You may have noticed the low level political wrestling going on in the background as candidates are selected to stand in the next general election.
While most people will think that it seems no time since the last outing, the next election is due in 2007. It could be a very interesting vote because there is no obvious government going to emerge if you believe the opinion polls.
Sinn Fein is the joker-in-the-pack. The party could pull in 10-15 seats leaving the present FF/PD coalition and the alternative FG/Lab/Green line-up short of a majority.
That is, of course, if the results of the election reflect public opinion. The reason to think that the election might not be kosher is that the electoral register is hopelessly out of date.
There are far more people on the register than there are voters. Now there are two main sources of extra voters: people who are registered twice and dead people.
You might think that dead people could do no harm. You’d be wrong. Dead people are fodder for vote riggers everywhere. All you have to do is show up, claim to be Mr B. Bread and you have a second vote.
The occasional political hard chaw isn’t going to make much difference but the problem will arise if the vote fraud is organised.
And our elections are very susceptible to vote rigging because we have multi-seat constituencies, often decided by a few votes. Just think back to the Dublin South Central saga which went on for weeks over a handful of votes.
In an analysis published in the Sunday Tribune, the political commentator Odran Flynn estimates that there could be up to 800,000 extra additional people on the register. That’s around 19,000 votes per constituency.
It’s not all doom and gloom. I was on two electoral registers after I moved house. A huge number of the extra names are in a similar position. But it leaves the system wide open to fraud.
The problem is that there is no one authority responsible for compiling the register. The local councils are supposed to do the job. They are supposed to knock on everyone’s door to see who is living where. And if they are living.
I can’t remember anyone knocking on my door. At one point I think I was on the Dublin South East list and the Dublin West list. These lists are compiled by Dublin City Council and South Dublin Council respectively. Even if they were diligently checking their lists how would they know the South-East Niall Gormley was the same as the West Niall Gormley? It’s an impossible job.
There will have to be a national register and they will have to use PPS numbers to weed out the repeats like me.
The exciting thing is that none of this is likely to happen before the next election. So expect reports of dirt, allegations of dirt and actual dirt.
It’s all to play for and the temptation to add a few extra votes might prove irresistible. So vote early – or it might be gone by the time you get there!