Irish emigrants can now cast a symbolic ballot in the upcoming Irish General Election, with the launch of Ballotbox.ie. It’s the first time the votes of Irish diaspora abroad who are not in a position to vote can voice their vote, albeit figuratively.
The website is the genesis of co-founders Joe McCarthy and Brian Reynolds, two Irish emigrants who currently reside in Toronto, Canada. Ballotbox.ie has no political affiliations and is being run in a voluntary capacity from Dublin and Toronto.
Three million Irish passport holders live overseas at the minute and, with Irish law preventing most of them from voting, Ballotbox.ie is setting out to give these people a symbolic voting voice. Right now, only a small minority of people such as those serving in the defence forces, diplomats and politicians are allowed cast their ballot by postal vote, if they are abroad on election day.
For this election, only those who have been away less than 18 months and who intend to return within that 18 months have a vote, explains Noreen Bowden of the websites Globalirish.ie and Globalirishvote.com.
"About 4pc or 4,000-plus of those currently in the NUI Seanad panel register are at addresses outside the State – from Tanzania to The Gambia, from Syria to South Africa, and all the usual places too. They can all vote, as can TCD graduates, but due to the failure to keep the register up to date most of those are graduates from the last great emigration wave in the late Eighties and early Nineties.
"The third-level Seanad panels might well be rotten boroughs but it’s more of a say that most emigrants have and it would seem a shame to waste the chance to contribute to the debate and the political process," says Sullivan.
But, with Ireland being one of the few EU countries where the majority of Irish voters become, in a sense, ‘disenfranchised’ once they emigrate, Ballotbox.ie co-founder McCarthy says the site wants to give these people a symbolic voting platform, the next step to achieving the real thing.
Ballotbox.ie will open for voting on the week of 14 February and will remain open until 22 February, three days before the election. Only those living outside of Ireland will be able to cast a ballot. The results will also be published.
The site points to recent CSO figures, which show that 27,600 Irish people emigrated in the 12 months up to April 2010.
In January 2010, Finian McGrath TD put a question to the then-minister for foreign affairs, Micheal Martin TD, asking him if he would support the campaign on votes for Irish emigrants in view of the fact 115 countries already supported this view at the time; and if he would use this initiative to support the economy in Ireland.
Voters in Ireland – Checktheregister.ie
Meanwhile, today is the last day that people can check if they are registered to vote by logging on to the Register of Electors. If people are not registered they can download an application form. For those who have changed address, they can also download a form, which they must present at their local Garda station, along with relevant photo ID such as a passport or driver’s licence.