The word democracy is made up of two Greek words: demos (people) and kratia (rule). This means that
democracy is rule by the people. The Republic of Ireland is a democracy.

In a democracy, people elect representatives to rule on their behalf. This system of government is called
representative democracy. In the words of former US President Abraham Lincoln, “democracy is government of
the people, by the people and for the people”.

How do Elections Work?

Step 1: The Electoral Register
        This is the list of people who are allowed to vote.
        Don’t get caught out! It is not enough to be over 18 to vote – you must have applied to be on the
        Electoral Register, and you must have done this several months before the elections. Every election,
        people lose out on the chance to vote because they never got round to getting on the Electoral Register.

Step 2: The People Involved
        A Presiding Officer is appointed to manage the election, oversee counting of the votes and declare the
        result. Other election officials are appointed, such as poll clerks who do much of the actual work.
        Anyone who is eligible to stand for election gets nominated and becomes a Candidate in the election. If
        they are successful in a General Election they will become T.D.

Step 3: The country is divided into a large number of election areas called Constituencies. Each constituency
        will elect a certain number of TD’s. For example, the whole of County Wicklow serves as a single
        constituency and currently has FIVE TD’s. Dublin, on the other hand, is divided into many
        constituencies because it has a much bigger population. The smallest constituencies have three TD’s, the
        biggest have five.

Step 4: Everyone on the Electoral Register is sent a Polling Card. This is their “ticket” to vote. You must bring
        your polling card, along with photographic ID to the Polling Station. You hand your polling card to the
        polling clerk, who gives you a Ballot Paper. You then go to a private Polling Booth, where you cast
        your vote in a Secret Ballot. Usually, the vote involves ranking candidates in your order of preference
        (known as the Single Transferable Vote), but in referendums you might just be asked to vote either
        “Yes” or “No”. You then fold over your ballot paper and post it in a Ballot Box.

Step 5: The ballot boxes are brought to a central counting office where they are opened and the votes are
        counted. First, each ballot paper is checked to make sure it isn’t a Spoiled Vote. A spoiled vote occurs if
        it is not clear who the vote is for (for example, if the voter puts the same number opposite the names of
        two candidates).

Step 6: The quota, the number of votes that a candidate needs to be elected, is then calculated. This is done
        using a mathematical formula:

                Total number of valid votes      +        1
                  (Number of Seats + 1)

Step 7: The votes are then counted, using the Proportional Representation (PR) system.
        This system means all first preference votes are tallied. After this, if anyone exceeds the quota they are
        elected and their surplus votes are taken from them. If nobody reaches the quota, the lowest candidate is
        eliminated and their votes are taken from them. The votes that have been collected are then re-distributed
        based on the second preference. This continues until all seats have been filled.

Step 8: The Presiding Officer will formally give the result of each count and announce the ultimate winners.
Types of Elections
Citizens aged 18 or over are entitled to vote in a number of elections.
• Local election: electing members of a local authority — city council, county council and so on. These elections
must happen at least every five years.
• General election: electing TDs (members of the Dáil). This election must take place at least every five years.
• By-election: electing a TD to replace one who has died or resigned.
• Presidential election: electing the President of Ireland. This must happen at least every seven years.
• European election: electing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
• Referendum: for example, a vote to change the Constitution.

To top