Useful Information regarding Voting for People with Disabilities:
There are special arrangements to assist electors with certain disabilities to
exercise their voting rights:
• Voting at an alternative polling station if a person’s local station is
• Postal voting by electors living at home who cannot go to the polling
station due to a physical disability or illness;
• Special voting facilities provided in hospitals, nursing homes or similar
institutions for residents who cannot go to the polling station due to a
physical disability or illness;
• Assistance in voting at the polling station by a companion or by the
presiding officer for people with a visual impairment, physical disability
or literacy difficulty;
• The use of photographs and party political emblems on ballot papers to
assist visually impaired people and people with literacy difficulties;
• The display of a large print copy of the ballot paper in polling stations to
further assist visually impaired people and people with literacy
2. Voting at alternative polling station insofar as is possible local authorities must endeavour to appoint polling
places where at least one polling station is accessible to wheelchair users. The returning officer is the person responsible for the conduct of an election in each constituency. In Dublin and Cork the returning officer is the city or county sheriff, in the rest of the country it is the county registrar. If a person has difficulty gaining access to a local polling station, they may apply in writing to the returning officer – at least a week before polling day – to be authorised to vote at another polling station in the same constituency. The returning officer
will give public notice of all the polling stations in the constituency which are not accessible to wheelchair users.
When applying, a person should explain why they cannot gain access to their local station. If a person communicates their particular needs to the returning officer it will assist in the process of selecting a suitable alternative station. If possible, they should suggest an alternative polling station which is both
accessible and convenient for themselves. The returning officer will send written authorisation enabling them to vote at another polling station in the same constituency, normally the station suggested by them. This
authorisation should be presented when they goes to vote at that station (remember to bring evidence of identity as well). Once another station in which to vote has been assigned a person may not vote at their local station.
3. Access within polling stations
The standard voting compartment is designed to accommodate voters standing to mark their ballot papers on ledges at average waist height. These compartments may not be suitable for older people and people with disabilities. Returning officers are required to make available at polling stations a table and chair at which electors can vote if they find that more convenient.
4. Assistance with voting
The responsibility for taking the poll at a polling station rests with the presiding officer, who is the person who asks for the name and address of the elector and looks at the polling information card on arrival at the station. A
supervising presiding officer may also be on duty. Their responsibilities include monitoring the arrangements for voters with disabilities. Any of the staff on duty will call the supervising presiding officer at your request.
Voting is a fundamental democratic activity and there are strict procedures in place to ensure that voting is properly carried out and that the secrecy and security of the ballot are maintained. For example, assisted voting is only permitted in limited circumstances.
The law is specific about the types of electors who may be assisted in voting and how and by whom they may be helped. The presiding officer is obliged to apply the law, which is intended to ensure that an elector can vote while the secrecy of that vote is protected.
Depending on the nature of the disability, an elector may be assisted to vote in two ways.
In the case of a visual impairment, physical disability or literacy difficulty, an elector may receive assistance to vote from a companion. To act as a companion, a person must be at least sixteen years old, must be neither a
candidate nor an agent of a candidate and may not assist more than two electors at an election. The presiding officer must not permit a companion to assist an elector unless they are satisfied that the companion fulfils these
conditions. If a person is not eligible to act as a companion, the elector can have another person act as a companion or they may ask to be assisted by the presiding officer.
Assistance by presiding officer:
This facility can be availed of in the case of visual impairment, physical disability or literacy difficulty which prevents an elector from voting without help but do not wish to be assisted by a companion.
Under this procedure, the presiding officer and the personation agents go with an elector to a part of the polling station where a conversation in normal tones cannot be overheard. If necessary, the presiding officer will suspend entry to the polling station and have the station cleared to ensure that no other person can overhear the voting process. The presence of the personation agents is a safeguard to confirm that the presiding officer complies with your instructions. It is a protection for the elector and for the presiding officer. As with all other persons involved in a poll, there is a statutory obligation on personation agents to maintain the secrecy of the ballot.
The presiding officer will ask which candidates the elector wishes to vote for and will mark the ballot paper in accordance with these instructions. If necessary, the presiding officer will read out the particulars of the ballot paper in relation to each candidate and ask to which candidate the elector wishes to give their first preference vote. He/she will repeat the procedure for the elector’s second preference vote and so on. When the ballot paper has been marked in accordance with the elector’s instructions, the presiding officer will put it in the ballot box in the normal way.
The law specifically prohibits a presiding officer from acting on any written instructions received from a voter. The reason for this is that the written instructions may not represent the voter’s real wishes – someone else may
have written them, for example.
Anyone wishing to be assisted in voting by the presiding officer, should, if possible, go to the polling station well before it closes at night. Assisting an elector can take time and the law, therefore, allows a presiding officer to refuse a request for assistance during the last two hours of voting (i.e., the busiest time) if helping one elector would delay or obstruct others. Presiding officers are reluctant to use this power and sensible co-operation should make its use unnecessary. This restriction does not apply to companion voting, i.e., an elector can be helped to vote by a companion at any time during polling hours.
