Structure and membership of Wicklow County Council
Wicklow County Council has 32 members.
County Wicklow is divided into 5 Local Electoral Areas ( L.E.A.’s ) for the purposes of the elections and an election is held in respect of each L.E.A. for the number of council members assigned to that area.
Details of the 5 local electoral areas are set out below:
|Area||No. of seats||Population||Electorate*|
* the electorate will change as supplementary electors are added and the names of deceased persons are removed
The Council has recently adopted a new Polling Scheme which will have effect for the forthcoming elections. A Polling Scheme divides the County / L.E.A.’s into convenient geographical units ( called Polling Districts ) and appoints a Polling Place for each District.
Eligibility for Election
Every Irish citizen and every person ordinarily resident in the State, who has reached the age of 18, who is not subject to any of the disqualifications outlined below, is eligible for election or co-option to and membership of a local authority:
- a member of the Commission of the European Communities;
- a member of the European Parliament;
- a Judge, Advocate General or Registrar of the Court of Justice of the European Communities;
- a member of the Court of Auditors of the European Communities;
- a member of Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann;
- a Judge or the Comptroller and Auditor General appointed under the Constitution;
- a member of the Garda Síochána;
- a wholetime member of the Defence Forces;
- a civil servant who is not by the terms of his or her employment expressly permitted to be a member of a local authority;
- a person employed by a local authority and is not the holder of a class, description or grade of employment designated by order under section 161(1)(b) of the Local Government Act 2001;
- a person employed by the Heath Service Executive and is at a grade or of a description of employment designated by order of the Minister for Health;
- a person undergoing a sentence of imprisonment for any term exceeding 6 months imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction in the State;
- a person who fails to pay any sum or any portion of any sum charged or surcharged by an auditor of the accounts of any local authority upon or against that person;
- a person who fails to comply with a final judgement, order or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction, for payment of money due to a local authority;
- a person who is convicted of, or has had a conviction confirmed on appeal for, an offence relating to fraudulent or dishonest dealings affecting a local authority or corrupt practice or acting when disqualified.
A person in any of the categories listed above is also disqualified from nomination for election.
Who can vote at a local election?
There are currently over 92,000 local government electors in County Wicklow. Generally, every person over 18 years of age is entitled to be registered as a local government elector for the electoral area where the person ordinarily resides. Citizenship is not a requirement for voting at a local election.
Register of electors
A register of electors is compiled each year by Wicklow County Council. Everybody on the register is entitled to vote at a local election. Persons identified by the letter "L" opposite their names can only vote at a local election. The relevant register of electors came into force on 15th February, 2014. Persons who are not on the register can make "late" applications for inclusion in a supplement that is published prior to polling day. An application may be made at any time but in order to be considered for the supplement to be published at the Local and European Elections in May, the application must be received by the County Council before close of business on Tuesday, 6th May, 2014.
Application forms for inclusion on the Supplement are available at any Council Office, Branch Library, Post Office or Garda Station. They can also be downloaded here.
Generally, electors vote in person at their local polling station. Each elector will be advised by means of a Polling Information Card of the location of his or her polling station.
Postal voting is available to members of the Garda Síochána, Defence Forces and civil servants (and their spouses) attached to Irish missions abroad, as well as to electors living at home who are unable to vote at a polling station due to a physical illness or disability or employment including third level students. A person employed by a returning officer on polling day in a local electoral area other than where they are registered to vote may apply for entry on the supplement to the postal voters list.
A form of postal voting is also available to electors whose occupations are likely to prevent them from voting at their local polling station. This facility is also available to full-time students registered at home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State. Under this arrangement, a ballot paper is posted to the elector at home who must arrange to have their declaration of identity witnessed by a Garda before marking the ballot paper and returning it by post to the returning officer.
A person may apply to be entered in the postal voters list if they are registered as an elector, and are likely to be unable to go in person to vote at a polling station because of the circumstances of their detention in a prison pursuant to an order of a court.
Special voting is available to electors living in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution who are unable to vote at a polling station due to a physical illness or disability. The ballot paper is brought to them in the hospital etc. and they vote in the presence of a special presiding officer accompanied by a Garda.
Electors with physical disabilities who have difficulty in gaining access to their local polling station may be authorised to vote at a more accessible station in the constituency.
An application may be made at any time but in order to be considered for inclusion on the postal and special voters listings to be published at the Local and European Elections in May, the application must be received by the county council before close of business on Saturday, 26h April, 2014.
How is the Election Organised?
The responsibility for conducting the election to each local authority rests with the local authority returning officer. The cost of running the election is met by the local authority.
Contact details for the County Council Returning Officer in Wicklow:
Wicklow County Council,
Phone: 0404 20175
Notice of Election
Notice of Election was published not later than the twenty-eighth day before the polling day. This gave the public notice of the following matters:
(a) the times for receiving nominations;
(b) the amount of the deposit;
(c) the times and place at which nomination papers may be obtained;
(d) the times and place at which the returning officer will attend to receive nominations; and
(e) the day and the period fixed for the holding of the poll if the election is contested.
