For Oral Answer on : 05/05/2022
Question Number(s): 93 Question Reference(s): 22097/22
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage the progress made to date in establishing an electoral commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Programme for Government – “Our Shared Future” – commits to several electoral reform initiatives, including the establishment of an Electoral Commission. In order to progress this broad reform agenda, my Department prepared a general scheme of an Electoral Reform Bill and this general scheme was published on 8 January 2021 and was forwarded at that time to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage for pre-legislative scrutiny. A thorough scrutiny process followed over seven sessions, featuring a broad range of witnesses, including from my Department, academia, social media companies, political parties, the Data Protection Commission and groups representing marginalised communities.
The Bill was recently approved by Government and was published on 30 March 2022. It completed second stage in the Dáil on 7 April 2022.
The Bill provides for
- the establishment of a statutory, independent electoral commission;
- the modernisation of our electoral registration processes;
- the regulation of online political advertising during electoral events; and
- amendments to electoral law to facilitate the holding of electoral events where Covid-19 type restrictions are in place.
The independent Electoral Commission will take on several existing electoral functions, including the registration of political parties and the work of Referendum Commissions, Constituency Commissions and Local Electoral Area Boundary Committees.
It will also have a range of new functions including a research, advisory and voter education role, the oversight of the Electoral Register and responsibility for the regulation of online paid-for political advertising. The Commission will also be empowered to prepare ex-post reports on the administration of electoral events.
A transitional team has been put in place in my Department to progress the administrative elements of the Commission’s establishment. Support is being received from a range of public bodies in this regard, and I anticipate the Commission’s establishment later this year.