Seanad Reform: Electoral System

In my first post on Seanad Reform, I am going to look at ideas on how to change the system of elections. The Report On Seanad Reform (PDF) by the Seanad Éireann Committee on Procedure and Privileges, Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform, has analysed a few suggestions. This may repeat some of these. I am not going to explain how the current system works as that can at times confuse me! I will look at the Electoral System under a few headings: When, Electoral System, Nominees, Term, Size and Constituencies. Under each I will give my preffered option.

When Should the Seanad be Elected?
Some people think the Seanad should be eleced at a seperated day to the Dáil maybe at midterm say during the Local and European Elections? I do not think this will work though as Governments do not always last their full term, though lately they are. I think the Seanad Elections should not be decoupled from the Dáil for reason of stable Government. To have them decoupled could give a majority in the Dáil, but a Government would have to wait nearly two years before it could get a majority in the Seanad.

My Preffered Option: The Seanad should be voted for on the Same day as the Dáil.

Which Electoral System should be used?
Now this is the fun part as this will effect proposed constituencies and the size of the house. As the constitution sets out that elections should be by Propotional Representation, I will limit myself to those systems. There are a number of options availible.

We can use PRSTV but with larger constituencies or the same. I dont see this one working without making the Seanad larger.

We can use PR List with the same constituencies as the European Elections or a slight modification as there is more seats. We can also use the whole state as a constituency like Israel. The list system gives a wide range of options that we can use, it can be open or closed, we can use different allocation methods, D’Hondt method, Sainte-Laguë method, modified Sainte-Laguë method and LR-Hare method. All sound confusing don’t they. There basic mathematical formulas either largest remainder or highest average.

Or we can be different and use the Additional-member system. Here we have a constituency and list vote. That could be confusing as it would involve three ballots on the same day, but then again some people do that at the Local and European Elections (Town, County, Europe). Would make the count even longer though!

My Preffered Option: Open PR-List where you can rate candidates within the list, taking some power away from party HQ’s. I would probably go for the D’Hondt method as that is a fair method of distribution.

Nominees by the Taoiseach
This is something I think we should keep. But not to nominate so many. I think the Taoiseach nominees can be important to ensure the Government can get legislation through. 11 is too many though, I think that should be reduced to about 7. Also the Taosiheach should be encouraged (by statute?) to nominate representatives from minority groupings.

I think the Seanad Term should be the same as the Dáil with no restriction on repeat terms. This is to ensure consistency among other things.

The size of the Seanad should be increased. 60 is too small to be divided across many constituencies or even a National Constituency. I think the Seanad should be increased to about 70 but should be no higher then 80.

The Seanad report gives 3 constiuencies in its recommendations (1 national, 1 Higher Education and 1 indirect). I disagree with having a seperate Higher Education Constituency, so I think there should be just one National Constituency electing 63 Senators. The Taoisheach then appoints the final 7.

So anyone else got thoughts on this aspect of Seanad Reform?

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for and UCC Express.

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