Friday, June 21, 2024

Local and European Elections: Everything you need to know before you vote

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Ireland will head to the polls once again on June 7th for both European and local elections. National and local politicians have been canvassing intensively all around the country in recent weeks, knocking on tens of thousands of doors and listening to the concerns of voters.

Here is everything you need to know.

What are the dates and times for the upcoming local and European elections? 

Polling takes place for both the local and European elections on Friday June 7th between 7am and 10pm. A polling information card will be sent to your home address, and this will have the details about your local polling station, which should be nearby. There are about 6,500 polling stations nationwide.

What will I need in order to vote?

It’s always advisable to have your polling information card with you but you can vote without it; just make sure to bring a valid form of personal ID. This could include the following: a passport, a driving licence, a public services card, or an employee or student identity card with a photograph.

Who can vote in the Local/European elections?

Only Irish citizens aged 18 and over who are on the register of electors can vote in the European election. If you’re an Irish citizen currently living in another EU country, you are able to vote in that country. If you are from another EU member state but are living in Ireland you can vote in the European election in Ireland.

The difference with local elections is that you do not have to be an Irish citizen to vote. As long as you are over 18 years of age, live in the relevant local electoral area and are listed on the register of electors you can cast your vote.

Voters can check the register online at checktheregister.ie as well as at your city and county council offices.

What should I expect when I arrive at the polling station?

Ireland uses proportional representation (PR) for voting in elections with each voter having a single transferable vote (STV). Using the PR-STV system means that voters can vote for as many or as few candidates in order of their preference.

Each ballot paper contains short instructions on how to vote, which you should read and follow carefully. The ballot paper will also show a list of names, in alphabetical order, party emblems and images of each candidate. There will be a box to the right of each candidates name.

You mark your preference for each candidate in the box to the right. You mark a ‘1’ in the box beside your first choice candidate and, if you wish, a ‘2’ in the box beside your second choice candidate, a ‘3’ in the box beside your third choice candidate, and so on.

If you do not want to fill out a preference for all candidates on the ballot paper, the box beside those you are not voting for must be left empty. Do not make any other mark on the ballot paper. If you do, your vote may be considered invalid/spoilt and not counted.

How many candidates are running for election?

In the local elections, there are about 2,000 candidates running in 31 local authorities, covering a total of 166 local electoral areas (LEAs). There are between three and seven seats in each. These local politicians are competing for 949 seats.

There are a record 74 candidates running in the European Elections, for only 14 seats. The three constituencies for June’s EU elections are: Dublin (four seats), Midlands North-West (which had four seats but will have five in this election) and Ireland South (five seats).

Across the EU, a total of 720 MEPs will be elected. Seats are allocated on the basis of population of each member state of the European Union. No country can have fewer than six or more than 96 MEPs.

What do local councillors do, and how much are they paid?

Councillors have both a legislative role and an advocacy role within local authorities, are responsible for the council’s policy, but the chief executive, an unelected official, is then tasked with implementation.

Councillors have the power to make decisions on the rate of Local Property Tax, the annual budget of the local authority, climate action plans and local area plans. They have the power to hold the local authority to account by scrutinising annual accounts, examining targets, following up on audits and requiring the chief executive to report on different matters.

They also represent and advocate for their constituents, meeting with them and trying to address the issues they raise. Each councillor attends meetings of the full council and the local authority committees of which they are members. A new increased salary for councillors, which now stands at €28,724, was introduced in 2021. They also get an annual expenses allowance to cover travel and subsistence and a mobile phone allowance.

What do Members of European Parliament (MEPs) do, and how much are they paid?

The European Parliament does not have the power to initiate laws. Instead, the European Commission, the executive body, drafts legislation for the bloc.

MEPs in the parliament can then vote to block legislation, which gives them important leverage. They also ratify international agreements, approve the EU budget drafted by the Commission and scrutinise the work of other EU institutions. MEPs also have the final say in approving the president of the European Commission, who is currently Ursula von der Leyen.

Each MEP takes home the same gross salary – €10,075 per month as of July 2023. After taxes and insurance, the monthly total lands at €7,853. Former members are also entitled to a pension when they turn 63.

What are the European Parliament constituencies?

There are three constituencies voting for MEPs in Ireland, which will elect 14 MEPs, one more than in the 2019 elections. The Dublin constituency, consisting exclusively of the county Dublin area, will elect four MEPs.

The Midlands-North-West constituency will elect five MEPs, representing the counties of: Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.

The South constituency will also elect five MEPs, representing the counties of : Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

When will we get the results?

For the local elections, the counting of the ballots will start on the morning of Saturday, June 8th. The ballot papers will be sorted and separated.

Counting of the locals will be conducted first. The first seats will be filled by the afternoon, but the final results may not be counted for several days.

For the European elections, the count will commence at 9am on Sunday, June 9th. Politicians and political pundits will be carefully watching the boxes open on Saturday morning, hoping to get an idea of how the weekend will play out from early tallies.

What is the significance of Local Elections?

Local elections are about who leads communities and ensures the delivery of certain public services. The elections allow people to elect councillors to represent them in their local authorities.

The results also serve as an important indicator of public opinion across Ireland ahead of a general election within the next 10 months. Politicians are reporting the biggest issues on the doorsteps to be housing, local issues such as infrastructure and the state of roads and paths, transport and immigration.

What is the significance of European Elections?

The European Parliament election is the central way for Irish citizens to have a say on shaping the European Union’s policies. Almost four million voters in Ireland will join more than 330 million Europeans to choose 720 lawmakers.

The results will affect the bloc’s plans over the next five years, but, like the local elections, the Irish vote will also be seen as a barometer of the national mood. The EU has a complex governing structure and can often seem distant from national issues. But members of the European Parliament (MEPs) vote on legislation that has a major impact on people in Ireland.

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