Voter turnout expected to be low around Ireland for presidential vote, blasphemy referendum

Voting is underway in Ireland for both the 2018 Irish presidential election, as well as the referendum on blasphemy as an offense in the constitution.

Incumbent Michael D. Higgins is expected to easily retain the position of Irish president for another seven-year term. He was first elected in 2011 after winning 1,007,104 votes, the most votes for any Irish politician in the history of the Republic.

In 2011, 56.1% of the eligible voting population went to the polls for the presidential election, but voter turnout this year is expected to be low. The lowest turnout for an Irish presidential election ever was 48%.

Some have suggested voter burnout following Ireland’s May 2018 referendum to repeal the 8th amendment which saw 64% of the voting population head to the polls. Similarly, the Irish referendum on gay marriage in 2015 saw a turnout of 60%.

Some have criticized Higgins as he repeatedly said during his 2011 presidential campaign that he would not seek another presidential term if he were elected, but he has ended up doing just that.

President and Sabina Higgins have cast their votes in the Presidential elections and the referendum on the proposal to change the Constitution of Ireland in relation to the issue of blasphemy. #Aras18 pic.twitter.com/OKfLfnHikt

— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) October 26, 2018

For this year’s election, Higgins is up against five other candidates: Peter Casey, Sean Gallagher, Senator Joan Freeman, Gavin Duffy, and MEP Liadh Ní Riada. All of the candidates are running as Independents, except for Ní Riada who is running for Sinn Féin.

One interesting caveat of the election is whether or not each candidate will qualify to have the money spent on their campaign returned to them. In order to get the money back, a candidate will have to have 12.5% of the vote at any point in the election.

Results will officially be counted beginning on Saturday, October 27, with the official result expected by the end of the weekend.

On Friday morning, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland Leo Varadkar tweeted a picture of him casting his vote for incumbent Michael D. Higgins:

Don’t forget to get out and Vote No 1 for Michael D Higgins and YES to modernise our constitution today! #IVoted #VoteYes #BlasphemyRef #Aras18 #KeepThePoet pic.twitter.com/UsNyz2KsTZ

— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) October 26, 2018

Varadkar also urged voters to help “modernize” Ireland with a ‘yes’ vote to remove blasphemy as a constitutional offense in Ireland.

Read More:  Ireland has disgraced itself with its farcical blasphemy law

As it stands, Art. 40.6.1. in the Irish constitution currently reads:

“The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

Blasphemy as a crime remains largely unpunished in Ireland, but in 2015 British comedian Stephen Fry made headlines when he slammed the notion of a god during a televised interview with Gay Byrne.

This year, Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “By removing this provision from our Constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”

What do you think the result of today's Irish presidential election and referendum will be? Share in the comments

Incumbent Irish president Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina cast their votes in this year's electionPresidentIRL, Twitter