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Public Service Oversight Committee calls for permanent electoral commission

A cross-party Committee has this morning recommended that a permanent electoral commission be established with a mandate to conduct research into how to better distribute information in advance of polling day, the impact of multi-referendums on the same day, the colour and lay out of ballot papers, and the collating of spoiled votes.

12 June 2014
The recommendations are included in a report by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, which was launched this morning.

The Report on the Design and Layout of Ballot Papers used in the Seanad Referendum October 2013 also recommends that Minister for the Environment examine the legislation with a view to modernising how a question is posed, with a particular view to avoiding the incident of a ‘double negative’ question being posed again in referendum.

The Committee is also calling for the legislation governing referendum ballot papers to be modernised and that the possibility of proofing the wording formula by an independent body such as the Supreme Court or the Referendum Commission be explored to ensure a plain English ballot paper.

Chairman of the Committee Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD says: “The format of the ballot paper has remained largely unchanged since 1963, the same year RTÉ was established. In our discussions leading to this report, Members noted that if the same pace of change applied to RTÉ since then as has applied to the format of a ballot papers, then the Irish public would only have a one-channel national television service that broadcasts for only five to six hours per day, in black and white.  This would not be accepted and our Committee is firmly of the view that, likewise, the format of the referendum ballot paper must evolve and develop over time."

“Underpinning our recommendations is the need for a referendum question to be put in clear, plain language and that the ‘double negative’ question posed in the recent Seanad referendum be avoided. The Committee noted that, while the design and layout is determined by legislation, this alone will not address the issue of the confusion among voters in relation to the recent abolition of the Seanad referendum. We have also a number of concerns around the levels of spoiled votes in recent referendums and elections. Therefore, the Committee is recommending that a permanent electoral commission, with a mandate to conduct wide-ranging research, be put in place to assist in securing the integrity of the democratic process.”

Access Report on Ballot Paper Design

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Committee Membership

Richard Boyd-Barrett, Independent
Noel Harrington, Fine Gael
Michael Healy-Rae, Independent
Seamus Kirk, Fianna Fáil
Michael P. Kitt, Fianna Fáil
Pádraig MacLochlainn (Chairman), Sinn Fein
Helen McEntee, Fine Gael
Michelle Mulherin, Fine Gael
Derek Nolan (Vice-Chair), Labour
Patrick O'Donovan, Fine Gael
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Féin
Sean Kenny, Labour
John Halligan, Independent
Jack Wall, Labour

Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, Sinn Féin
Jimmy Harte, Labour
Tony Mulcahy, Fine Gael
Susan O’Keeffe, Labour
Ned O'Sullivan, Fianna Fáil