#Aras18: Low voter turnout across the country for election and referendum

Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina cast their votes at the polling station in St Mary's Hospital. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Update 9pm: There is only an hour left until polls close in the Presidential election and blasphemy referendum.

A number of polling stations across the country say turnout is only half of what we saw for the abortion referendum in May.

In county Laois the turnout in Ballyfinn is 39.5%, in Stradbally it is 35.5%, while in Vickarstown it ss 35%.

It is 30% in Abbeyleix, 38.% in Rosenallis, in Portlaoise Rural it is 36% and Portlaoise Urban it is at 31%.

The Kildare North average is 22.2% while the Kildare South average is 16.1%.

Update 5.08pm: Voter turnout slow across the country for election and referendum:

Voter turnout is slow around the country in the Presidential election and blasphemy referendum.

Nationally turnout is in the high teens and early 20s.

A number of polling stations across the country saying turnout is only half of what we saw for the abortion referendum in May.

And it looks likely that less people will vote this time than did in 2011, when the turnout was 56%.

This afternoon in Dublin voting numbers have been slow across the county, as low as 10% in some booths just after lunchtime.

Around 12pm Cork was averaging a 9% turnout.

Waterford's figures were in the low to mid teens at around 3pm this afternoon while it has been higher in Limerick.

Most boxes there recording in the high teens to early 20s.

Mayo is averaging 19% similar to Roscommon and Westmeath which are slightly ahead of that.

In Longford the turnout is only around 13% and may not breach 30% overall.

Carlow and Kilkenny are following the overall national trend and coming in around 18% or 19%.

While in Tipperary the overall picture is in the early 20s - with one booth in Thurles recording a 53% turnout.

The polls close at 10pm this evening, when we will see two exit polls give an indication of the result.

- Digital Desk

Update 3pm: Ireland's oldest voter, Nancy Stewart from Clonard county Meath, casts her vote.

Update 1pm: Voter turnout is low across the country in the Presidential election and blasphemy referendum.

Polls opened at 7am and people can vote until 10pm this evening.

Overall turnout seems to be in the high single digits or low double digits across the country.

Most polling stations reporting turnout as slow and way behind what it was during the abortion referendum in May.

Waterford City is reporting a turnout in the low double digits.

Limerick is reporting stations that had queues waiting to vote in the abortion referendum are now very slow and some less than 10%.

A number of Dublin polling stations reported very low turnout this morning with commuter belt counties not faring much better.

Kildare had an average of 11.25% as of 12.30.

In Carlow Kilkenny the overall vote is less than 10% with Kilkenny City reporting the highest turnout there at 15%.

The situation is much the same across the west, north-west and the south - Roscommon, Leitrim and Longford are reporting at around 8-12% - when they were at 17% or 18% at the same time in the last referendum.

After a fairly lacklustre campaign turnout is low, though returning officers are still expecting an evening rush as people finish work for the bank holiday weekend.

Digital Desk

#Aras18: Candidates cast their votes as presidential election polling gets under way

Update 11am: Candidates in the presidential election have started casting their votes at polling stations across the country.

President Michael D Higgins attended the polling station in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin, along with his wife Sabina.

Mr Higgins is running again for the highest office in the state, along with five other candidates.

In north Co Donegal, one of his rivals, Peter Casey, voted in Greencastle.

The Derry-born businessman arrived at the polling station at Greencastle National School with his wife Helen at 9.20am.

He chuckled when a local man asked him: “Peter, who are you going to vote for?”

Sean Gallagher attended a polling station in Greystones, Co Wicklow, with his wife Trish at 8.30am.

Gavin Duffy has also voted in Julianstown, Co Meath.

Sean Gallagher, with his wife Trish and children, arrives at a polling station in Wicklow (Aoife Moore/PA)

There are six candidates in total running to become the tenth president of Ireland.

They also include Senator Joan Freeman and Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will remain open until 10pm to give people the opportunity to cast their ballot.

Turnout is slow so far across the country.

More than 3.2 million people are entitled to vote in 40 constituencies.

Presiding officer Carmel McBride, Garda Sgt John Gallagher and Irish Air Corp helicopter crewman Craig Cullen deliver a ballot box to Inishbofin Island off County Galway (Niall Carson/PA)

The constituency with the single largest electorate in the country is Donegal, with more than 116,000 people registered to vote.

