David Farrell (July 22, 2010)
The Joint Committee launched its long-anticipated final report (relating to its deliberations over the electoral system) earlier today — running at over 200 pages, with 29 recommendations. There is lots to pick through, but for me the main headlines are the following:
- The establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly to consider electoral reform
- Centralizing and streamlining voter registration, with the use of our PPS numbers
- Lowering voting age to 17
- The Electoral Commission should be established and given some important powers
- Constituency sizes (especially in urban areas) to be at least 4-seat
- Dail reform to be prioritized
- Steps to address poor women’s representation (including a possible link to party funding)
- By-elections to be held within 6 months of vacancy
- Voting at weekends (across two days)
- Voter education at senior cycle in schools
There is plenty to digest and discuss, but two points are worth making right away. First, it interesting to see the considerable overlap between these proposals and those of the two main opposition parties — most especially Fine Gael’s ‘New Politics’ document (reported here). These are yet more signs of a growing coalition of interests pushing for political reform (on this, see also the papers from the MacGill summer school, posted here). Second, the proposal to establish a Citizens’ Assembly (discussed in an earlier posting) is particularly interesting and innovative, following best practice in Canada and the Netherlands. If followed through on this would be handing to the citizens a direct and leading role in considering the question of electoral reform, and possibly designing a brand new electoral system for Ireland.
Lots to chew over.