5. Voting by Post
In circumstances where a physical disability or illness prevents an electorfrom going to the polling station and where the elector is living at home, they can vote by post by applying to be included in the postal voters list which is drawn up each year as part of the register of electors.
In order to be entered on the postal voters list, an application must be made by 25th November each year to the relevant county or city council. Application forms may be obtained by phoning the county or city council and
are also available in post offices, public libraries, local authority offices and Garda stations. An application form is normally sent by post to each person on the current year’s postal voters list. The application form includes provision for a medical certificate which is generally required in the case of a first application only.
At an election or referendum, a postal voter will be sent a set of voting documents comprising a ballot paper, a receipt for the ballot paper, an envelope in which to put the marked ballot paper and a larger envelope for
sending back the voting documents to the returning officer. When the ballot paper has been marked, the elector must put it into the envelope marked “Ballot Paper Envelope” and seal it. This envelope together with the
completed receipt for the ballot paper should then be put into the large envelope addressed to the returning officer, sealed and posted at once. The ballot paper must be posted and cannot be handed to the returning officer.
6. Voting at Hospitals, Nursing Homes, etc. A person residing in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution who has a physical disability or illness which prevents them from going to the polling station, can vote at the hospital/nursing home etc. if they apply to be included in the special voters list which is drawn up each year as part of the register of electors.
In order to be entered on the special voters list, an application must be made by 25th November each year to your county or city council. Application forms may be obtained by phoning the county or city council and are also available in post offices, public libraries, local authority offices and Garda stations. An application form is normally sent by post to each person on the current year’s special voters list. The application form includes provision for a medical certificate which is generally required in the case of a first application only.
At an election or referendum, the elector will be notified of the day and approximate time (am/pm) when a special presiding officer will call at the hospital/nursing home/etc. to enable you to vote. The special presiding
officer will carry evidence of identity and an appointment warrant which he/she will present to the elector for inspection on arrival. The special presiding officer will be accompanied by a Garda whose role is to guard the
ballot papers (in the same way as in a polling station) and to act as an independent witness to ensure that the voting procedure is carried out properly.
Only the presiding officer and the Garda may be present when the vote is cast. The presiding officer will give the elector a declaration of identity which they will witness. The elector then marks the ballot paper in secret, places it in the special envelope provided, closes the envelope and gives it to the presiding officer.
If assistance in voting is required, it will be provided by the special presiding officer in the same way as at a polling station.
7. Supplements to the Postal and Special Voters Lists Electors with a physical illness or disability who are eligible for, but not included in, the postal or special voters list, as appropriate, may apply for entry in the relevant supplement to these lists which are published prior to each election and referendum.
The latest date for receipt of supplement applications by registration authorities before a poll is two days after the date of dissolution of the Dáil in the case of a general election and two days after the polling day order is
made in the case of a Dáil bye-electon. In the case of a Presidential, European or local election or Referendum an application must be received by the registration authority at least 22 days before polling day (not including
Sundays, Good Friday or Public Holidays) in order to be considered for that election or referendum. However, as in the case of ordinary supplement to the register, an application for inclusion in the postal and special voters
supplement can be made at any time once the elector is eligible for entry on the supplement.
8. Electoral Law
The information contained in this note does not purport to be a definitive statement of the law on the registration of electors, assistance with voting, the postal voters list, the special voters list and the supplements to these lists. The law is set out in:
• Part II of and the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act 1992
• Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996
• Section 76 of the Electoral Act 1997
• Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001
These Acts are available from the Government Publications Sale Office, Sun Alliance House, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. They may also be downloaded from the Oireachtas website at http://www.oireachtas.ie
9. Other Leaflets
Other leaflets available in this series on the Department’s website (www.environ.ie) are as follows:
How the President is Elected
The Referendum in Ireland
How the Dáil (House of Representatives) is Elected
How the Seanad (Senate) is Elected
European Parliament: How Ireland’s Representatives are Elected
How Members of Local Authorities are Elected
The Register of Electors
My reply to the DAG-T ‘Disability Action Greystones Together’ Questionnaire:
DAG:T ‘Disability Action Greystones Together’ is a local group in Greystones working towards building an Inclusive Community by increasing accessibility to all that Greystones has to offer.
Here is my reply to a questionnaire which DAG-T sent to candidates running in the Greystones Local Elections:
The following are my intentions in regard to working for greater inclusion for those of us in our community who have disabilities, who are suffering from an illness, and who are elderly.
1) Services and Resources. Road and path conditions are worst in the very areas where density of older residents is highest. I have raised this issue in the local press (Wicklow Times) and will continue to make the point. If elected, I will not be dismissed by the argument that no funding exists. If local authorities blame funding I will continue to press for a solution. My point that the cost of fixing a footpath now is less than paying out for a ‘trip and fall’ claim in the courts later on stands as proof that I will do all I can to ensure that sustainable investment in footpaths and roads becomes a priority for the council for the benefit of disabled and elderly members of our community.