Nomination of candidates
The period for nominating candidates has now passed.
The period from 10:00am on Saturday, 26th April, 2014 to 12 noon on Saturday, 3rd May, 2014 is the period for nominating candidates to stand at the local election to take place on 23rd May, 2014. A person may nominate them self or may be nominated by a local government elector registered in the area concerned. A person can be nominated to stand in more than one area. A nomination form from a candidate of a registered political party must have a certificate of political affiliation attached. If no certificate is attached, the form must be assented to by 15 persons (excluding the candidate and any proposer) registered in the local electoral area concerned or alternatively a deposit must be paid by the candidate or his proposer by way of cash or a bank draft to the Returning Officer. The amount of the deposit is €100 ( one hundred euro ).
A candidate may include party affiliation on the nomination paper. If the candidate has no party affiliation, the person may be described as "Non-Party" or may leave the appropriate space blank.
The candidate or proposer is responsible for ensuring that the completed nomination paper is delivered in person to the returning officer before the closing time for receipt of nominations at the election.
The returning officer must rule on the validity of a nomination paper within one hour of its presentation and may rule that it is invalid if:
- in the case of a nomination paper of a candidate who is not a member of a political party, the nomination is not assented to in the manner required and
- the nomination paper of any candidate is not properly made out or signed. The returning officer is required to object to the description of a candidate which is, in the officer’s opinion, incorrect, insufficient to identify the candidate or unnecessarily long. The candidate or the returning officer may amend the particulars shown on the nomination paper.
If any deposit due in respect of the nomination of a candidate in any local electoral area is not deposited in respect of any such local electoral area before the deadline for the receipt of nominations, the candidature of that candidate for that local electoral area shall be deemed to have been withdrawn.
Photographs for Ballot Papers
The specific requirements on candidates for the provision of photographs for ballot papers are as follows:
- A photograph must be delivered with the nomination paper to the returning officer in digitised format (Jpeg) on a CD (passport size – 35mm x 45 mm) along with two identical printed copies.
- The photograph must be of good quality, in colour and taken to a professional standard, showing the candidate’s full face, head and shoulders only, on a light background (any colour).
- The photograph must have been taken not more than twelve months prior to polling day.
- Each copy of the printed photograph must have the candidate’s name clearly shown on the back.
Election Posters (Time Limits )
With arrangements for the 2014 local elections now set, the Minister clarified the time period during which candidates can exhibit election posters. Candidates can only erect posters from 23rd April 2014, which is 30 days before the polling date. There is a requirement for candidates to remove all posters within 7 days of poll.
Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure, Spending Limits and Political Donation Accounts at the 2014 Local Elections
A polling information card will issue to each elector on the register in advance of the polling day. This card indicates the date of poll, the elector's number on the register and the polling station at which the elector may vote.
The returning officer also sends a ballot paper by post to each postal voter and arranges to have ballot papers brought to electors with physical disabilities registered on the special voters list.
Polling places are appointed by county/city councils. The returning officer provides polling stations at each polling place. Usually schools or other public buildings are used. Each polling station is supervised on polling day by a presiding officer assisted by a polling clerk. A candidate may be represented at a polling station by an agent who assists in the prevention of electoral offences.
The polls at contested local elections are conducted using the PR-STV system (proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote).
On polling day, the elector applies for a ballot paper in the polling station by stating his or her name and address. The elector may be required to produce evidence of identity and, if they fail to do so, will not be permitted to vote.
The following documents are acceptable for identification purposes:
- a passport;
- a driving licence;
- an employee identity card containing a photograph;
- a student identity card issued by an educational institution and containing a photograph;
- a travel document containing name and photograph;
- a Bank or Savings or Credit Union book containing address in constituency or electoral area;
- a Temporary Residence Certificate card;
- a Garda National Immigration Bureau card;
- a cheque book;
- a cheque card;
- a credit card;
- a birth certificate;
- a marriage certificate.
Items 9 to 13 shall be accompanied by a further document that establishes the address of the holder in the constituency or electoral area.
Items 7 and 8 are identity documents acceptable for local elections only.
Where the presiding officer is satisfied as to the elector's identity, a ballot paper is stamped with an official mark and handed to the elector. The elector votes in secret in a voting compartment.
The names of the candidates appear in alphabetical order on the ballot paper, together with their photograph, political affiliation and party emblem, if any. The voter indicates the order of their choice by writing 1 opposite the name of their first choice, 2 opposite the name of their second choice, 3 opposite the name of their third choice and so on. In this way the voter instructs the returning officer to transfer the vote to the second choice candidate if the first choice is either elected or eliminated. If the same situation applies to the second choice, the vote may be transferred to the third choice and so on. The voter folds the ballot paper to conceal how it has been marked and places it in a sealed ballot box. A person may only vote once at the election.
