The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) - which represents organisations working with over 380,000 young people nationwide - is urging young people to make sure they have registered to vote before the registration deadline next Saturday November 25.
A RedC poll conducted for the NYCI earlier this year found that 22% of those aged 18-29 were not registered to vote. Based on the most recent population data from the Central Statistics Office this would mean up to 760 young people in County Leitrim risk missing out on their right to vote.
Nationwide, a potential 151,000 young voters may not be registered, with the figures for the regions as follows: Dublin City and County; 50,554, Rest of Leinster 37,393, Munster, 39,021 and Connacht/Ulster 24,494.
James Doorley, NYCI Deputy Director explained “We know from our work with young people that the vast majority want to vote but not all are aware they have to register. This is particularly an issue for the more than 61,000 young people who turned 18 and became eligible to vote over in the last 12 months.
Check the register
Local Authorities are currently preparing the 2018/2019 electoral register. For those unsure whether they are registered or not, the NYCI advises that they check online at www.checktheregister.ie
“If young people are not on the electoral lists, we are strongly encouraging them to register now. To do this they need to fill out an RFA1 form and return it to their local city or county council by Saturday November 25th. In effect the deadline is Thursday November 23rd as the form needs to be completed and posted back to the local authority to arrive by the deadline. If applicants miss the postal deadline, the only other option is to deliver the completed RFA1 form by hand,” continued Mr Doorley.
Anyone 18 on or before February 15th 2018 eligible
“This does not just apply to those currently aged 18-29 years, any young person who will turn 18 years of age on or before February 15th 2018 is now eligible to apply to register to vote,” added Mr Doorley.
Calls for overhaul of ‘cumbersome and outdated’ registration system
“These figures once again highlight how out of date our electoral registration system is. NYCI has been calling for reform for over a decade and successive Governments have promised the establishment of an Electoral Commission since 2007, yet nothing has happened.
“Every year over 60,000 young people turn 18 and become eligible to vote, yet our cumbersome and outdated system makes it hard for many of them to get on the electoral roll. We commend the work of the staff in local authorities and indeed the efforts of those such as our member organisation, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and Spunout, with whom we partnered last week on the National Voter Registration day initiative. This will have contributed to an increase in the number of young people registered, but more remains to be done.
“In order to reduce the high levels of non-registration we need to move towards automatic registration of all 18 years olds and a national online registration system. It is ridiculous that in the 21st Century eligible voters cannot register online, we are effectively still administering a 19th Century voter registration system – all that’s missing is the quills.
“These defects and deficiencies will not be solved in the short term, so for now we strongly encourage young people to register to vote and ensure they have a say in electing our public representatives and in decisions and laws that govern us all,” concluded Mr Doorley.