Voting in a local election

How to vote in a local election

This page explains what you need to do to make sure your vote counts in a local election.

You must be on the electoral register to vote in a local election. You can check if you are registered to vote.

If you are not registered to vote, find out how you register to vote.

Where do I go to vote?

You vote in a polling station.

Polling stations are usually set up on the day of the election in a public building, for example, a local school.

You can only vote in the polling station allocated to you.

Your polling station is named on your polling card, which you should get by post.

If you did not get a polling card, you can find your polling station on your local authority’s website.

What do I need to bring with me?

You do not need your polling card to vote.

If you have a polling card, you can bring it with you.

You must bring identification with you even if you have a polling card.

You can bring any one of the following with you to prove your identity:

  • A passport (either a passport card or passport book)
  • A driving licence
  • A Public Services Card
  • A workplace identity card (it must have a photograph)
  • A student identity card (it must have a photograph)
  • A travel document (it must have a photograph)
  • A bank or credit union account book with your name and address in the constituency (voting area)
  • Irish Residence Permit

If you do not have any of the above, you can use one of the following, along with evidence of your address:

  • A cheque book
  • A credit card or debit card
  • A birth or marriage certificate

If you use one of the above, you must also have proof of your address in the constituency such as a utility bill (electric, gas, internet).

If you are asked to prove your identity and you cannot, you may not be allowed to vote.

What happens at the polling station?

When you arrive at the polling station, you will be asked for your name and address. You should also have your identification ready.

The polling staff will check that your name is on the Register of Electors and your identity document. Next, they will stamp a ballot paper and give it to you.

You can then go into a voting compartment with your ballot paper and cast your vote.

Casting your vote

To cast your vote, you must:

  • Mark your ballot paper – see 'how to mark your ballot paper' below
  • Put your ballot paper into the ballot box

Your vote is private.

You use the voting compartment at the polling station to vote in private.

The voting compartment will have a pencil for you to use. But you can bring your own pen or pencil if you wish.

The ballot paper

The names of the candidates in the election are on the ballot paper.

You will also see a photo of the candidate.

If a candidate is a member of a political party, you will see the party emblem.

How to mark your ballot paper

You vote by writing ‘1’ in the box beside the photograph of your first choice of candidate. If you wish, you can write ‘2’ beside the photograph of your second choice of candidate, ‘3’ beside the photograph of your third choice and so on.

You vote for people in order of preference.

  • With a ‘1’, you are saying ‘I am voting for this candidate.’
  • With ‘2’, you are saying ‘If my first-choice candidate does not need my vote, I want my vote to go to this second candidate.’
  • With ‘3’, you are saying ‘If my first and second choices do not need my vote, I want my vote to go to this third candidate’.

If you want to vote for one candidate only, you should mark the number ‘1’ in the box next to the candidate’s name.

If you have more than one ballot paper, you must start each ballot paper with ‘1', then '2’ and so on. For example, you will get two ballot papers, if local and European elections are on the same day.

Do not tick or mark any box with an ‘x’ – this will spoil your vote. This means your vote does not count. See ‘spoiled votes’ below.

What if I make a mistake?

If you make a mistake on your ballot paper, the returning officer may give you another ballot paper. This is at the discretion of the returning officer; they do not have to do this.

If you have already posted your ballot in the ballot box, the returning officer cannot give you another ballot paper.

Put your ballot paper into the ballet box

Once you have made your choice or choices, fold up the ballot paper and put it into the ballot box.

Spoiled votes

Ballot papers that cannot be counted are called spoiled votes. A ballot paper may be spoiled if:

  • The ballot paper was left blank
  • The ballot paper did not have the number ‘1’ next to any candidate
  • The voter ticked or otherwise marked their preferred candidate or candidates, instead of numbering them
  • The writing on the ballot paper could not be understood
  • The ballot paper was not stamped by the presiding officer
  • The voter wrote their name or identified themselves in some way
  • The order of preference was not clear (for example, the voter wrote ‘3’ next to 2 different candidates)
  • The voter deliberately spoiled their paper as a protest

Voters with disabilities

There are supports to enable people with disabilities to exercise their voting rights.

You can:

  • Vote at another polling station if the local station is inaccessible
  • Be helped to vote at the polling station by a companion or the presiding officer
  • Vote using a ballot paper template if you have a visual impairment
  • Vote by post
  • Vote at a hospital, nursing home or similar institution if you live there

At least one of these services is available to you if you have a physical illness or disability, a visual impairment, or a reading or writing disability.

You can read more about facilities for voters with disabilities.

Page edited: 29 May 2024