The ins and outs of General Election 2020

The country will go to the polls tomorrow, Saturday, February 8, for General Election 2020. It is our first general election since 2016, when Fine Gael and a number of independents formed the current Government under a confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil.

The election follows a short but intense campaign in which several issues were addressed by all parties and candidates – including agriculture and the environment.

One key difference between this election and the last is that this time around, we will elect two extra TDs. This was after a constituency commission recommended increasing the amount of seats in the Dáil from 158 to 160. This was to take account of the fact that the 2016 census noted an increase in the country’s population.

We will only be electing 159 candidates, however; Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl is re-elected automatically.

General elections in Ireland use a voting system known as proportional representation by single transferable vote (PR-STV). It’s an extremely complex method, but it essentially means that a party’s percentage of seats in the Dáil will be roughly equal to their percentage of the overall vote across the country.

This is done by voters ranking candidates in accordance of their preference. They vote ‘1’ for their favourite candidate, ‘2’ for their second favourite, and so on. A voter can stop after ‘1’ or they can fill up the whole ballot sheet with preferences for every candidate.

If a candidate does not require your vote because they’ve been either elected or eliminated, another candidate may avail of your vote according to your preference.

There are 39 constituencies, and each one elects between three and five TDs. There have been some changes to constituencies since the last election.

These changes include constituencies where the number of seats they elect has been changed. This is the case for Cavan-Monaghan (rising to five seats); Dublin Central (rising to four seats); and Kildare South (rising to four seats).

Meanwhile, two constituencies have been abolished, with Laois and Offaly now under the new Laois-Offaly constituency for the most part, as well as the Kildare South constituency.

The new Laois-Offaly constituency will elect five TDs, down from six from the two counties combined last time out.

Of the members of the most recent Dáil (which was dissolved in January by President Michael D. Higgins so this election could be called) 18 of them are not seeking re-election, including former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

This will be the first time since 1918 – when Ireland still a part of the UK – that a general election here will take place on a Saturday.

All in all, 531 candidate are running across all the constituencies.

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