If you are planning of voting, and I sincerely hope you are, and you are still unsure how the voting process works then please take the time to read the following excellent article from one of our supporters, Barbara Gallagher…
***VOTING FOR VIRGINS*** – A ‘How and Why’ Guide for First-Timers!
Now that we know the General Election is approaching, I’m posting this again, in the hope that it will encourage every one of you, and particularly the 18 – 25 year-old group, to vote. Please share it far and wide – YOU may know all about voting, but there are so many people who don’t! I’m sorry it’s such a long post, but it’s not rocket science. You’ll only need to read it once, and all will become clear! Bear with me.
Some people never vote. Others have only just come of age, and this will be their first General Election. There are those who say they won’t vote this time, as a protest against the government, thinking that will ‘keep them out’, but it won’t! Finally there is a group of high-minded, enigmatic individuals who have ‘de-registered’, or indeed have never registered to vote. Some call themselves ‘Sovereign Citizens’ or ‘Freemen’. Their theory is that we are nothing but sheep; by voting we are allowing ourselves to be ruled, and therefore we are throwing away our freedom. It’s probably a noble ideology but, if they have ‘opted out of an oppressive system’, I’m curious to know how this gives them ‘freedom’, as in the end, they’re still subjected to the same laws, the same injustices and the same austerity as the rest of us. We may not like the system, but we know we can only change it from the inside, and that means VOTING!
The only way to keep someone OUT of government is to put someone else IN to take their place! You might think “It won’t make any difference whether I vote or not”, but believe me, it will! There are 160 seats to be filled in the Dáil, and those seats WILL be filled, no matter how many or how few of us come out to vote. We just need to make sure that the right people win 81 of those seats to be able to form a majority government, and we are the only ones who can make that happen. Remember, the big right-wing government parties have all the money and influence they need to throw at an election, and they will spend millions to get every vote they can muster. You’ll even see them wheeling elderly folk from nursing-homes onto specially arranged buses to get them to the polling station! Don’t think that your one little vote can’t change anything – it can, and it will, and boy, do they know it! So if you haven’t voted before, or even if you have, but you’re curious to know how it all works, grab yourself a cuppa and read on.
Before we go any further, I have to make it clear that I’m not a member of, or even vaguely affiliated to, any political party or activist group, so I have no agenda. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone who to vote for, but I’m assuming we all want this shower of thieves and liars out of the Dáil, and a decent, honest government in, so we know we can only vote for anti-austerity candidates (AAA, PBP, Sinn Fein, Social Democrats, R2W, IDP, DDI, WP, etc.) and some Independents. For many of us, that might mean biting the bullet on our own personal or political principles, but it’s the only way to avoid a FG/FF coalition, which is the alternative and widely anticipated outcome. I think we can safely assume Labour will be wiped out, but don’t give them any sympathy votes, just in case!
No matter how brilliant your local FG/FF/Labour/Renua TD might be at getting stuff done for you and your area, when it comes to the bigger issues, they are all restricted by the dreaded ‘Party Whip’, which means they have to vote exactly as they’re told to, or be expelled from their party. They can’t vote according to their own conscience, or how we want them to vote. Remember that when they come knocking on your door, promising you the sun, moon and stars! Be careful, too, when you’re choosing an ‘Independent’ – they can be very effective at a local level, and we definitely need lots of them to win seats, but some are ‘not-so-very-independent’ ex-party members, who will always crawl back and vote with their original party on the bigger, national issues once they are elected!
The first thing you need to do is to make sure you’re registered to vote. This can be done quickly and easily at your local Council offices. The deadline for registration on the Main Register of Electors was in November, but it’s not too late to get on the ‘Supplemental Register’ now, and you’ll still be able to vote when the time comes. Your polling card will be delivered to your registered address a few weeks before the election. If yours hasn’t come, but everyone else around you has received theirs, you can still sort it out up to two weeks before the election by getting yourself on the Supplemental Register.
On the day of the general election, you need to bring your polling card and some formal ID to your polling station with you. When you arrive at the desk, they will check for your name on a list and cross it off. You’ll be handed a ballot paper showing the names and pictures and parties of all the candidates in your area, and there’s a box beside each name. You can either use the pencil provided at the polling booth, or if you prefer, you can use your own black or blue pen. (I have an e-mail from the Dept. of the Environment confirming this.)
Unlike a referendum, where you are asked to put an ‘X’ in a box that says ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, in a General Election you have to put numbers into the boxes. It’s vital that you do not write anything else on your ballot paper other than putting those numbers in boxes, otherwise you’ll spoil your vote, and it won’t be counted. So no ‘X’s, no ticks, no ‘N/A’s or zeros in the empty boxes, and definitely no comments, good or bad! Find the candidate that appeals to you the most, and put the number 1 in the box beside their name. Then choose your next favourite and put the number 2 beside their name. Carry on like this until you have voted for all the people you want, but DO NOT give any of your preferences to anyone you don’t want. There is a common misconception out there that we have to fill all the boxes – this is absolutely NOT TRUE, so don’t let anyone try and persuade you that it is! Why would we ever be expected to give any of our votes to someone we don’t want?!
