The Electoral Act 1992 establishes a postal voters list and those who qualify to be entered in the list. The Act provides that a whole-time member of the Defence Forces shall be entered in the list. Having regard to the nature of military life, this entitlement ensures the right to vote for members of the Permanent Defence Force.
The Department of Defence provides a link between the franchise section of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the military authorities. This is to ensure that appropriate timelines for postal voting are agreed. Responsibility for the distribution of postal votes rests with the military authorities. The responsibility for returning the vote by post rests with the individual except in the case of personnel overseas where the military authorities arrange for the votes to be returned. The register of electors is prepared annually by the registration authorities, who prepare the postal voters list. The Defence Forces, through the enlisted personnel management office, liaise with the registration authorities to ensure the list is up to date and correct.
The Defence Forces place a very high level of importance on ensuring that all personnel are provided with the opportunity to register for and receive a postal vote. To that end, personnel are provided with access to registration forms through the chain of command. The commanding officers inform all ranks of the availability of the registration forms. A significant operation then takes place to ensure that those who are registered to vote, at home or overseas, are provided with postal votes to enable them to exercise their right to vote.
Postal votes for Defence Forces personnel were processed and administered by the military authorities in the normal way for the 2019 local and European elections. I am informed that a number of personnel have expressed concern that they did not receive a postal vote. These concerns are being examined by the military authorities in the context of a review of the operation of the postal voting system with a view to ensuring that processes and procedures are optimised. The review is expected to conclude shortly.
I expect the military authorities to take any necessary action on foot of their review to ensure the right of military personnel to exercise their right to vote.