Voting in a European election

Introduction

This page outlines the voting procedures for the European elections in Ireland.

The system used for elections in Ireland is proportional representation with a single transferable vote.

Ireland has 13 MEPs in the European Parliament, and is divided into 3 constituencies for European elections:

  • Dublin
  • South
  • Midlands-North-West

The constituencies are set out in the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Act 2019.

The person responsible for conducting the election on polling day in each of the constituencies is called a Returning Officer. They are responsible for organising the poll, printing the ballot papers, and counting the votes in each constituency.

The polling period must be at least 12 hours between 7am and 10.30pm on polling day.

Changes to number of MEPs

The number of MEPs Ireland has in the European Parliament will increase to 14 (currently 13) in the next European election in June 2024. This increase is due to demographic changes since the last elections in 2019.

The total number of MEPs in European Parliament will increase from 705 to 720.

Who can vote in a European election?

To be eligible to vote in European elections in Ireland, you must be:

  • A citizen of the European Union
  • 18 years of age
  • Listed in the Register of Electors

If you are an EU citizen and you were not registered to vote in previous European elections in Ireland, you must apply for registration and complete a statutory declaration form (EP1) which is available from City and County Councils.

The forms are sent to your home Member State to prevent double voting.

You can find more information about registering to vote and how to check if you are registered to vote in Ireland.

Living in another EU country

If you are an Irish citizen living in another Member State, you can vote in the European elections in that country only. You cannot vote in more than one country or constituency.

How do I vote in European elections?

Attending a polling station

Most people vote in person at their local polling station. Polling stations are usually schools or other public buildings.

A polling card will be sent to your home before the date of the European election. Your polling card will include your elector number and will tell you where you can vote.

When you arrive at the polling station, you will be asked to state your name and address, and you may be asked for identification to prove your identity. If you cannot prove your identity, you will not be allowed to vote.

Completing the ballot paper

You will go into a voting compartment to complete your ballot paper. Pencils will be provided, but you can bring your own pen or pencil if you wish.

The names of the candidates in the election appear in alphabetical order on the ballot paper along with an indication of their political party, if any. A photograph of the candidate or a party emblem may also appear on the ballot paper.

You must indicate the order of your choice of candidates by writing “1” or “one” beside your first choice, and, if you wish, “2” or “two” beside your second choice, “3” or “three” beside your third choice, and so on.

You must then fold your ballot paper to hide your vote and place it in the sealed ballot box. You may only vote once at the election.

Postal voters and Special Voters List

In certain circumstances, you may be able to vote by post instead of attending the polling station in person.

If you live in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution and wish to vote there, you may qualify to be on a Special Voters List. You can read more about voting facilities for voters with disabilities.

How are the votes counted?

The ballot papers are sent to the count centre for each constituency. The candidate’s agents are allowed to supervise the count.

The number of ballot papers in each box is checked against the number of recorded votes. Invalid papers (spoiled votes) are rejected.

Calculating the quota

The first step is to calculate the minimum number of votes needed to guarantee the election of a candidate. This called the quota.

You can read about how the quota is calculated.

The first count

The ballot papers are sorted according to the first preference votes recorded for each candidate and counted.

At the end of the first count, any candidate who has received the quota of votes or more is deemed to be elected.

Surplus votes and eliminating candidates

When a candidate receives more votes than needed for the quota, their surplus of votes is proportionally transferred to the remaining candidates.

If no candidate receives more than the quota of votes, or if the surplus is not enough to elect one of the candidates, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated.

Their papers are then transferred to the remaining candidates according to the next preference shown on them.

If a ballot paper is to be transferred and the second preference shown is for a candidate already elected or eliminated, the vote passes on to third choice and so on.

Filling the seats

If it gets to the point that the number of seats left to be filled is equal to the number of candidates still in the running, these candidates are declared elected without having reached the quota.

Counting continues until all the seats have been filled. You can read more about how votes are counted.

Recounts

The Returning Officer may recount all or any of the papers at any stage of a count. A candidate or their agent is allowed to ask for a recount of the papers.

Announcing the results of a European election

When the count is completed, the Returning Officer declares the results of the election and returns the names of the elected members to the Chief Returning Officer for notification to the European Parliament.

The result cannot be declared until voting throughout the European Union is completed.

Can I question the results of a European election?

If you want to question a European election result, you must do it by a petition to the High Court.

You must be registered or entitled to be registered as a European elector in a constituency and apply to the High Court within 14 days of the declaration of the election result.

The Director of Public Prosecutions may also present a petition if they suspect that electoral offences were committed which affected a European election.

Page edited: 23 October 2023