Improvements to voter registration process launched with the new Check the Register campaign.
Public encouraged to confirm and update their details online
Registering to vote now possible online, year-round
16 and 17 year olds can now pre-register online
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien T.D. and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, T.D. together encouraged the public to confirm and update their details on the electoral register or to register for the first time using a newly upgraded www.checktheregister.ie. Their comments come as a campaign launched today (7 November) to raise public awareness of changes to the electoral registration process.
Several improvements have been made to the process of registering to vote and updating registration details, arising from provisions in Part 3 of the Electoral Reform Act 2022, which were commenced on 13 October.
In addition to making the process more accessible, the changes to how the register is managed and maintained will ensure a robust electoral register into the future. All electors are now being asked to visit www.checktheregister.ie to confirm or update their entry by adding their PPSN, Date of Birth and Eircode. This will help local authorities to ensure that entries are accurate and up to date as well as enabling the identification of entries on the register that require follow up.
The core changes to the electoral registration process include:
- A move from fixed periods for updating details to rolling updates: previously people could only update their details in November or via the supplement which required a visit to a Garda station. Under the changes announced today, continuous or rolling registration will allow updates or additions at any time of year;
- Streamlining of the application process through use of PPSNs: The use of PPSNs will enable a simple identity data cross-check to protect and improve the integrity of the register, while streamlining the process for electors. This will mean that most people won’t have to visit a Garda station to have their forms witnessed;
- Registering to vote for the first time will now be possible online: PPSNs also enable online applications – for the first time people can register to vote or update their details online at any time;
- 16 and 17 year olds will be able to pre-register to vote: The introduction of a pending electors list to enable those 16 and 17 to pre-register and be automatically added to the register from when they turn 18.
- New provisions to make the register more accessible to all: The new process includes measures to facilitate electors whose safety might be at risk if their details were to be published on the register and those who have no address.
Minister Noonan said:
“I am particularly pleased that we have introduced pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. Taken together, these changes give us a more accessible, flexible and modern system that’s simple and straightforward to use. It has never been easier for people to register to vote or update their details, so that’s what we’re encouraging everyone to do today.”
The Electoral Reform Act 2022 delivers the legislative underpinning for a range of significant electoral reforms set out in the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future. The Act provides for, among other things, the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission – An Coimisiún Toghcháin, the modernisation of the electoral registration process, and the regulation of online political advertising.
Commenced on 13 October in S.I. No. 512 of 2022 were the provisions necessary for:
- the recruitment of the Chief Executive and ordinary membership of An Coimisiún Toghcháin;
- the introduction of the new process in relation to electoral registration;
- providing for island voting to take place on the same day as the rest of the country; and
- the introduction of new processes to facilitate polling in pandemic situations.
Furthermore, existing flexible voting arrangements are being extended to those with mental health difficulties that prevent them from attending on polling day and those who live in nursing homes or similar places that may be inaccessible on polling day.
Welcoming the first phase of commencements of the Act, Minister O’Brien said:
“This first phase of commencement of the Electoral Reform Act and the launch of this awareness campaign represents another step in delivering on significant electoral reforms, and will help to ensure that our democracy is supported by robust electoral structures including a more accurate electoral register”.
Once An Coimisiún Toghcháin is established it will also have a new oversight role with respect to the register of electors. “An annual reporting cycle, with An Coimisiún empowered to make recommendations and set standards, will deliver a balance between local authority experience and local knowledge and national level oversight” said Minister Noonan.
A further phase of the project will see the development and roll out of a national system for use by all local authorities. This will further enhance the integrity of the register and ensure that a single high standard of security and data protection is applied to the electoral register and its underlying data.
Minister O’Brien emphasised that: “This is one further step in the work to safeguard our electoral processes. Every vote is important, and I encourage everyone to confirm or update their details on www.checktheregister.ie to make sure that they can have their say”.
- A paper form will remain available for those who wish to use it, either with a PPSN or with an in-person identity check at a local Garda station similar to the previous process.
- PPSNs, Eircode and Dates of birth will enable a more accurate register as identity information (Name, PPSN and Date of Birth) will be cross-checked against identity information held by the Department of Social Protection. This simple and limited check will confirm that the details provided by the applicant are coherent and match a single, living individual.
- Where a person doesn’t have or doesn’t provide a PPSN or where the cross-check doesn’t confirm the information provided, they will need to submit a paper form certified on foot of an in-person identity check at a local Garda station or at the office of the registration authority.
- Third party requests for amendment can still be made, for example where a person wishes to notify the local authority of a family member who has died or where a local representative is aware of changes in the locality. However people will be responsible for their own registration – there will be no household forms where people are added by others. Local authorities retain the power to seek any information they need to ensure a complete and accurate register. They have under the Electoral Reform Act explicit powers to request a person to provide their own PPSN, Eircode and Date of Birth.
- Where entries are not updated or information cannot be confirmed local authorities can follow up and ultimately remove entries if they cannot be confirmed as appropriate or accurate. People will have ample opportunities to engage and can appeal a decision to remove them.
- Inclusion of PPSNs on the register will, over time, also assist in accurately identifying and removing people who are deceased.
- A further phase of the project will see the development and roll-out of a national electoral registration system that will complete the data quality improvement process by allowing checks across the country to identify and remove duplicates. The system will also enable enhanced features for the public and ensure that a single high level of data protection and security will be applied to the data underpinning the register. This work is also underway and Dublin City Council is the lead authority as the new system will build on the success of Voter.ie in the Dublin area.
- An Coimisiún Toghcháin will have an oversight role with respect to the electoral register and its processes. When An Coimisiún has been established, the final provision in Part 3 will also be commenced, setting in motion the annual reporting cycle. This will require all local authorities to report annually on the register and, taking that information and any research it has carried out, An Coimisiún will publish a report on its assessment on the overall status of the register and its processes. It can also make recommendations to local authorities and to the Minister.