Lowering voting age and electronic voting on Electoral Commission’s research agenda

Commission to also examine the requirement for politicians’ addresses to be included on ballot papers amid safety concerns

An electronic voting machine in use in France during the 2022 election. Photograph: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP/Getty

Lowering the voting age and the requirement for politicians’ addresses to be included on ballot papers are among proposals to be considered by An Coimisiún Toghcháin, the Electoral Commission.

Electronic voting – controversial in Ireland since an abandoned experiment with e-voting machines – and electronic counting are listed as possible research topics in 2026 under the commission’s new research programme revealed on Wednesday.

The commission’s responsibilities includes research on Ireland’s democracy.

Under the plans the topic of whether to reduce the voting age from 18 will be a “research priority” for the commission this year. The programme document notes that other countries including Austria, Scotland, Malta and Germany, have reduced the voting age to 16 or 17 for at least certain types of elections. It also says that reducing the voting age is “a potentially transformative decision and, dependent on its outcome, research in this area could give rise to a referendum”.

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The issue of politicians’ addresses being published on ballot papers was raised during the public consultation process, with one respondent saying: “Faced with an increasingly volatile political culture and threats of violence against candidates, removing this requirement may be necessary to ensure the personal safety of candidates and their families.”

The research on this topic is also to be carried out this year, with other broader issues around ballot paper design – including how names are listed alphabetically, a system viewed by many as unfair to candidates further down the ballot paper – set to be examined next year.

Research on election postering will also be carried out this year, with the research programme setting out how some people view them as an “eyesore” and others as “a necessary tool for drawing citizens into the conversation and turning them out to vote”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times