I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“(c) A citizen over 18 applying to be included on the supplementary register may supply photocopies of photographic ID such as a drivers licence, passport or Department of Social Protection card, as proof of identity, rather than having to have a form signed by a member of An Garda Síochána.”.
This amendment seeks to simplify the method of getting onto the register of electors and have a measure of consistency. One can fill in a form and include one's date of birth, telephone number, nationality and other details and that is accepted by a local authority as proof of the fact that one is eligible to be included in the register of electors. The problem arises with the supplementary register. In the recent referendum a large number of young people were included in the supplementary register; in excess of 60,000 became eligible to vote by way of the register. The amendment seeks to streamline the electoral process, without compromising its integrity.
At present, one can go to a Garda station to have the form signed. However, many Garda stations have been closed in the past 15 years. In coastal counties and various other parts of the country it could be a long distance to the local Garda station. In addition, apart from what is called the green man on the wall, the box into which one speaks, the local Garda station is not open. Many stations are only open for an hour or two a day or a couple of days each week. This creates a difficulty in getting onto the register of electors for those who are working, as they cannot attend their local Garda station to have the form signed. It is a real problem and people across the political spectrum are complaining about it.
We are proposing that a citizen over 18 years of age applying to be included in the supplementary register supply photocopies of photographic identity such as a driver's licence, passport or a Department of Social Protection card that includes a photograph as proof of identity rather than being obliged to have a form signed by a member of An Garda Síochána.
That is a very simple process to set up, if we want to do it, and we believe it can be done.
We are anxious to stamp out any electoral fraud or any attempt by people who should not be on the register to be on it, or to be on it more than once. I have spoken here many times on the need to improve the register of electors by ensuring that as many eligible voters as possible are on it. This amendment seeks to aid this process. The recent referendum showed that young people are anxious to vote if there is a topic that excites and interests them, and we must make it easier for them.
We have a very unusual way of registering people to vote in that there are certain periods of the year when they can and cannot join the register. After 25 November, people will not be able to get on the register of electors because the corrections and amendments process will be closed. Therefore, it is a fairly restricted process. As it stands, a person can fill out the corrections and amendments form up to 25 November without supplying any photographic evidence or evidence of identity. We need to be consistent. When the supplementary register period arrives, all of a sudden, we change the rules and we make people jump this hurdle. Our party is anxious that there be consistency, so we need to look more seriously at the issue of proof of identity.
In the case of the supplementary register, the upcoming general election gives us the opportunity to get it right. Young people are interested in voting and those who are not on the register may decide they need to get onto it. We all know the electoral register is a mess. There are now fewer councillors, rent collectors and rates collectors. They were a great source of information for the local authorities in regard to who was living at what address and for taking people off the register who were on it more than once. This is an opportunity to simplify the process.
We put forward the amendment sincerely to try to aid the process and to allow the opportunity to those who are entitled the vote and who should be on the register to get onto it through the supplementary register. To go to a Garda station is fine if there is one around the corner and it is open 24-7. However, a person would travel a long way in a county like Laois, Kildare or Offaly, or the Minister of State's county, to find a Garda station open 24-7. It is very difficult for people who are working to get that window of opportunity within that restricted time. What we are trying to do is to rule out any opportunity for anybody to do this in a fraudulent way. It is a way of validating the process and making sure the electoral register is more up to date.