As many as 3.2m people will cast their vote in today’s eighth amendment referendum including 118,000 new voters, underlining the level of public importance being assigned to the historic vote.
The figures were officially confirmed by a number of independent groups yesterday as final preparations were made for the national vote on Ireland’s strict abortion laws and amid fevered international media attention.
With polling stations due to open at 7am and close at 10pm tonight, before an initial exit poll is known at 11.30pm and counting begins tomorrow, officials confirmed that 3.2m people are registered to vote nationwide.
The figure is based on Department of Housing and Local Government statistics compiled from each of Ireland’s 31 city and county councils, and includes 118,389 new voters — almost double the 66,000 new votes for the 2015 marriage equality referendum.
Among the 118,389-person figure, the highest number of new voters is 19,805 in Dublin City Council, followed by 9,729 in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and 9,049 in Cork County Council.
The lowest new voter figures are in Leitrim, Roscommon and Longford, where there are 670, 708 and 841 people who are on the register for the first time.
In a statement yesterday, the Union of Students in Ireland said it expects today’s vote to be the “largest student turnout in the history of the State”.
“Students know their future is at stake here. We’re expecting student turnout to be bigger than the marriage equality vote in 2015. With almost 125,000 new voter on the register, we expect the majority to be first-time young voters,” said USI president Michael Kerrigan.
In a separate statement, the Referendum Commission called on members of the public to use their vote, with Commission chair Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy saying “it is important you take the opportunity to use your vote”.
“The Referendum Commission does not campaign for a yes or a no vote, but we do strongly urge you to inform yourself and to use your vote.
“How you vote on this issue is entirely a matter for you to decide, but it is important that you take the opportunity to use your vote,” Ms Justice Kennedy said.
Polling stations across the country will open at 7am today and close at a strict 10pm deadline, before an initial exit poll — which is an early estimation of how people voted — likely to be revealed on RTE’s The Late Late Show at 11.30pm.
Official counting of the ballot boxes in constituencies across the country will begin tomorrow morning, with an overall result tentatively predicted for Saturday evening in Dublin Castle, although a close vote or recount of ballot boxes could delay proceedings.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless released a statement on Twitter yesterday saying that while he continues to have pro-life views he will vote yes in today’s referendum.
“I had many long, dark nights of the soul over this [the referendum] and find it very difficult. I personally would come from a pro-life outlook.
“However, I no longer think it is credible to pretend that everything is fine as it is. We cannot ignore all the stories we hear of pain and hardship experienced by so many at the most difficult of times.
“I think the majority of Irish people are in the middle but unfortunately this referendum has been reduced to two binary options. I still old the same beliefs I always did, I just don’t believe I have the right to enforce them onto others,” said Mr Lawless.