Persons with a visual impairment, physical disability or a person with literacy difficulties may be assisted by the presiding officer or by a companion.
The presiding officer may order the arrest of any person suspected of committing an electoral offence.
All ballot boxes are taken to a central counting place for each local authority. In Wicklow the Shoreline Leisure Centre in Greystones will be the appointed count venue. Agents of the candidates are permitted to attend at the counting place to oversee the counting process. Before the counting of votes begins, the envelopes containing the postal and special voters' ballot papers are opened in the presence of the agents of the candidates and the ballot papers are associated with the other ballot papers for the local authority.
The count commences at 9 a.m. on the day after polling day. Each ballot box is opened and the number of ballot papers checked against a return furnished by each presiding officer. They are then thoroughly mixed and sorted according to the first preferences recorded for each candidate, invalid papers being rejected.
The quota is the minimum number of votes necessary to guarantee the election of a candidate. It is ascertained by dividing the total number of valid ballot papers by one more than the number of seats to be filled and adding one to the result. Thus, if there were 11,438 valid papers and 6 seats to be filled, the quota would be 1,635, i.e.
11,438 / ( 6 + 1 ) +1 = 1,635
It will be seen that in this example only six candidates (the number to be elected) could possibly reach the quota.
Transfer of Surplus
At the end of the first count any candidate who has received a number of votes equal to or greater than the quota is deemed to be elected. If a candidate receives more than the quota, the surplus votes are transferred proportionately to the remaining candidates in the following way:-
If the candidate's votes are all first preference votes, all his or her ballot papers are sorted into separate parcels according to the next preference shown on them. A separate parcel is made of the nontransferable papers (papers on which an effective subsequent preference is not shown). If the surplus is equal to or greater than the number of transferable votes, each remaining candidate will receive all the votes from the appropriate parcel of transferable papers. If the surplus is less than the number of transferable papers each remaining candidate will receive from the appropriate parcel of transferable papers a number of votes calculated as follows:
(Surplus x number of papers in parcel ) / Total number of transferable papers
If the surplus arises out of transferred papers, only the papers in the parcel last transferred to that candidate are examined and this parcel is then treated in the same way as a surplus consisting of first preference votes. If two or more candidates exceed the quota, the larger surplus is distributed first.
Elimination of Candidate
If no candidate has a surplus or the surplus is insufficient to elect one of the remaining candidates or materially affect the progress of the count, the lowest of the remaining candidates is eliminated and his or her papers are transferred to remaining candidates according to the next preference indicated on them. If a ballot paper is to be transferred and the second preference shown on it is for a candidate already elected or eliminated, the vote passes to the third choice and so on.
Completion of Counting
Counting continues until all the seats have been filled. If the number of seats left to be filled is equal to the number of candidates still in the running, those remaining candidates are declared elected without having reached the quota.
A returning officer may recount all or any of the papers at any stage of a count. A candidate or the election agent of a candidate is entitled to ask for a recount of the papers dealt with at a particular count or to ask for one complete recount of all the parcels of ballot papers. When recounting, the order of the papers must not be disturbed. When a significant error is discovered, the papers must be counted afresh from the point at which the error occurred.
Results of the Election
When the count is completed, the returning officer declares and gives public notice of the results of the election and returns the names of the elected members to the local authority concerned. If a candidate has been elected as a member in more than one electoral area, they must, within three days of the public notice of the results, declare in writing which area they wish to represent. Consequential vacancies are treated as casual vacancies.
Any person aged 18 or over may question the outcome of a local election by way of petition in the Circuit Court within 28 days of the declaration of the results. The election may be questioned on grounds of want of qualification, obstruction of or interference with or other hindrance to the conduct of the election, or mistake or other irregularity. The Circuit Court, at the trial of an election petition, must determine the correct result of the election and, for this purpose, may order the votes to be recounted. The Court may declare the whole or part of the election in the local electoral area void and, in that event, a fresh election will be held to fill the vacant seats.
Local authorities annually elect a Cathaoirleach ( or Chairperson ), from among their members. The Cathaoirleach presides at all meetings of the council.
Casual vacancies arising in the membership of elected local authorities are filled by co-option by the authority concerned. The co-opted member holds the seat until the next election under the same conditions as elected councillors.
Expenditure and Donations
The Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999, as amended by the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 provides for an expenditure and donation disclosure regime at local elections.
Local Electoral Law
The law governing local elections is contained mainly in the following legal provisions:
- Local Elections (Petitions and Disqualifications) Act 1974
- Electoral Act 1992
- Local Elections Regulations 1995
- Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996
- Electoral Act 1997
- Local Government Act 1998
- Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999
- Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001
- Local Government Act 2001
- Electoral (Amendment) Act 2002
- Local Government (No. 2) Act 2003
- Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004
- Electoral (Amendment) Act 2009
- Electoral (Amendment) (No 2 ) Act 2009
These legal provisions may be purchased from the Government Publications Sale Office, Sun Alliance House, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. (Telephone: 01-6793515).