According to the Irish Prison Service (IPS), 322 prisoners were registered to vote in the 2007 election, representing about 10% of the prison population at that stage (3,359).
The IPS said 191 inmates have registered to vote in this election, comprising just 4% of the total population (4,416 last December).
It is not clear why there has been a substantial drop in the number of prisoners voting.
Some prisons have managed to significantly increase the number of inmates voting: Wheatfield (from 14 to 80); Mountjoy (from 36 to 65) and the Midlands (from 11 to 34).
But numbers in most jails have fallen considerably: Arbour Hill (54 to 11); Castlerea (25 to 0); Cork (36 to 11), Dochas Women’s Prison (33 to 1), Limerick (24 to 0) and St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders (20 to 0).
A total of five prisons have no inmates registered to vote. In addition to St Pats, Limerick and Castlerea, the others are Loughan House and Cloverhill. However, Cloverhill is a remand prison and many inmates would not be in for long enough to bother registering to vote.
As a percentage of their respective populations, the prisons with the highest voting rates are the Training Unit (19%), Portlaoise (18%) and Wheatfield (13%).
Prisoners exercise their right by postal voting and vote in their home constituency, not where the prison is located.
“The Irish Prison Service has made considerable efforts to facilitate prisoner voting, but the fact remains each citizen of the State has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that they are registered on the appropriate voters list and are therefore eligible to cast their vote,” said an IPS spokesman said.
He said the service had fully complied with the Electoral Amendment Act 2006 in facilitating prisoner voting:
* All prisoners are informed — on committal — of their entitlements and an explanation of the Electoral (Amendment) Act in induction literature presented to each prisoner.
* Prison officials have worked closely with the Department of the Environment in producing an information leaflet for prisoners on voting.
* All prisons have ballot application forms available on request.
* All prisons have a designated official with responsibility for the facilitation of postal voting.