before midnight, when RTÉ and TG4 announce the result of their Red C exit poll.

David McCullagh and Páidí Ó Lionaird will announce the results of the poll live on The Late Late Show, and we’ll cover that as it happens on TheJournal.ie.

Exit polls have been largely accurate here before, so it should give a good indication of how the country has voted.

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

Further results and a breakdown of the polls will also be released on RTÉ and TG4′s website from 9am tomorrow, and will also be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1′s Vote 2019.

When will we know the results?

It’s difficult to say really. Counting starts at 9am tomorrow when ballot boxes are opened – but the papers for each election, the referendum and plebiscite have to be separated first.

We’ll be starting a liveblog here on TheJournal.ie before that starts, and keep you updated as the first results start to filter in.

The first papers to be counted will be those for local elections and referendum, which will begin to be counted from Saturday.

Local election results from different parts of the country will most likely start emerging tomorrow, with the majority becoming known on Sunday – although final results may not be confirmed until next week.

Similarly, there’ll likely be a good indication of which way the referendum result will go by Saturday (unless the vote is close), with a final result probably emerging by Saturday night or Sunday.

In the case of the European elections, results won’t start to be counted until 9am on Sunday.

That’s because European elections are taking place across the EU this weekend, and results can’t be announced until votes have been cast in every country to avoid any chance of skewing how people in different Member States will vote.

Because of this, any results won’t be announced until at least 10pm on Sunday night, when polls officially close across the continent.

Most of the results from Ireland should become available by Monday, although tight races may mean this extends further into next week.

Finally, counts for the plebiscite votes in Cork, Limerick and Waterford are only expected to start on Monday, and it’ll probably be sometime next week before we know the results.

What happens next?

In the referendum and plebiscite, whether anything happens at all depends on the two votes.

If the No side wins in the referendum, the constitution won’t change, while if it wins in the plebiscites, councillors will still elect a mayor for a one-year term in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

A Yes vote in either case won’t mean any overnight change either.

The government still has to pass legislation on lowering the waiting time for divorce or directly elected mayors, both of which would take time to draft and pass through the Oireachtas.

Following the results of the European Parliament elections, new MEPs will negotiate new political groupings for the parliament next month, and the composition of these will be announced on 24 June.

Members will then take their seats for the inaugural session of the 9th term of the parliament on 2 July.

Meanwhile, elected county councillors come into office a week after polling day – so the next term of office will last from 31 May until seven days after the next vote is held in 2024.

Whatever happens, we’ll keep you updated across the weekend here on TheJournal.ie - so stay tuned!

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