Last elections saw more spoiled votes than capacity of Croke Park – regulator

Last Elections Saw More Spoiled Votes Than Capacity Of Croke Park – Regulator
Some of the spoiled papers did not include a number one vote, or some papers included two number one votes which also rendered the ballot paper as invalid.
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By Cate McCurry, PA

Ireland’s electoral commission is attempting to drive down the number of spoiled votes, after 108,488 votes were deemed invalid in the last local and European elections – more than enough voters to fill Croke Park stadium.

An Coimisiún Toghchain chair Ms Justice Marie Baker said that while some will be protest votes, many of the spoiled ballot papers have been wrongly filled in.


Some of the spoiled papers did not include a number one vote, or some papers included two number one votes which also rendered the ballot paper as invalid.

Speaking at Croke Park in Dublin, Justice Baker said that the 108,488 spoiled votes represented one and a third times Croke Park’s capacity.

Justice Baker said that two particular problems were identified on the spoiled votes.


“One is that people didn’t identify their first choice. There was no number one marked anywhere on the ballot paper. And the one thing you have to do is identify your first choice because that is the first one that is counted,” she said.

“The second problem that was identified, oddly enough, was that people voted two number ones in the same ballot paper, and again who’s to decide between those which is the one that counts and which is the one that doesn’t count.

“The act (Electoral Reform Act) is quite fluid in that it allows anything to be acceptable as a number one vote provided it’s apparent from it that it’s number one.

“So if you only vote for one person and you put an X beside that person, then that will be deemed to be a number one.”


Chief executive of the commission, Art O’Leary, said: “It’s been over four years since we’ve had a competitive election in this country.

“So, some people are voting for the first time and may have some doubts about how the system works, or some people because they haven’t voted in so long, may have slipped their mind how the process works.”

People voting in the local and European elections, which takes place on June 7th, will be given two ballot papers, while voters in Limerick will have three, given the vote for a directly elected mayor.

“Some people mark one, two, three on the first ballot paper and four, five and six on the second ballot paper, but that second ballot paper won’t count,” Mr O’Leary said.



“So, it’s very, very important that you start every process as an individual exercise. So each ballot paper is a separate exercise. Start with one always, unless you’re voting for just one person, then an X or a tick would do.

“The 108,000 is a huge number. There will be a protest vote and absolutely people’s right to do that. There is no intention to take away that right or to stop it in any way.

“But for those people who went to the effort of voting, they got up in the morning and made plans and went to the polling station, queued up, completed their ballot paper and then failing to complete it properly in a way that is in accordance with law.

“It’s an awful shame that their voice remains unheard in this process.”

Justice Baker said the deliberately spoiled votes are always obvious.

“Somebody writes something like, ‘none of you’ or that kind of thing. That’s what normally happens,” she added.

“Whereas, the person who forgets to put a number one in and starts at two, thinks that they have voted. They haven’t.”

They said that people who make a mistake on their ballot can ask staff at the polling station for a new one.

Parts of the Electoral Reform Act, which gives the Electoral Commission regulatory powers, have not yet been enacted following concerns raised by the European Commission.

Mr O’Leary said their current powers are enough to deal with any issues that arise, particularly around misinformation and disinformation on social media.

“Many, many countries are reporting interference (in elections) and we can’t assume that we will be exempt,” he added.

“The Oireachtas had some powers in mind for the An Coimisiun Toghchain when it passed the Electoral Reform Act.

“These powers haven’t yet been commenced because there’s some discussions going on with the European Commission in relation to the proper alignment of our powers with the Digital Services Act.

“We are plugged in to so many international networks at the moment where the sharing of intelligence in relation to these matters is very open.

“It is one issue of shared concern between electoral management bodies all over the world. We are confident that we have the tools within our framework, in our existing powers and that we will have sufficient resources to be able to deal with anything that comes our way.

“There are many, many ways of dealing with this. You can deal with disinformation as it arises.”

Further information can be found on their website

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