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'Day of the week didn't cause low turnout,' insists TD who backs weekend voting

Alan Farrell hopes to introduce legislation that would see all elections and referenda held on weekends or rest days and insists he has not been deterred by Saturday’s low turnout.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE LOW TURNOUT in the children’s referendum was not because the poll was held on a Saturday, a Fine Gael TD who strongly supports weekend voting has insisted.

Alan Farrell says that the turnout of 33.5 per cent has “not in the slightest” deterred him from pressing ahead with his plans to introduce legislation that would see all elections and referenda held on rest days.

“I was a little disappointed to hear a couple of cabinet ministers saying they would have to look at it again,” he told TheJournal.ie today in reference to weekend voting after the low turnout in the referendum which was passed by a smaller than expected margin.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that while the government was conscious that Saturday voting was “relatively new” it would have to be looked at again.

Gilmore told RTÉ Radio: “It may well be that people’s voting pattern works better with their working pattern than it does with the routine families have on a Saturday.”

Even those within Farrell’s own party are sceptical of weekend voting with Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan tweeting yesterday: “I don’t think we’ll see Saturday voting again.”

Flanagan told TheJournal.ie this afternoon that from what he saw in his own constituency on Saturday people were “fairly busy”.

“It’s a very busy family day,” he said “We tried the Saturday experiment in order to increase the turnout but I thought it was a strange voting day insofar as it was a very busy family day for people and they didn’t incorporate voting into it.”

But Farrell insisted today that the low turnout had more to do with the subject matter of the referendum and it not “resonating sufficiently with the electorate”.

‘Consensus’

He continued: “Empirical data and analysis of other elections in other countries shows that there isn’t any reduction in voter turnout [with rest day voting]“.

He said that the “consensus” of all major parties to campaign for a Yes vote also had a bearing on the low turnout suggesting that many may have viewed the outcome as a “fait accompli“.

“I certainly would like to see government give it another go and would very much like if they put their support behind my bill,” he continued referring to the legislation he hopes to introduce during Private Members time in the Dáil in the near future.

That bill, if passed, would see all referenda and elections held on Saturdays or rest days.

Farrell says that he had warned Oireachtas colleagues in a briefing note before Saturday’s vote that there could be a low turnout this time around, citing the precedent of referenda in other countries.

“My briefing note showed that even when turnout was low on rest day vote it’s not as a result of the day of the week, it is simply to do with subject matter that is being decided upon,” he added.

Farrell said he hoped that voting on rest days would continue and said that the 2014 local and European elections “should absolutely be held on a weekend so as to give this another opportunity as an election” as opposed to a referendum.

Flanagan suggested that the best day for voting would be Friday and suggested the polls could remain upon until midnight to allow students or others who work away from their constituency to travel back after they finish work for the weekend.

“Lets turn Friday night into a voting day,” he said.”You’d have all the advantages of a weekday and then an extended Friday night.”

Poll: Do you think Saturday voting is a good idea?

Read: Referendum result ‘could be challenged’

Read: Gilmore: Children’s Referendum “never really took fire”

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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