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The need for changes to the layout of ballot papers used in elections has been raised in Dail Eireann, today, by Cork East Fine Gael TD David Stanton. In response to Deputy Stanton’s suggestions, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly TD said that he would examine the issue.

“I am concerned about the current layout of ballot papers and possible disadvantage that this could cause to candidates affiliated to political parties,” said Deputy Stanton. “When present at the Local Election count in May last year, I noticed a large number of ballot papers where voters had marked their preference in the incorrect column. While the majority of these votes were deemed to be valid, I believe any ambiguity regarding completion of ballot papers needs to be addressed.

“The current layout of ballot papers for local and general elections has the party logo in the first column, then the candidates’ names and photographs, then the column where voters are expected to indicate their preferences: 1, 2, 3 etc. However, for independent candidates the box in the first column on the left hand side is blank as they don’t have a party logo. I observed that in a quite significant number of ballot papers the column on the left hand side of the ballot paper was where voters indicated their preferences. This resulted in candidates affiliated to political parties not getting any preference in all these ballot papers.

“I asked Minister Kelly to consider making changes to the ballot paper such as filling in the left hand box for candidates not affiliated to any party. In our electoral system of a Proportional Representation with a single transferable vote, preferences can really make a difference and have a big impact on who gets elected.

“It is extremely important that the electorate be facilitated in casting their vote and that ballot papers are laid out in a clear and unambiguous fashion. I was very pleased to receive a commitment from Minister Kelly that he will examine ways to improve the layout of ballot papers to make certain that integrity is ensured.