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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 21 March, 2019
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Here's your guide to voting in the presidential election and blasphemy referendum

What, when, where – and a bit of who and which, if you need help with that as well.

90263144_90263144 Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

YOU’LL BE ABLE to exercise a bit of democracy at your local polling station today.

The presidential election and blasphemy referendum are both taking place – although there’s noticeably less anticipation than the last time we went to the polling booth for the Eighth Amendment referendum back in May.

Maybe you’re just as ready and eager to vote, maybe you’re still undecided, or maybe you only remembered it was happening when the polling card came through your letterbox – regardless of where you stand, this is the guide to make sure you know how, when, and where to vote.

Make sure you're registered to vote.

Visit CheckTheRegister.ie to make sure you’re registered to vote.

If your details don’t appear, contact your local council.

You must be over the age of 18, and since this is a referendum and presidential election, only Irish citizens are eligible to vote.

Find your polling station and get there by 10pm.

The location of your polling station will be written on your polling card. If you haven’t received a polling card – and it’s not necessary to have, as long as you’re definitely registered - your local council will be able to guide you.

It will also appear under your details on CheckTheRegister.ie.

Polls opened at 7am and close at 10pm.

The rules state that if you’re in the door before 10pm, you’ll be allowed to vote.

Be warned, there is sometimes a last-minute rush.

Bring ID even if you have your polling card

 Here’s what is accepted as ID:

  • A passport
  • A driving licence
  • An employee identity card containing a photograph
  • A student identity card issued by an educational institution and containing a photograph
  • A travel document containing name and photograph
  • A bank, saving or credit union book containing address in the constituency or local electoral area (where appropriate)
  • A Public Services Card

The following accompanied by a further document which establishes the address of the holder in the constituency or local electoral area are also accepted: a cheque book, a cheque card, a credit card, a birth certificate, a marriage certificate.

Bring your polling card – but you might still be randomly asked for ID.

We also recommend bringing proof of address. It’s not vital, but will help speed things along if there’s any confusion or issue with the information the polling station has about you.

Be careful with campaign material and clothing

This isn’t as pressing an issue as it was during the Eighth Amendment referendum.

Candidates, their agents, party workers, electors (that’s you) and personation agents are allowed to wear party emblems as long as they are not “unduly obstructive or offensive”.

However, what is classed as a party emblem, and in what manner it could be considered unduly obstructive or offensive, isn’t well-defined, so don’t go too crazy.

90239342_90239342 David Norris casts his vote (presumably for himself) in the 2011 presidential election - with his campaign badge visible, which is the type of party emblem allowed. Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

It’s up to the discretion of the presiding officer. If there’s an issue, you may be asked to cover the offending item up, or another arrangement put in place to allow you and others to vote quickly and easily.

This is minor compared to full-on canvassing, described as leafleting, displaying posters, or using a loudspeaker. This is not allowed within 50 metres of a polling station, and you could be arrested for it. Don’t do it.

Stay quiet, and put your phone away.

Similar to the above rule, this is open to interpretation and a bit of leeway.

You can talk to staff, but avoid speaking to other voters. This is most important at the polling booth. It might be an innocent conversation, but polling station staff have a duty to make sure people are able to vote with ease and without interference, and to ensure no canvassing is taking place.

Photography is prohibited in polling stations so just put your phone away until you leave. No selfies, alright?

There are a lot of supports for people with disabilities.

There is a wide range of supports available for anyone with a disability to make sure you can vote as easily as possible.

We recommend you visit this page of Citizens Information - it runs through a full range of options, and if you have further questions, contact the Franchise Section of the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government on 01 888 2000 or
lo-call 1890 20 20 21. You can also email qcsofficer@housing.gov.ie

Wait, hang on, what exactly am I voting on?

There are two votes taking place – the presidential election and the blasphemy referendum.

You will be given two separate ballot papers.

If you only want to vote in one of the two, just ask for the relevant paper.

voting 877_90545850 Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Once you have the ballot papers – and make sure they’ve been stamped by the polling centre staff – head to a booth as directed, and fill in your vote as described below.

Fold the ballot paper, and place it in a ballot box as advised by a member of the polling station staff.

The presidential election

This is the ballot paper you will receive for the presidential election.

Sample ballot paper for presidential election Source: https://www.presidentialelection.ie

Click here to see a larger version

Mark the ballot paper with a number in each box, in order of preference, from one to six. 

Do not write anything else on the ballot paper or your vote may be considered spoilt and won’t be counted – of course, if that was your intention, work away.

We have an in-depth explainer here on how Ireland’s system of proportional representation with a single transferable vote (PR-STV) works (in this case it’s technically the Alternative Vote (AV) system but let’s not even get into that right now), but that’s a big, complicated term, so  here’s a quick summary:

  • By listing the candidates by preference, you are instructing that your vote be transferred to your second preference if your first choice is either elected with a surplus of votes over the quota, or is eliminated.
  • If your second choice is elected or eliminated, your vote may be transferred to your third choice, and so on.
  • You can order some or all candidates or stop at just one.
  • If there’s someone you really DON’T want to see elected, it’s best to give preferences to everyone but them.

The blasphemy referendum

This is the ballot paper you will receive for the blasphemy referendum.

Sample ballot paper for the referendum

Click here to view a larger version

The government has proposed altering Article 40.6.1(i) of the Constitution. It reads as follows – the only relevant word is the one we’ve highlighted in bold:

The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality:–
The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions.
The education of public opinion being, however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

A Yes vote would remove this word. A No vote would retain it.

The Oireachtas and the laws it creates are guided by the Constitution, and so the offence of blasphemy must be legislated for if it’s in the Constitution. 

You’ll find it in the Defamation Act 2009, and is an offence for which you can be fined up to €25,000. There is no prison sentence, and a possible defence is if a “reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value” in the matter.

For this, use an X, not a number. Do not write anything else – just one X in the relevant box.

If you want to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, place an X in the Yes box.

If you want to retain the offence of blasphemy in the Constitution, place an X in the No box.

Undecided? We can help with that

Don’t worry – we can help with that.

We have in-depth interviews with each of the six presidential candidates – click a name to listen back on Soundcloud:

Point 11

We’re still waiting on confirmation of which count will take place first.

In 2011, counting began in the presidential election on Saturday morning, the result obvious by early afternoon, and officially declared on Sunday afternoon. Counting then began in the two referendums also held on that day, and a result was known by Sunday evening.

This time around, one candidate is currently far ahead of the others in the opinion polls (RTÉ and The Irish Times are both publishing exit polls on Friday night which will help confirm whether or not that is still the case), so a result is possible relatively early on the Saturday.

If a candidate reaches the halfway mark before all votes are counted – so 50% of the vote plus one single vote – they are deemed elected.

Depending on whether or not that happens, a result in the referendum is likely either late Saturday or early Sunday.

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About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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