2) Mobility, infrastructure and housing. Mobility within the home and outside on buses and premises is something I feel strongly about.
A) On housing for the elderly and incapacitated, I have already made representations to the Council, HSE and (via Fianna Fail Senator) Government on two specific cases. One was an application for the modification of a home for wheelchair accessibility and the other was for the provision of home help and alternative ‘house-swap’ arrangements for an elderly couple experiencing severe difficulties in caring for each other, day-in- day-out, with the ever present risk of a fall when descending their staircase. I will continue to press for suitable housing / interior modifications for people living in these unsatisfactory situations and will support and encourage the work of community groups such as your own to enhance their living conditions.
B) Buses: For elderly and disabled people in Greystones, Kilcoole, Delgany, Charlesland and Newcastle public bus services are crucial. Later this year the 184 will be one of the first services to be put out to private tender. It is critical that wheelchair accessibility ramps, fare concessions and frequency levels are upheld and the standard monitored. I have written to the National Transport Authority on the matter and have articulated my concerns on East Coast FM’s Morning Show with Declan Meehan, the Wicklow Times and The Wicklow People. As someone with an elderly grandmother and a close family member with disabilities I will be using every ounce of my experience as a solicitor and former student representative to ensure these basic dignity requirements are maintained if not improved upon.
3) Cost of living. I will “challenge” and address the lack of consideration by Government for people’s inability to pay. I have already made representations regarding the inclusion status of certain asthmatic products on the National Drug Payment Scheme for certain members of our community. I will continue this and other cost-of-living campaigns with a new vigour and mandate if elected in May 2014. I want to be honest with people regarding what I actually CAN DO as a councillor under our exiting local Government structure. I will pursue whatever avenues I can legitimately and legally avail of as a public representative; I will not make promises that I know, at time of making, I will not be able to keep. Finally to the extent that a councillor’s powers are limited, in for example securing national resources for disability modification grants, I will advocate for reform to cure the systematic weakness and simultaneously use what powers I DO HAVE to elevate local community groups in making their case before Government departments or other state funding bodies.
4) Use of funds in mobility aid grants. On all service supply issues in Irish Life I believe passionately that 1) political imperatives should not displace need and 2) experts and interested parties should (in so far as is practicable) have input, not solely output, in the making of service roll out decisions. I have already demonstrated this in my dealings with the NTA and Dublin Bus on bus privatisation. I will act in a similar way with disability mobility adaption grants.
5) Independent Living. I have already acted in one case where the residents’ shared desire to continue living in their home was, and is, their (and my) fundamental concern. All relevant authorities have dealt professionally with me on this case. However, more needs to be done. Funding is an issue and as a realist I appreciate this. A new home project purpose built for elederly people will encounter several hurdles. Funding is one; foresight is another. We need real action in this area. I sense that if elected I will be better mandated (than I currently am) to seek more concrete and long term solutions to this question of basic human dignity for those in our community who have played their part and now wish to live with autonomy (to the extent feasible) and self respect.
6) Local Access Transport Links. As mentioned above I believe in engaging with all interested parties. Great work is done by sitting councillors to maximise the synergies in our community. More needs to be done. In the same way as local bus services will be invited to tender for local bus routes I believe that we need to look at ways of co-operating with service providers to ensure that the young (school children), the elderly and disabled are sufficiently catered for in a way that would not happen if pure market forces were to play out without care and customisation. That’s what I sense so far in my campaign – there are many more great ideas out there I look forward to listening to over the coming weeks. If elected I will do what I did as a student representative – I will work with all state authorities (Dept of Education and NUI, UCD), commercial stakeholders (private coach companies and event organisers) with and for the benefit of those I represent (students with dyslexia and learning difficulties). I look forward to the challenge and will work hard to deliver for those who most desperately need to be heard.
7) Manifesto. This article reflects the core of my social manifesto. Albeit without mention here of other pressing concerns in our community such as special needs assessment for our children. Please consult my website for further details and feel free to message/comment or email me.
8) Social and recreational access – I am a strong believer in ‘thinking before we act’ and ‘getting things right the first time’. When speaking at last week’s Business Strategy For Greystones meeting at Charlesland Gold Club I vocalised this core belief of mine. Our community is a vibrant one – not because of external investment alone, but because of the participation of all residents and community groups, authorities, business people, sports clubs and community groups so that where renewal or repair of existing building and amenities is undertaken the interests of the disabled, elderly and young are provided for and their contributions realised. The same logic applies when a new development is considered such as that envisaged for the IDA lands on Mill Road. I believe I have the energy, experience and skills to ensure that a balance is struck between the economic, the social and the civic dimensions.
Coming from a family with disabilities I am aware that disability effects many residents in our community. However not all those who strive through their daily tasks and activities are adequately supported. Community groups, volunteers and charities play a big part in re-balancing the social equation. My own experience of the selfless part played by those who help out with RESPECT and the Daughters Of Charity assures me of this point.
Local and national government should also play it’s part.
If elected as your local representative I will do all I can to make sure that happens.