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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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The people in charge of the referendum are confident this ballot paper won't confuse you

That’s despite a very similar ballot paper confusing voters during the Seanad referendum two years ago.

A sample of the ballot paper for the same-sex marriage referendum.
A sample of the ballot paper for the same-sex marriage referendum.
Image: Referendum Commission

THE REFERENDUM COMMISSION is confident that ballot papers for the two referendums taking place on 22 May, on same-sex marriage and the age of presidential candidates, will not confuse voters.

This is despite the ballot papers being similar to those which were found to have confused some voters during the Seanad abolition and Court of Appeal referendums in October 2013.

On that occasion, the commission found in subsequent polling that 13 per cent of those surveyed who said they voted Yes in in the Seanad referendum actually wanted to retain the upper house, while six per cent who said they voted No actually wanted to abolish it.

Referendum on Abolition of the Seanad Vo Ballot papers for the Court of Appeal and Seanad referendums in 2013 Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Despite having recommended at the time that the government consider a review of how ballot papers are designed, the commission said today it is confident there should be no confusion this time around.

Commission chair Justice Kevin Cross admitted that the commission does not have any say over the design of the papers but added:

We are happy that there should be no confusion because one ballot paper is green and one is white and people can vote Yes or No to these referendums and the issues in these referendums are, we think, from a legal point of view, very straight forward.

On 22 May, voters will be asked to vote Yes or No on the proposal to legalise same-sex marriage and to vote Yes or No on the proposal the lower the age at which a person can run for president from 35 to 21.

These are the ballot papers that voters will be given:

referendums ballot papers Sample ballot papers for the two referendums taking place on 22 May. Source: Referendum Commission

Cross said that for the first time the commission is including sample ballot papers in its referendums guide being distributed to households across the country.

He said this guide also contains explanations of the proposals being put to voters.

He repeatedly insisted that voters should not be confused by the ballot papers on this occasion although acknowledged that the design of the ballot papers is not within the commission’s remit as they must be, by law, designed a certain way.

Cross also rejected clams that voters were confused by the ballot papers last time, saying this had been only “anecdotal evidence”. He added:

People certainly did say that they took a longtime to understand how they were voting, but I’m not sure whether it ultimately made any difference.

The Referendum Commission said it plans an extensive media advertising campaign to explain the proposals and urging people to vote.

Cross also encouraged people who may be uncertain as to whether or not they can vote to visit checktheregister.ie, saying they have until 5 May to register to vote, if they are not on the register.

A budget of €2.7 million has been allocated between the two referendums, lower than the €3.3 million that was provided for the referendums to abolish the Seanad and establish a Court of Appeal in October 2013.

October 2013: ‘We don’t really simplify things that are straightforward’: Ballot papers cause confusion

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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