Low turnout cannot be blamed solely on the Saturday ballot
on 12/11/2012 00:00:00
However, while the turnout was disappointingly low, it may not be as simple as that.
For a start, this was a referendum that sparked relatively little political conflict - all the parties in the Dáil supported the amendment. As a result, it generated little of the heat or media coverage of previous referenda, such as Lisbon, divorce or abortion.
In addition, there wasn't the same level of door-to-door canvassing by politicians that would have characterised previous referenda.
It was assumed early on that the amendment should have little trouble passing and that was more or less how it proved.
While there was plenty of information made available in a general sense - such as through booklets delivered to homes - the relatively muted political campaigning and media coverage meant less public engagement.
In addition, although the substance of the amendment was hugely important, many voters may have felt this was about the unfortunate few - it is a small minority of children who will ever end up in State care - and not their own families. As a result, they may not have seen a pressing need to vote.
So the low turnout cannot be blamed solely on the fact it was a Saturday vote.
We've had a Saturday referendum once before - the second Nice vote in 2002 - and that, with more political heat, more canvassing, and more media coverage, attracted a turnout of 49.47%.
Also, there have been lower turnouts.
On Jul 5, 1979, two issues were put to the people on the same day, relating to adoption and the Seanad electoral system. Turnout was the lowest ever recorded in a referendum, at just 28.6% - and that vote took place on a Thursday.
So it could be argued that, before abandoning Saturday voting, it needs a chance to be properly tested - during a referendum or election that generates a lot of political heat and media coverage and therefore wider engagement.
But one suspects that's not going to happen - and that Saturday voting is about to be consigned to the political scrap-bin.