By Saoirse Higgins
The Union of Students Ireland (USI) has called for greater clarity around voter registration, demanding that the Government ensure all students registered to vote within the last year be automatically included on the register,
Under current legislation, the register of electors is updated on the 15th of February every year and with the date of the General Election set for 8th of February, there has been much confusion around whether those who registered after the 15th of February last year will automatically be able to vote.
Although the time to register has passed with the election in a few days, there has been disquiet over people missing out on the chance to vote.
Speaking to the University Times, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick argued, “The government needs to take action on this, to ensure that everybody has the chance to have their voice heard.”
President of the Students’ Union here at NUI Galway, Clare Austick, highlights the issues several students have had with voter registration. “Many students were not on the register, which caused a lot of hassle with students trying to register online. Those students had to rush to join the supplementary register otherwise they would not be able to vote in the election”.
The Students’ Union had to push to dispel the miscommunication around registration very quickly to avoid the disenfranchisement of numerous students.
Speaking to SIN, Ms Austick said it is necessary that the government should give more notice to an election; “Everyone, particularly students, need more time to organise their registration especially when the election takes place before the 15th of February”, she said.
Widespread criticism surrounding the decision by the Government to hold the election on a Saturday, the first in over 100 years, was echoed by the Students’ Union, with the President arguing that a Saturday trip to the polls alienates students, “A lot of students have part-time work in the places they then attend college, so if they’re working from 10 until 8 on a Saturday they might not be able to travel 3 hours to Dublin or Cork or wherever it may be”.
However, among the hassle of voter registration, 2,000 students joined the supplementary register in the days leading up to the deadline on January 23rd according to the USI. UCC saw the highest number of students register with 700 students registered on the 22nd alone.