Recommendations on the manner in which referenda are held

The recommendations were reached by ballot paper voting and follow a weekend of deliberation which focussed on a number of areas. These included the history of referendums in Ireland, the legal background, regulations surrounding a referendum, impact of regulation on the media, turnout, ‘super’ referendums, and citizens initiatives.

A total of 11 questions appeared on the ballot and the recommendations were reached by majority vote.

The following recommendations were made by the Assembly;

  1. 94% voted for the functions of the Referendum Commission to be carried out by a permanent Electoral Commission;
  2. 94% voted for the Referendum Commission to be obliged to give its view on significant matters of factual or legal dispute that arise during a referendum campaign in the public domain (including on social media);
  3. 87% voted in agreement with the current position where the Government is not permitted to spend public money to advocate on one side only of a referendum campaign;
  4. 68% voted that the Government should provide money to both sides equally in referendum campaigns;
  5. The Assembly made a number of recommendations in respect of spending in referendum campaigns, namely:
        • 98% voted for the Oireachtas to develop and effectively implement a system of spending limits in referendum campaigns for registered political parties, campaign groups and individuals;
        • 72% voted for anonymous donations to registered political parties and campaign groups to be prohibited;
  6. 80% voted for to have more than one referendum on unrelated issues at the same time;
  7. In the event of more than one referendum at the same time, the Assembly voted that the maximum number should be no more than two (41.7%);
  8. The Assembly made a number of recommendations in respect of multi-option voting, namely:
        • 76% voted in favour of allowing more than two options on a ballot paper in a constitutional referendum;
        • 52% voted in favour that when there are more than two options on the ballot paper in a constitutional referendum the outcome should be decided by PR STV;
  9. 89% voted in favour that in principle the Oireachtas and the Government should give effect to the outcome of a referendum within 5 years;
  10. The Assembly voted on a number of measures to enhance voter turnout in referendums, namely:
        • 56% for early voting in the weeks before the poll;
        • 100% for weekend voting;
        • 70% for online voting;
        • 83% for wider availability of postal voting;
        • 89% for the ability to vote at any polling station in the State;
        • 95% for the automatic inclusion of all eligible voters on the electoral register;
        • 80% for lowering the voting age to 16;
        • 77% for allowing voting by otherwise eligible voters, who are resident outside the State, for no more than five years;
        • 96% for greater provision of voter education on Referendums;

NOTE: On a proposal to extend voting over a number of days, Assembly members voted 51% NO and 49% YES; On a proposal to make voting compulsory, Assembly members voted 85% NO and 15% YES;

11.The Assembly voted on a number of proposals for citizens’ initiatives, namely:

          • 69% in favour of putting a constitutional referendum proposal to the people;
          • 69% in favour of a citizens’ initiative to put a legislative change proposal to the people (including enacting, changing or repealing legislation);
          • 83% voted in favour of a citizens’ initiative to put an item on the agenda for decision by the Oireachtas.