Kerry councillor Jackie Healy-Rae is calling for Ireland’s postal voting system to be expanded to ensure everybody gets the chance to have their say.
The US Presidential Election has seen several states expanding their postal voting system as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Cllr Healy-Rae said the US election has thrown up a number of things that should be considered in Ireland.
“We already have postal voting system here in Ireland but unfortunately that is very limited in the people who can actually get one,” he said.
“It would be predominantly more elderly people and people who have physical ailments, who find it difficult to go and vote. That is well and good and that system should be in place for those people.”
He said there are a host of reasons why people may not be able to make it to a polling station on election day – and insisted postal votes could ensure they still have their say.
“Instead of telling people, ‘tough luck, you can’t be there on the day,’ if people have legitimate reasons why they can’t attend, then those people should be able to apply for a postal vote,” he said.
“I am sure many of your listeners will have found themselves in a situation where, perhaps, European elections are on during the summer months and they have had holidays booked since January or February and they are away on polling day,” he said.
“Those people should be allowed to apply for a postal vote and ensure their votes get cast and are counted.”
Cllr Healy-Rae called for the establishment of an Electoral Commission without delay – as is provided for in the Programme for Government.
“It looks like we will have a few years [before the next election],” he said. “Although, given recent events, you wouldn’t know.”
“We probably won’t have an election for a few years so we should be looking at it now rather than kicking it on down the line.”
Later in the show, Maynooth University elections expert Adrian Kavanagh said he ‘absolutely agreed’ that Ireland should be looking at increasing postal voting options.
“We may well be in a pandemic situation for longer than we think,” he said. “If we have a snap election in the coming months, what would happen?
“I think you would have a lot of people saying, ‘I am scared to go and vote in a polling station.’ So, I think we need to think about who is allowed to use postal voting and make it easier for them.”
He said we should also consider increasing early voting to reduce people’s fears about voting in person as the pandemic continues.
“If you had the ability to go and vote a few weeks earlier that might take away those fears,” he said.
“The easier you make it for people to vote the more likely people are to vote.
“Look at America, they have a record voter turnout this year because they opened up things like postal voting and early voting – they just made it easier for voters.”
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