Voting in a referendum

Introduction

To vote in a referendum, you must be:

In general, you vote at a polling station near your home address, but there are some exceptions – for example, you may qualify to be on the Postal Voters list or the Special Voters List.

Rules

The same constituencies that are used for a Dáil election are generally used for a referendum. The polling period must be at least 12 hours between 7.00 a.m. and 10.30 p.m. on polling day.

You must vote in your local polling station. If you have a disability that means that you cannot use your local polling station, you can apply to vote in another polling station that is accessible for you. (There are special arrangements for people who are on the Postal Voters list or the Special Voters List – see below.)

Before the referendum date, you will receive a polling card. This card includes your elector number and the name of the polling station where you are to vote. It will also include a formal statement explaining what the referendum is about.

Voting at a polling station

On the day of the referendum, you should go to the polling station named on your polling card. You will need to show a valid form of personal identification. Valid forms of ID include your passport, your driving licence, student card with photo etc. Your polling card is not a valid form of identification.

Voting is by secret ballot. The ballot paper contains short instructions on how to vote and details of the referendum proposal. It asks whether you approve of the proposal. You should mark "X" in either the "yes" or the "no" box on the paper, then fold it and place it in a sealed ballot box.

Prohibition on political activity at polling stations

Political activity is strictly prohibited at polling stations on polling day. You cannot display or distribute campaign materials, or canvass in any form.

The prohibition also applies in the grounds of the polling station and within 50 metres of the entrance. It is in effect while polling is open and for half an hour before and afterwards.

Voters with disabilities

If you are voting at a polling station, you may be helped to vote in one of 3 ways:

  • By companion voting
  • By assistance from the presiding officer
  • By using a tactile ballot paper template – which is available to allow voters with visual impairments to mark their ballot papers at a referendum

Alternatively, you may qualify to vote by post or as special voter – see below.

Read more about facilities for voters with disabilities.

Voting by post

If you are registered as a Postal Voter, you will be sent the following documents before polling day:

  • A ballot paper
  • A receipt for the ballot paper
  • An envelope for the marked ballot paper and a larger envelope addressed to the returning officer.

The ballot paper must be posted – it cannot be handed to the returning officer.

You must arrange to have your declaration of identity witnessed by a Garda before marking the ballot paper.

Voting at hospitals and nursing homes

If you are living in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution and you have a physical disability or illness that prevents you from going to the polling station, you can vote at the hospital or nursing home if you are on the Special Voters List.

A special presiding officer will call to you at the hospital or nursing home to allow you to vote. They will be accompanied by a Garda, whose role is to guard the ballot papers and to act as an independent witness.

The presiding officer will give you a declaration of identity, which they will witness for you. You then mark the ballot paper in secret, place it in the special envelope provided, and present it to the presiding officer.

If you need help with voting, the special presiding officer will provide it in the same way as at a polling station.

Further information

There is more information about referendums on refcom.ie.

Page edited: 22 June 2022