Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Questions (50, 82)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

50. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a functioning electoral commission will be in place; the responsibilities it would have; if each local authority will be directed to run regular voter registration drives with information on the way to vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23453/19]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

82. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the timeline for the establishment of an electoral commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24004/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 82 together.

A public consultation on a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) on the Establishment of an Electoral Commission was undertaken by my Department earlier this year. The RIA sets out a number of options for establishing an electoral commission, including functions that might be assigned to it. These options and functions have regard to the recommendations in the 2016 report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on the establishment of an electoral commission.

Proposed functions for an electoral commission could include having oversight of running elections and referendums; taking over the functions of the Referendum Commission; taking over the functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission in regard to political spending and donations; responsibility for the Register of Political Parties; and having a research function. The RIA also recommends that an electoral commission be assigned responsibility for voter education and engagement programmes. Such programmes could assist the public in having a better understanding of the voting system.

Twenty-three submissions were received in the course of the public consultation process. These are being considered in my Department as part of the process to inform a preferred option for establishing a commission, which will be brought to Government for consideration. Once a preferred option is agreed, work would then commence in the Autumn on the preparation of the necessary legislation to establish an electoral commission.

In relation to voter registration, the position is that the preparation of the register of electors is a matter for each local authority, as a registration authority. It is the duty of registration authorities to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the register. In support of activity by local authorities in preparing the register of electors, my Department promotes greater awareness of the register of electors through an annual campaign of promotional posters, the use of social-media and the taking out of both newspaper and on-line advertisements. A separate initiative in relation to the modernisation of the electoral register is under way, in relation to which a public consultation has also been concluded, the submissions on which are currently being considered.