Election 2016 - what you need to know

The Taoiseach has announced the election will take place on Friday, February 26 - almost five years to the day since the last election.

This will make it the shortest campaign in the history of the State - 21 days.

The last General Election was held on February 25, 2011 so you might need a little refresher on how things work.

Here’s what you need to know.

The basics:

- You must be 18 or over to vote

- A member's official Irish title is Teachta Dála (TD) which in English means Deputy to the Dáil. To stand for election to the Dáil, a person must be at least 21.

- The law states a General Election to Dáil Éireann must be held at least once every five years.

- The country is divided into constituencies, each of which elects either three, four or five Members.

- Under the Constitution, there must be at least one Member for every 20,000 to 30,000 people

- The constituencies must be revised at least once in every 12 years. In practice, constituencies are revised on the publication of the results of each census.

What do TDs do?

They divide their time between their constituency (meeting local people and groups, holding advice clinics and working on local issues) and attendance in the Dáil and its specialist committees.

How many TDs are there?

There are at present 166 Members of the Dáil, representing 43 constituencies. However, that is set to change after the upcoming election.

The constituency commission in 2012 was given the task of reducing Dáil numbers to between 153 and 160. It was decided that 158 seats was the most appropriate number to meet the constitutional population to Dáil deputy requirement. Nearly 500 candidates will be competing for these 158 seats come February 26.

The number of 158 includes the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Barrett, who will be automatically returned.

The number of constituencies was also reduced from 43 to 40.

That means that while the number of five-seat constituencies remains unchanged at 11, the number of three-seat constituencies will be 13 instead of 17 and the number of four-seat constituencies will be 16 instead of 15.

Who runs the country during an election?

The Taoiseach retains his role as do the ministers. The cabinet will still meet if necessary.

How are the votes counted?

Through Proportional Representation.

On your ballot paper, you indicate your first choice by writing 1 and 2 opposite your second choice, 3 opposite your third choice and so on.

Essentially, if your first choice is either elected with a surplus of votes over the quota required to be elected or is eliminated, your vote is transferred to your second choice.If your second choice is elected or eliminated, your vote may be transferred to your third choice.

Confused? Don’t worry, we’ll publish a longer guide to PR in the coming weeks.

When will we know the results?

The count starts at 9am on the day after polling day. The new Dáil will meet on Thursday, March 10 at 10.30am.

Does this affect the Seanad?

An election to Seanad Éireann must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of Dáil Éireann.

Am I registered to vote?

The electorate, which is based on the new register of electors published on February 1, 2016, currently stands at approximately 3.2 million.

If you are unsure whether you are registered to vote, visit CheckThe Register.ie.

If you’re not registered, there is still time to be included on the Supplement to the Register by filling in the RFA2 form. The form then needs to be signed by a member of An Garda Síochána and received by your local council at least 15 working days before polling.

You can also register a change of address on the Supplement with the RFA3 form

Read: Putting the election jargon into plain English

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