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Ó Broin introduces Bill to tackle the dramatic increase in spoiled votes in last Local and European elections

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Planning, and Local Government Eoin Ó Broin TD has today introduced a Bill that will tackle the dramatic increase in spoiled votes recorded in the latest European & Local elections.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“In elections where there are two ballot papers, many voters indicated preferences across the two ballots. Traditionally, it was left to the discretion of the returning officer to decide on whether these votes should be deemed valid.

“However, following the Supreme Court ruling in the Kiely -v- Kerry County Council, made on foot of the 2014 local elections, this discretion was removed. Ballots would only be deemed valid if the number sequence started with a 1 indicating a clear first preference. This has had serious implications for the counting of these votes in the last month’s elections.

“In 2014, there were 45,424 spoiled votes in the European elections. In 2019, this increased to 73,766. While there are several possible explanations for the additional 28,342 spoiled ballots, it is hard not to conclude that the bulk of the dramatic 62% jump is due to 2014 Supreme Court Ruling.

“I am firmly of the view that this ruling has resulted in a very large number of people being disenfranchised. While better voter education is clearly required, there is also a compelling case for legal reform.

“The Bill I am introducing today seeks to remedy this by amending the Electoral Act 1963 to ensure that ballot papers with a numerical sequence beginning with a number other than one (two, three, four etc) could be deemed as valid votes in terms of expressing a first preference.

“This Bill makes a simple change that would ensure that people have their vote recorded. The legislative change should be rolled out with a voter education programme similar to the information rolled out during referendum campaigns.”

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