The small Italian independent state of San Marino shunned the prospect of joining the EU, when asked to vote in a referendum on Sunday the 20th October last. That republic with an electorate of just 32,448 gave the thumbs down when they just did not vote. A story’s told of Frank Cluskey, a former T.D. MEP and Labour Party Leader, when he was asked why he was not elected, replied with the simple answer “Cause I didn’t get enough votes”. Well that’s what happened to this referendum. It just didn’t get enough votes.

With a turnout of 40.5 per cent. The Yes voters won a narrow majority of the popular vote at 50.3 per cent. Not good enough. The constitution required that for the referendum to pass, a minimum of 32 per cent of all registered electors must vote in favour for the proposal to be accepted.  So with 20per cent of electors saying yes those seeking change were shy 12 per cent. The failure to achieve a win must be a surprise as the referendum was called by public demand. A lot of noise with little clout.

There were two referendums for San Marino to decide on that day. The second asked, should Employee Salaries be re-valued at the same rate as Government inflation. Yes, that one passed with 36 per cent of the electorate voting for it.

So electors when faced with two questions seem to be able to distinguish between the issues. Which suggests voters are much the same throughout the world. The poor turnout at  ballot boxes around the developed world is a cause of real concern for those who seek a democratic society, reflective of the entire community. A lot of work across Europe is required to up the voter turnout in next year’s parliament elections. Maybe we need to open up two debates here in Ireland One to consider should voting be compulsory, the other, if we might amend the constitution making it a requirement that a threshold be set for the minimum numbers of voters required to make changes to our constitution.