Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Voting Rights.

Jim Mitchell

Ceist:

8 Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment if, in view of the fact the under the Presidential Election Act, 1937, election staff working at polling stations different to the one for which they are registered to work were unable to vote at the last presidential election, he will now agree to propose, by way of amendment, provisions in the Electoral Bill, 1992, so that all election staff will be able to cast their vote in any presidential, general, by, local, or European elections or in any referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Provision is included in section 169 of the Electoral (No. 2) Bill, 1991 to enable persons employed by a local returning officer at a presidential election, where necessary, to vote at an alternative polling station. Provision in this regard in the case of a referendum is made in section 66 of the Electoral Act, 1963.

I take the Minister's reply to mean that any presiding officers or polling clerks, in the event of this referendum, will be able to vote at the place where they work rather than at the place where they are registered?

The Electoral (No. 2) Bill, as drafted, takes account of that necessity.

Because the 12,000 or so people who were disenfranchised during the presidential election may worry that the same thing will happen in a referendum, will the Minister arrange, through the relevant officials employing the polling staff, to inform staff of their recruitment and that they will be entitled to vote?

A presidential election is different.

I am referring to a referendum.

There will not be any presidential elections for a long time.

The question revolves around presidential elections. The Electoral Act, 1923 covers Dáil elections; the 1963 Act covers referenda; the 1965 Act covers local elections and the 1977 Act deals with European elections. The question does not arise for other elections.

From their experience in the presidential election, which I admit is different to what occurs in other elections, people who normally work as polling officers may feel that they will not be able to vote in the referendum. In those circumstances, will the Minister agree, since this will be the first poll since the presidential election, to ask officers in local authorities to draw the attention of the people recruited to the fact that they will be able to vote at the polling station where they are working.

That seems to be unnecessary, because in a great number of cases those people have been performing these duties for a considerable time and are well used to dealing with referenda, local elections and general elections and have always without question had the right to vote.

Does the Minister not accept my point that that general understanding was accepted up to the last presidential election but that there may now be a doubt in people's minds? Would the Minister agree that it would be helpful if that confusion was set aside by some action on his part?