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Summary: There are a number of facilities in place to assist people with a physical illness or disability, a vision impairment or a reading or writing disability in Ireland to exercise their voting rights.
Some things you can do
- Vote at an alternative polling station if the local station is inaccessible.
- Be assisted to vote at the polling station by a companion or the presiding officer.
- Vote by post.
- Vote at a hospital, nursing home or similar institution if you live there.
If you have difficulty gaining access to your local polling station, you can apply in writing to the returning officer – at least a week before polling day – for permission to vote at another polling station in the same constituency.
If you apply to be authorised to vote at another polling station, you should explain why you cannot gain access to your local station. This will help the returning officer select a suitable alternative polling station. If possible, you should suggest a polling station that is both accessible and convenient for you.
Access within polling stations
Voting compartments may not be suitable for older people and people with disabilities. Returning officers must make available a table and chair at which electors can vote if they find that more convenient.
Assistance with voting
The presiding officer will ask for your name and address and will look at your polling information card when you arrive at the station.
The law is specific about the types of electors who can be assisted to vote and how and by whom they may be assisted. The presiding officer is obliged to apply the law, which is intended to ensure that you can vote and that your vote is kept secret.
If you have a vision impairment or physical disability that prevents you from voting without assistance, you can have the ballot paper marked for you by a companion. To act as a companion, a person must be at least 16 years old, must be neither a candidate nor an agent of a candidate and may not assist more than two electors at an election.
You can also ask for assistance from the presiding officer. In this case, the presiding officer will be accompanied by a person called a personation agent, who will ensure that the presiding officer complies with your wishes. If necessary, the presiding officer will suspend entry to the polling station and have the station cleared to ensure that no other person can overhear how you vote.
If you require assistance from a presiding officer, try to get to the polling station before the busiest time, i.e. the last two hours before the station closes.
Voting by post
If you have a physical disability or illness that prevents you from going to the polling station and you live at home, you can vote by post if you apply to be included in the postal voters list, which is drawn up each year as part of the register of electors. You must apply by 25 November in order to be entered on the postal voters list.
Application forms can be obtained by phoning your county council or city corporation and are also available in post offices, local authority offices, public libraries and Garda stations. An application form is usually sent by post to each person on the current year’s postal voters list.
Voting at hospitals and nursing homes
If you reside in a hospital, nursing home or at home and have a physical disability or illness that prevents you from going to the polling station, you can vote at the hospital or nursing home, once you apply to be included in the special voters list, which is drawn up each year as part of the register of electors.
For more information on facilities for voters with disabilities, visit Citizens Information at www.citizensinformation.ie or contact the Franchise Section of the Department of the Environment on 01 888 2424.