Students are being urged to register to vote before the upcoming deadline of November 25 by the Union of Students in Ireland.
USI and local Students’ Unions are encouraging students to download the voter registration forms and post them to their local office to ensure they are registered to vote.
USI and local Students’ Unions usually register thousands of students every year through on-campus voter registration drives.
That has not been possible in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it is still extremely important that students ensure they get on the register.
USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “A lot of students first get on the Register of Electors by signing up at these registration drives held all over the country by USI along with local SUs. We would hate to think of students not getting registered this year because these events can’t happen and so we are really encouraging students to get themselves registered before the deadline. Elections can happen any time and we want to ensure that as many people as possible can vote when the time comes.”
Students based in Dublin can register online on voter.ie, while those based elsewhere should download the RFA form from checktheregister.ie and post it to their local county or city council by November 25. There is no need to buy a stamp – just write ‘Freepost’ on the envelop and postage is free.
Ahead of the registration deadline, USI is also calling for widespread reform of the voter registration system to ensure the system is easy to use and as many eligible people as possible are registered and enabled to vote in future elections.
USI is calling for online registration to be available throughout the country, the right to vote being extended to those aged 16 and an investigation into the feasibility of automatic registration.
Lorna said: “A commitment was made in the Programme for Government that the Electoral Commission would be established and that needs to happen as a matter of urgency. At the moment, only people in Dublin can register to vote online – this needs to be rolled out to the rest of the country. We can do almost everything online now and registering to vote should be no different. We should be making it easy for people to register and encouraging them to use their vote.”
Over 10 years ago, the report ‘The Future of the Electoral Register in Ireland and Related Matters’ recommended that voter registration be done on a rolling or continuous basis, rather than the periodic registration windows used currently. This has proved successful in the UK and would be welcomed by USI. More recent reports have made similar recommendations.
Registered Irish voters that live outside Ireland should also be facilitated to vote at Irish embassies or consulates. There are currently 115 nations that facilitate voting for their citizens abroad in one form or another.
Reforming the Seanad should also be a key task of the Electoral Commission.
Lorna said: “We welcome Senator Malcolm Byrne’s Universities Bill to expand voting rights to graduates of all Higher Education Institutions as a step forward, but we believe the system of graduate voting remains elitist and should be removed. All citizens should have the right to vote in Seanad Elections.”