News & Media

Labour calls for Electoral Commission and extended voting rights

19 January 2020

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

A strategy for Votes at 16 and organising election debates among key tasks

Labour Leader Brendan Howlin today urged voters to ensure they are registered and to make their voice heard in the General Election, while outlining the role we want the long delayed Electoral Commission to have.

Brendan Howlin said:

“Next Wednesday 22nd January is the final day that voters can be added to the supplemental register.  I am delighted to be joined today by members of Labour Youth to encourage all voters to check the register.  It is vital that everyone’s voice is heard at the ballot box on February 8th and the clock is ticking to check you are registered correctly.

“Unfortunately, thousands of people risk being disenfranchised due to Fine Gael’s incompetence in calling this election. Those who registered in recent months may not be entitled to vote because the new electoral register doesn’t come into force until 15th February. These people, in particular, should apply for the supplemental register.

“This debacle underlines Labour’s call for the establishment of an Electoral Commission.  This new body would take over responsibility for compiling and maintaining the electoral register. We also believe that the new electoral commission should be charged with setting out a strategy to lower the voting age to 16.

“In addition, we should task the electoral commission with devising a fair and balanced approach to party leader debates during general elections, as currently happens in the USA for instance.  At present the frequency and terms of these debates are decided by individual broadcasters.   Having a trusted and independent body setting the framework for these debates would bring a welcome degree of transparency to the process.

“Our democracy is vital.  In recent years, throughout the world, we’ve seen democracies undermined by dark and negative forces.  We need a competent, independent body to oversee how our democracy works and to ensure maximum engagement from voters.  It’s an investment worth making.

“We will also extend voting rights to long term residents and recent emigrants.”

ENDS

Under Labour’s Plan for Electoral Reform:

  • Labour will confer voting rights for national elections on all long-term residents, living in Ireland for over five years, regardless of citizenship.
  • Labour will extend voting rights to Irish citizens who move abroad, for a period of time following their departure.
  • Labour will establish a powerful and independent Electoral Commission, charged with independent management of elections and electoral and political finances.