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Government approves ground breaking reforms to modernise electoral registration

Published on Friday, 27 Dec 2019
John Paul Phelan TD

Minister Phelan publishes report on public consultation which reveals strong support for reform

  • Rolling registration will simplify and streamline registration processes
  • Identity verification using PPSNs to protect principle of ‘one person one vote’
  • Optional online registration on the way for those who wish to use it
  • A more responsive registration process, more appropriate to how we live today
  • Public consultation showed strong support for: simplified registration forms; single national database of electors with unique identifiers; requirement for Personal Public Services Number (PPSN) to be used for ID verification

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy and Minister for State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan have today (27 December 2019) announced the approval by Government of a series of policy proposals aimed at modernising the electoral registration process. 

In welcoming the Government decision, Minister Murphy said “these changes, which represent the most significant modernisation of the electoral registration process since 1918, will allow for more responsive engagement with the public; more efficient administration and crucially, will protect the integrity of our electoral registration process into the future.”

  1. Simplification of forms and the registration process – a new form(s) will be developed, in consultation with stakeholders.
  2. A rolling (continuously updated) electoral register – legislative proposals to enable this will be developed.
  3. Optional online registration (with the option of registering with paper forms continuing) and secure self-service – the voter.ie pilot project, which could form the IT basis for this online facility, will be evaluated in terms of technical stability, security and data protection.
  4. A move to individual registration only (replacing the household registration process) – analysis and consultation, particularly with local authorities, will inform legislative proposals.
  5. Enabling a single national electoral register database with unique identifiers –consideration of data protection and privacy issues to take place.
  6. A move to a system of identity verification using one’s PPSN – a data protection impact assessment, analysis and ongoing engagement with the Office of the Data Protection Commission will be part of implementation.
  7. Limited data sharing between public bodies and electoral registration authorities (local authorities) to maintain accuracy and comprehensiveness – analysis of data issues and consideration of limited data sharing in the first instance.

In addition, the reforms will include:

  • A system of anonymous registration for persons whose safety may be at risk – implementation proposal to be developed in consultation with local authorities and stakeholders.
  • Improved provision for registration for those with no fixed address – implementation proposal to be developed in consultation with local authorities and representative groups.
  • Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds – analysis of data protection issues in advance of developing proposal, in consultation with local authorities.
  • The removal of the provisions for the ‘edited register’ (a version that can be purchased by any party and used for any purpose, including direct marketing) – legislative analysis to identify necessary changes.    

The examination of the voter registration process and reform proposals arise from a 2017 Government decision that work should commence on modernising the electoral registration process.

Minister Phelan and officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government are now preparing the outline of proposed legislation to implement these reforms and the Minister hopes to bring this to the Government in early 2020. 

Minister Phelan has today also published a report on the public consultation on modernisation of the electoral registration process, which ran from December 2018 to March 2019.  Public and stakeholder views showed strong support for the proposals. 

Commenting on the report (available at: www.registerreform.gov.ie), Minister Phelan said: “The positive feedback from the public and others marked an important step towards this significant decision.  These reforms are about making the registration process more user-friendly and similar to the way people interact with other State services; they reflect changes in how we live today and the public responded positively to that.” 

The Minister explained that “several themes emerged from respondents to the public consultation.  To maximise electoral participation, they wanted flexibility in how people can register.  Identity verification, data protection and privacy are also key issues.  Whilst people welcomed the idea of online registration, respondents felt that technical security, stability and resilience are critical issues.  We will be mindful of these during implementation of changes so that public confidence in our electoral registration process is maintained.”

Minister Phelan added: “We had proposed data sharing between local authorities and other public bodies so that when someone changes details of address or name with one public body, their details on the electoral register would be automatically updated.  This aimed to enhance accuracy and comprehensiveness.  In response to concerns we will consider in the first instance what minimum data sharing is required to ensure the electoral register and the new proposals on identity verification function properly.”

“Another strongly held view was a desire for continued publicity and awareness raising of the planned changes.  We ran a strong information campaign across multiple channels for the public consultation.  We will run information campaigns at key stages so the public is made aware of all changes well in advance, so people know how they can register or change their registration details, and how reforms will or will not affect them.”

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