How voting for Irish citizens abroad could work

We look at some systems used by other countries

How voting for Irish citizens abroad could work

A young member of the Fine Gael party celebrates victory in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty referendum | Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

Irish people living abroad could be voting in the 2025 presidential election.

That question, to extend voting rights to those living outside the State, is to be put to people in a referendum.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced the move in Philadelphia on Sunday.

The Government is to publish a detailed Options Paper later this month to set out the options available.

Ireland could join many other countries that allow their citizens abroad to vote.

These include the UK, US, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland could potencially take elements from other systems to allow those aboard to vote. We look at some of the options.

The UK

British citizens can vote by post or by proxy.

To vote by post, you must first fill out an application form.

In England and Wales you must be aged 18 or over on polling day to vote at an election or referendum.

While in Scotland, you must be aged 16 or over to vote in Scottish parliamentary and local government elections - or 18 or over on polling day to vote in UK parliamentary elections.

A proxy vote means someone else can vote for another person on their behalf.

That proxy person must be registered to vote - and they can be a proxy for two people at the same election.

This is usually reserved if someone is away, at work, disabled, living or serving overseas.

You can register as an overseas voter for up to 15 years after leaving the UK.

The US

Almost all US citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote.

Depending on the state, people could get their ballot by e-mail, fax, or internet download.

Overseas US citizens have to complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) each January.

States are not required to automatically send ballots to voters - which is why the FPCSA is important.

For those who get electronic delivery, they generally receive a blank ballot 45 days before general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices.

Ballots can be sent back either through post, fax, e-mail, internet or even at the nearest US embassy or consulate.

France

French citizens residing abroad voted electronically during the 2012 national legislative elections by using an Internet voting system.

This was in addition to postal and poll-site voting in 774 locations.

During the two rounds that took place from May 23rd to 29th and from June 6th to 12th, over 240,000 votes were cast electronically.

This represented over 55% of the total votes cast to directly elect 11 members to the French parliament, according to a UK Parliamentary report on the system.

The online French voting system | Image: parliament.uk

But in a blow, the French government has dropped plans to let its citizens abroad vote electronically in upcoming elections for June because of concern about the risk of cyber attacks.

France also allows voting by proxy in its National Assembly.

This allows absentee voters to be represented by the voter of their choice.

The proxy can be issued for one single election (first round, second round or both) or for a whole year (if they are unable to go to a voting office over a long-term).

Applications can be made at a French embassy or consulate.