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Leaving ballot to be desired

A record number of spoiled ballot papers in an Irish referendum have prompted calls for revamped versions and referendum questions written in plain English.


The referendum proposing the abolition of the Seanad (Irish senate) drew 14,355 spoiled votes, a “matter that should cause great concern” according to Sinn Fein TD Padraig MacLochlainn.

An Oireachtas committee, looking into the disastrous number of ruined votes (in a referendum the Government lost), has focused on two central problems: the layout and the wording.

The layout of the ballot papers has remained unchanged (apart from the introduction of a colour, rather than a black and white, photo) since 1963, and clearly needs modernising. Surely, more crucially, the wording of the relevant questions came under fire.

Suggestions were also made regarding the necessity of proofing and checking such documents at length before they were put into the public domain, and making use of social media to appeal to voters.

As the report states: “In this regard both the use of plain English and the phraseology of same is vitally important.”

You have to wonder how urgent these changes might be had the Government won the ballot: still, we can only welcome these new measures.

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