Ireland is divided into 40 voting constituencies, and in each constituency there are 3, 4 or 5 Dáil seats up for grabs, depending on the size of the area. We need Anti-Austerity candidates to win at least two seats in every constituency to reach the magic figure of 81. You can only vote for the candidates that are running in your own constituency, so although we might all like to vote, for example, for Paul Murphy or Clare Daly or Catherine Murphy or Mick Wallace, you can only vote for them if you actually live in their constituency. The rest of us have to make do with whatever Sinn Féin, Anti-Austerity, Direct Democracy, Right2Change, People Before Profit, Workers Party and Independent candidates we have, but the trick is, whatever you do, don’t give any votes whatsoever to Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, Renua, or any Independents that have connections to them.
Each candidate needs a certain number of votes to be elected, called a ‘quota’. The exact quotas are never known in advance of the election. They can’t be determined until after the polls have closed, because they’re calculated from the total number of valid votes cast on the day, so it will be a different figure for each election. This is why it’s so important for all of us to come out and vote this time – the usual turnout for a general election is 63% – 65% nationally, but in so-called ‘disadvantaged’ areas, it’s as low as 25%. Can you believe it?! Only 1 in every 4 eligible voters! We need to reverse this trend, because the right-wing parties of FG, FF, Labour and Renua DEPEND on us either not bothering or not knowing how to vote! Yet their own supporters will turn out in force at the polling stations every time and know exactly what to do, like it’s bred into them!
Their greatest fear is that the ‘disadvantaged’ will one day rise up and vote for candidates with a conscience, who have OUR best interests at heart.
They know full well if we vote, it certainly won’t be for them and their EU puppet-masters, and that will make it so much more difficult for them to reach the quota! In the last election in 2011, 70% of the population voted, which was a very high number. But as always happens when people are angry, they came out in droves, and switched their votes straight over to Fine Gael and Labour as a show of contempt for Fianna Fáil. This turned out to be a disaster, as we now know they are just two sides of the same coin, but we’re going to fix that, aren’t we?
Here’s the technical stuff. It’s not important that you know it, so skip to the next paragraph if you’re bored, but you might be interested to find out how the quota is worked out for each constituency. It’s not nearly as complicated as they’d like us to believe: “Divide the total number of valid votes cast by the number of seats available plus one, then add one”. For example, in a three-seat constituency, assuming 60,000 valid votes are cast, the quota works out at 15,001. Only candidates who get 15,001 votes or more can win a seat. Here’s the breakdown: 60,000 valid votes, divided by 4 (3 seats + 1) = 15,000. Add + 1 = 15,001. This ensures that only three candidates can actually reach the quota, because 15,001 x 3 = 45,003. Out of the 60,000 votes cast, this would only leave a remainder of 14,997, which is 4 votes short of the quota of 15,001. In a four-seater constituency, the quota is one fifth of the valid votes plus one, and in a five-seater, the quota is on sixth of the valid votes plus one. It’s as simple as that!
As soon as the polling stations close, usually at 10pm, the counting begins. It carries on late into the night and is resumed the next day, as candidates are elected and eliminated one by one, and second and third choice transfers are made. Some candidates will demand a recount, when they are just a few votes short of reaching the quota, and this is allowed. Any candidate who reaches the quota on the first count is automatically elected. If they have more votes than they need, their excess number 2 and 3 votes, and the number 2 and 3 votes from eliminated candidates who never had any hope of reaching the quota, are distributed among the remaining candidates until all the seats are filled. This is where the main parties usually mop up a lot of votes, and that’s why we have to be so careful not to fill in any of their boxes with any number at all on the ballot paper. Remember – only vote for the candidate(s) you really want!
It’s vitally important that we persuade everyone to go out and vote this time. All the opinion polls are showing that FG and FF’s share of the vote is increasing, but they haven’t reckoned on us, the poor, ignorant, long-suffering ‘disadvantaged’ voters, about to take them by storm! I have doubts about these polls anyway – where exactly do they get their figures? Isn’t it curious how they never seem to come knocking on OUR doors when they’re drawing them up? Well, this time we’re going to shock the hell out of them at the ballot box! They’ll only be expecting 1 in 4 of us to vote, but we know we can do better than that!
If you haven’t nodded off by now, then thank you for sticking with this ultra-long post. I hope it will help some of those who had questions about the whole voting system. You mightn’t be able to share this post from here, so if you can’t, then please copy and paste the text, put it on your own page and share it as far and wide as you can. If that fails, PM me and I’ll post it to your FB page myself. Or just make up your own version from the information here. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t vote just because they don’t know how – after all, it’s not really something you chat about over a pint, and we were certainly never taught it at school, but I think now we probably know why!
The last thing they want is for us ‘little people’ to have our say! Well, we only get a chance to do it every 5 years, so we can’t let this golden opportunity pass us by. Don’t forget to enlighten all the people who don’t use social media, or who only use it to show us pictures of their pets, their holidays, and what they’re having for dinner! Talk to your family and friends, even strangers in the queue at the post office or supermarket, so that together, we have a fighting chance to change Ireland for the better. The power of the people really IS greater than the people in power – all we have to do is use it!”
Now you are well armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed and educated vote…. Use it wisely and share this post with as many of your friends and family as you can.
The next five years depends on you…