Dáil Éireann - Volume 576 - 02 December, 2003
Written Answers. - Local Elections.
Mr. Crowe Mr. Crowe
312. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties experienced by wheelchair users accessing polling stations, polling booths and using the proposed electronic voting machines which are out of reach and disabling those voters; and the new measures he proposes to introduce to alleviate the difficulties experienced by this section of the electorate. [29394/03]
Mr. Crowe Mr. Crowe
325. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the contacts his Department has had with local authorities and election presiding officers to ensure access to polling stations by the aged, infirm and wheelchair users prior to the local and European elections in 2004. [29178/03]
Mr. Cullen Mr. Cullen
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen):I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 325 together.
Preparations for the 2004 local and European Parliament elections are continuing and my Department is, in the normal way, in contact with local authority officials and returning officers regarding their responsibilities. Comprehensive guidance documentation has issued to local authority returning officers and further documentation will be sent to European returning officers, local European returning officers and presiding officers which will, inter alia, provide advice on accessibility issues. My Department has also arranged for the procurement of customised tables for the voting machines with a tilt facility for easier access for people with a physical disability, and in particular, for persons using wheelchairs.
Electoral law already provides for several measures covering accessibility to polling buildings. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996 provides that local authorities, in making polling schemes, shall endeavour to appoint polling places where at least one polling station is accessible to wheelchair users. The Act also requires that, “The returning officer shall, where practicable, provide polling stations which are accessible to wheelchair users.”, and must, in addition, “where practicable, give public notice of all polling stations which are inaccessible to wheelchair users not later than the eighth day before polling day.” If an elector has difficulty gaining access to a polling station, the person may apply in writing for authorisation to vote at another polling station in the same constituency or local electoral area.
Once in the polling station, persons with a physical disability or with a literacy difficulty may avail of companion voting or may seek the assistance of the presiding officer. Alternatively, if a person has a physical disability or illness which prevents him or her from going to the polling station, the person can vote by post if he or she applies to be included in the postal voters list which is drawn up each year as part of the register of electors.
Dáil Éireann 576 Written Answers. Local Elections.