Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle supports call for Electoral Commission to ensure fair and accurate elections

Pringle supports call for Electoral Commission to ensure fair and accurate elections

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has welcomed the proposed establishment of an Electoral Commission, calling the electoral register incomplete and inaccurate.

Addressing the Dáil today, Deputy Pringle said there is no doubt there are serious issues with duplication in the register.

Deputy Pringle said: “The amount of duplications on the electoral register at the moment is incredible, so much so that the number of names on the register actually exceeds the population eligible to vote due to duplications, as well as due to double counting and counting those who are no longer at their previous addresses.”

He said other identified problems include a complex registration process, poor maintenance of the register, and voters being turned away from polling stations due to not being on the register.

The deputy said: “The establishment of an Electoral Commission to address these issues would be very welcome in order to ensure fair and accurate elections.”

Deputy Pringle was speaking on the Electoral Reform Bill 2022. While he supported establishment of an Electoral Commission, he said, “we must allow for thorough and adequate scrutiny of this bill.”

The deputy said he also believed there was an issue around conduct at elections, but said there is often difficulty in pursuing allegations of misconduct. He said: “That’s something that needs to be addressed because I think the overall faith in the electoral system needs to be supported and strengthened as well.”

The deputy supported local authority management of the electoral register due to the practical benefits of local knowledge, with an oversight role for the Electoral Commission.

Deputy Pringle said: “However, what is required to properly manage and address the issues with the register is a centralised voter registration process.”

The deputy said he had serious concerns about requiring a PPS number to register to vote.

Deputy Pringle said: “Tying your right to vote to the possession of a PPSN is undemocratic and poses potential privacy issues. As well as this, it rules out many people in this country who do not possess PPS numbers, particularly members of marginalised groups.”

The deputy said: “An extremely important aspect that should be included in this bill is the protection of the right to freedom of association and expression for civil society groups”, saying the role the groups play in society “cannot be overstated”.

As a result of extension of the Electoral Act 1997, advocacy groups have seen their advocacy work classed as having “political purposes”. This has prohibited many from accepting any substantial domestic donations or grants to assist their work and prohibited international funding.

The deputy said the bill “creates a clear opportunity to amend the incredibly problematic definition of ‘political purposes’ and we must grab this opportunity to do so”.

Last year Deputy Pringle introduced his Vote at 16 Bill, a constitutional amendment bill that would mean people could register to vote from age 16 and vote in all elections, and he strongly welcomed the introduction of a pending electors list for 16- and 17-year-olds in this bill.

Deputy Pringle said: “Overall, I welcome parts of this bill and I strongly welcome the establishment of an Electoral Commission. There is no doubt that this is overdue. I hope that it will contribute to much fairer and accurate democratic elections in this country.”