A quirk in electoral law may mean that students who registered to vote in the past few months will not make it on to the electoral register in time to be eligible to vote in the upcoming general election.
The register is updated on an annual basis on February 15 of every year. Therefore, as the election date has been set for February 8, anyone who registered to vote in the past couple of months will not have their names added to the register in time to vote in this election.
This information was highlighted on Twitter by the Virgin Media News reporter Gavan Reilly, who stated that the anomaly was spotted by Seán Fleming TD, who had planned to raise the issue in the Dáil on Wednesday, had the Dáil not already been dissolved.
The information has been described as “deeply concerning” by Lorna Fitzpatrick, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). The USI ran their most recent drive to register students to vote during last August and September. The USI say that their #GenerationVote campaign saw thousands of students register to vote. Those students now may not have the opportunity to have their say on the make-up of the next Dáil.
There is, however, an opportunity for those whose names have not yet been added to the register of electors to still be able to vote in the general election. Once the general election has officially been called it is possible to apply to be added to the supplementary register of electors.
Speaking to Trinity News, Lorna Fitzpatrick expressed her disappointment that “if an election is called for the 7th, this will leave a very short time for people to register”. She stated that The USI would relaunch their #GenerationVote campaign once the election has been called and that USI Officers will be present on campuses alongside students’ union officers, helping and encouraging students to register, in order that “every student can have their voices heard at the ballot box”.
Speaking late last night, Fitzpartick added: “USI have already started to reach out to local council offices to see if they will accept any registrations received and we will continue this process tomorrow to ensure we understand the full picture in its entirety.”
There have been suggestions that some local authorities may bend the rules and automatically add those who registered in the past couple of months to the supplementary register, allowing them to vote in the general election.