[E-voting] "Provisional Ballots" {subj. was: Compulsory voting}

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Mon Sep 12 21:22:55 IST 2005

On Monday, September 12, 2005 2:52 PM [EDT],
Marian Beddill <beddill at nas.com> wrote:

>> (*) "ballot style", at least in my community, is the technical term
>> meaning just what Michael pointed out:   different constituencies
>> and therefore different ballots.  To be complete, here it also means
>> the sub-areas of a voting precinct, split for minor questions like
>> funding or commissioners of a specific program or activity - fire
>> protection, cemetery or parks management, when not under the main
>> jurisdiction.

I regularly point out on this list that the historical differences in the
way that elections are held in different countries means that many "basic
assumptions" that people often make aren't true in other jurisdictions.

"Multi-level" elections are perfectly normal in US elections - you can cast
your vote for President, Senator, Congressman, Governor, state
Representative, County Supervisor, Town Planner and Dog Catcher all on the
same balllot. The people in the next town over will have the same
opportunity to vote for the first 6 races as you, but not the more local
races. (They might even use totally different technology to cast their
votes). Ballots in both places may have provision for "write-in" votes,
where you write in the name of a candidate who isn't on the ballot. So
historically, the concept of a provisional ballot makes sense.

Almost none of this has any parallel in the Irish context. The only time we
have "multi-level" elections is when the EU Parliament elections are held on
the same day as the local elections, or a referendum is help on the same day
as a general election. And none of our constituencies are so big that
someone who could get to one polling station could reasonably argue that
they couldn't get to their own polling station. We don't have provisional
ballots in the Irish system because, historically, we haven't needed them.

And we still don't need them. People who work in Dublin, but keep themselves
on the register in Galway or Cork or Wexford either don't care, or don't
think it makes any difference (or believe that they'll have more pull with a
TD from "home" than a TD in Dublin). The register is updated regularly (I
was removed from it while living abroad, without action on my part, and
re-registered when I returned, simply by telling the person who knocked on
the door doing register updates that I now lived at that address again), and
can be checked very easily by anyone who is bothered. Indeed, in areas where
a particular party expects to do well, you can be sure that they've checked
that anyone that they think might give them a vote is actually on the

As things stand, the supposed advantages of provisional ballots in the Irish
context don't come near justifying the additional personation risks that
would inevitably arise.


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