Government Approves the General Scheme of Electoral Commission Bill 2019
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy and Minister for State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan have today (30 December, 2019) announced the approval by Government of the General Scheme of an Electoral Commission Bill.
The General Scheme sets out the functions and organisational structure of an Electoral Commission for Ireland. It is a key milestone in the establishment of an Electoral Commission, building on the Government’s approval for the establishment of a statutory Electoral Commission in July 2019.
Welcoming the Government decision, Minister Murphy said: “I am very pleased to have Government approval for this General Scheme, which brings an Irish Electoral Commission a step closer to fruition. Electoral Commissions are a feature of international electoral best practice, and our Electoral Commission will bring a more cohesive approach to the management of a wide range of electoral processes in Ireland.”
The Electoral Commission’s initial remit will see the transfer of several existing electoral functions, including the Register of Political Parties, the Referendum Commission, the Constituency Commission and Local Electoral Area Boundary Committees. The Electoral Commission will take a holistic view of our electoral system, while also building on the strengths of the current administration of these transferring functions. Further functions will be considered for transfer to the Commission at a later stage.
The General Scheme sets out organisational, governance and accountability structures which will provide for an independent Electoral Commission, which is directly accountable to the Oireachtas. It will be steered by a membership with a broad range of experience and expertise, and supported by a specialist, dedicated staff.
The General Scheme provides for a new research and advisory function which will inform Government and the Oireachtas in their consideration of reform to electoral law. In addition, a new voter education function will see the Commission develop the means to enhance participation in our democratic processes.
Minister Phelan said “I’m delighted with this General Scheme, which is a blueprint for an effective and efficient independent electoral body. The Electoral Commission will be uniquely positioned and empowered to take a leading role in electoral reform and the evolution of our electoral system.”
The General Scheme will now be referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Committee will be asked to initiate pre-legislative scrutiny on the General Scheme. Following the pre-legislative process, an Electoral Commission Bill will be drafted.
Note for Editors.
The Government approved the establishment of a statutory Electoral Commission on 17 July 2019.
The establishment of an Electoral Commission is a key commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government. An Electoral Commission will bring together several electoral functions in an independent, dedicated public body. Several of the Commission’s members will be identified via an independent public selection process and appointed by the President.
The Electoral Commission’s establishment is guided by a number of recent reports and public consultation processes, including:
- the 2016 report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on the Consultation on the Proposed Electoral Commission; and
- the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) and public consultation concerning the establishment of an Electoral Commission, which was completed my Department earlier this year.
The submissions received as part of these processes expressed support for the establishment of an Electoral Commission on a statutory basis and initial assignment of a limited number of functions, with a view to assigning further functions over time.