This is closely followed by Tipperary with some 110,000, and Wexford with more than 108,000.

In Dublin, more than 560,000 people are eligible to cast their ballot in the capital’s 11 constituencies.

The constituency with the smallest electorate is Dublin Central with 40,000 voters.

Election warehouse manager Michael Leonard checks the seals on ballot boxes in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The electorate will also be asked on the ballot paper whether they want to remove the offence of blasphemy from the constitution.

Most islanders have already had their say as voting got under way on 12 islands off the coast of counties Donegal, Mayo and Galway on Thursday, a day ahead of the rest of the country.

Some 2,601 islanders are eligible to vote in this year’s election.

Douglas Hyde became Ireland’s first president in 1938.

A ballot box arrives on Tory Island, off the coast of County Donegal (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Higgins is the country’s ninth president. He was elected in 2011.

Four presidents have served for two terms, or 14 years in total. They were Sean T O’Kelly, Eamon de Valera, Patrick Hillery and Mary McAleese.

The Government has appealed for people to use their vote but turnout is not expected to be as strong as it was for the abortion referendum earlier this year.

Count staff will begin sorting and collating the ballot papers at centres across the country from 9am on Saturday.

A result is expected by Saturday evening, or by early Sunday at the latest.

- Press Association

#Aras18: Voting has begun in presidential election and blasphemy referendum

Update 6.59am: Voters will go to the polls today to elect the country’s next president.

Polling stations across the country opened at 7am and remain open until 10pm to give people the opportunity to cast their ballot.

More than 3.2 million people are entitled to vote in 40 constituencies.

The constituency with the single largest electorate in the country is Donegal, with more than 116,000 people registered to vote.

This is closely followed by Tipperary with some 110,000, and Wexford with more than 108,000.

In Dublin, more than 560,000 people are eligible to cast their ballot in the capital’s 11 constituencies.

The constituency with the smallest electorate is Dublin Central with 40,000 voters.

Six candidates are vying for the highest office in the state.

They are incumbent President Michael D Higgins, Senator Joan Freeman, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada, and three businessmen – Sean Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey.

The electorate will also be asked on the ballot paper whether they want to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Irish constitution.

Most islanders have already had their say as voting got under way on 12 islands off the coast of counties Donegal, Mayo and Galway on Thursday, a day ahead of the rest of the country.

Garda Sgt John Gallagher and presiding officer Carmel McBride deliver a ballot box to Inishbofin Island (Niall Carson/PA)

The island with the largest number of registered voters is Inis Mor, Co Galway, where 666 people were able to cast ballots.

There were five islands in Co Donegal where voting took place, including the largest, Arainn Mhor.

Ballot boxes were brought by the Irish Defence Forces to some of the islands by ferry and to others by helicopter.

At Inishbofin off the coast of Co Donegal, the ballot box arrived by helicopter before being carried by a Garda officer, accompanied by local presiding officer Carmel McBride, to a community centre to allow islanders their chance for a say in who will become the next president of Ireland.

There was a similar procedure on Tory Island, where a Garda officer carried a ballot box to a school and voting was opened to the public.

The ballot boxes were then collected on Thursday afternoon from the islands following voting.

Islanders traditionally vote a day before the rest of the mainland to ensure there is no delay in transferring the ballot boxes to the mainland in time for the count.

Some 2,601 islanders are eligible to vote in this year’s election.

About 460 live on islands off the coast of Cork, but they had to wait until Friday to vote, like the rest of the electorate.

Douglas Hyde became Ireland’s first president in 1938.

Mr Higgins is the country’s ninth president. He was elected in 2011.

Four presidents have served for two terms, or 14 years in total. They were Sean T O’Kelly, Eamon de Valera, Patrick Hillery and Mary McAleese.

The referendum commission is also encouraging everyone eligible to use their democratic right today.

A Yes vote would mean deleting the reference to blasphemy in the constitution, allowing the Oireachtas to get rid of the criminal offence of blasphemy.

A no vote would leave the constitution as it is currently.

The Government has appealed for people to use their vote but turnout is not expected to be as strong as the abortion referendum earlier this year.

Count staff will begin sorting and collating the ballot papers at count centres across the country from 9am on Saturday.

A result is expected by Saturday evening, or by early Sunday at the latest.

- Press Association and Digital Desk

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