Tuesday, 17 April 2018
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
1497. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans to extend postal voting rights to persons who are due to be abroad on holidays on 25 May 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16950/18]
1525. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans to extend the postal vote system for persons who are out of the country further than the persons currently provided for, such as consular staff and families, Defence Forces and so on, on polling days for referendums and elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15321/18]
1537. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans to make the supplement to the postal voters list available to those voters who on polling day have elective medical procedures, are in the final stages of pregnancy or are in the early stages after a pregnancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15453/18]
1552. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his views on extending the entitlement to a postal vote to those who are on holidays on polling day, abroad on pilgrimage, overseas on education courses or abroad working on a part-time basis; his further views on this in the context of the forthcoming referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15592/18]
1569. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if a postal vote will be given to a person who has already made travel arrangements and will not be in the country on the date of the referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15900/18]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1497, 1525, 1537, 1552 and 1569 together.
Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of a number of categories of electors - whole-time members of the Defence Forces, members of An Garda Síochána, Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses/civil partners, electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability, electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day, full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State, prisoners and certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside. Potential voters falling into these categories who are not already postal voters have until 28 April 2018 to apply to their registration authorities for inclusion in the supplement to the postal voters list to avail of a postal vote in the forthcoming referendum.
While electoral law is subject to ongoing review I have no proposals at present to extend existing arrangements for postal voting. However, in response to the evolving needs of Irish society and its relationship with the wider Irish diaspora, the Government agreed in March 2017 to accept in principle the main recommendation in the Fifth Report of the Convention on the Constitution that Irish citizens resident outside the State, including citizens resident in Northern Ireland, should have the right to vote at presidential elections and that a referendum would be held to amend the Constitution to seek to give effect to this. In order to inform public discourse on this significant policy change, an Options Paper was published on 22 March 2017 by my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Options Paper, which is available on my Department's website at www.housing.gov.ie, sets out a broad range of options for the extension of voting rights, international comparisons, the estimated costs involved and related resource issues as well as many of the legal, policy and logistical challenges associated with extending voting rights to Irish citizens resident outside the State. As set out in the Options Paper, postal voting would be the most likely means by which Irish citizens resident outside the State could exercise their right to vote if a referendum were to be held and passed by the people in due course.
To address a number of Government commitments on the holding of referendums, the Government announced on 26 September 2017 that it had agreed indicative dates for the holding of a number of referendums in 2018 and 2019, subject to the timely passage of Constitution Amendment Bills by each House of the Oireachtas. Included in the list is the proposed referendum on extending the franchise at presidential elections to Irish citizens resident outside the State which it is intended will be held on the same date as the local and European elections in late May/early June 2019. My Department will, in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, bring forward an appropriate Constitution Amendment Bill on extending the franchise at Presidential elections to Irish citizens resident outside the State in good time for the holding of the referendum.