I asked on the last day if the register were up to date; whether certain people who normally would elect to vote in their own constituency had not been put on the register for the Universities, and if the Minister had been able to find any means of getting their names on to the register so that they would be entitled to vote at a University election.
Committee on Finance. - Seanad Electoral (University Members) Bill, 1937—Committee.
Following the abolition of University representation, is it not likely that a number of people did not take the trouble of keeping their names on the register? What provision will be made now to see that that anyhow can be made good?
If they deliberately went off the University register, of course they will not be on this register, but I gather that the number that went off is very small.
Is it not a fact that a considerable number went off for the reason that they thought their votes as University electors would never be of any use to them again? I am aware that quite a large number went off for that reason.
That is not true.
It is so far as some parts of the country are concerned.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In sub-section (1), line 35, and in sub-section (2), line 40, after the word "who" to insert in each case the words "is a citizen of Ireland and".
I am moving this amendment in response to a request that was put to me on the last day by Deputy McGowan. The matter is possibly provided for already, but, so as to make it absolutely certain that only nationals would vote, I am moving to insert the words set out in the amendment.
Paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) provides that any ballot paper which does not bear the official mark shall be invalid and not counted. Is there any condition imposed to ensure that the official mark will be on every ballot paper issued?
If the Deputy turns to the Second Schedule of the Bill he will find that the registration rules provide under paragraph (d) of Section 4 that
"the ballot paper shall be marked on both sides with the official mark."
I am aware, of course, that the same rule applies to returning officers in the case of ordinary elections, but as the Minister well knows some papers get through without the official mark. Apparently, nothing is being done here to ensure that that will not happen in this case. I have seen quite a large number of papers declared invalid at elections because they had not got the official mark on them.
Did the Deputy say a great number?
Yes. In view of the fact that the State has the responsibility for those elections, it is hardly fair that that should be so. Perhaps the Minister would look into the matter between now and Report Stage, and introduce something to ensure that only perfectly valid ballot papers will be issued?
In this case it is the returning officers' responsibility, and I suggest it is most unlikely that they would be guilty of negligence in a matter of the kind.
Yet, after all the precautions are taken, still we see it happening at every election.
Yes, it does happen, but I think we are doing all we can in that connection.
In connection with the Schedules to the Bill, Sir, may I ask the Minister if he had time to look into the point I raised on Number 30 of the Second Schedule—a prima facie case. I pointed out that, although a ballot paper may be properly marked, it may not have been marked by the person entitled to vote.
In connection with the First Schedule, Sir, I suggest that there are some words missing in line 28, page 12, and line 45 on the same page. The word "on" seems to be missing before the words "or before" in line 28, and the words "on or" seem to be omitted before the word "before" in line 45.
Yes, the word "on" certainly is omitted in line 28. But what is the second case to which the Deputy is referring?
The second case is in line 45 in the same page, and I suggest that, to be consistent, the words "on or" should be inserted there before the word "before."
Let us take first things first. The first amendment proposed is that in line 28, page 12, of the First Schedule, the word "on" should be inserted before the words "or before." May I take it that that amendment is proposed by the Minister and agreed to by the Deputy?
The second amendment proposed, I take it, is that in line 45, on the same page, of the First Schedule, the words "on or" should be inserted before the words "before the 26th day of February"?
Well, it is not so clear that the insertion is necessary there.
No, but I suggest that, to be consistent, it should be there.
Very well, Sir, with your permission I propose that that amendment should be made.
Amendment—`That the words "on or" should be inserted before the word "before," in line 45, page 12, of the First Schedule'—put and agreed to.
First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
I think Deputy Cosgrave has something to say on that.
Yes, Sir. In connection with Clause 30 of the Second Schedule, I raised a point with the Minister on the last day about the possibility of a ballot paper falling into hands other than those of the voter who was entitled to vote, even though the paper was properly marked, and so on, and I pointed out that that vote must be counted. For example, a voter, let us say, in the County Kerry, having learned that his vote was seized by another person and duly returned, then sends word to the returning officer or makes an affidavit about it, but the returning officer is bound to deal with that vote even though it is a stolen vote. That is my point.
I do not think there is any way of getting over it. I think the safest way for everybody would be to leave the law as it is and, if an aggrieved person or a number of persons are sure that they have been personated, I think that the only way open to them is by way of an election petition.
A very expensive way.
Yes, it is expensive, but I do not think there is any other way of getting over it. You cannot very well count the two votes, and there is no way of taking out the vote that has been already cast.
Well, it would be easier in this case, because there would only be a few thousands involved.
I do not think that would get over it.
Second Schedule put and agreed to.
When is it suggested to take the Report Stage?
I suggest this day week, Sir.
In that connection, Sir, might I ask that the Minister should consider, between now and the Report Stage, the question of the amendment he has introduced as a result of a suggestion by Deputy McGowan. I am referring to the addendum that was put in as a result of Deputy McGowan's intervention, and which lays down certain conditions for being on the register. I think the Minister should think the matter over between now and the Report Stage. For instance, what is the position of people who are on the register but who are not citizens of the Twenty-Six Counties? Physically, they are on the register, but what is going to happen? Are they entitled to vote? I take it for granted that the University authorities cannot revise the register from that point of view. I suggest that, between now and the Report Stage, the Minister should think over the effect of his amendment.
Does the Deputy suggest that there are such people on the register?
I take it for granted that there are. I imagine that there would be quite a number of people in the Six Counties or, possibly, in England, who may be on the register, and how are these authorities to decide who is and who is not a citizen? I do not see how they can do it, nor do I know of any machinery by which they can do it.
The Deputy is referring to the compilers of the register?
Well, I shall look into it.
Is there not an obvious compromise as between Deputy McGowan's point and Deputy O'Sullivan's point to the effect that, in lieu of the word "citizen," there should be some such words as that a person should only vote if he is residing in Saorstát territory at the time of the election?
But, again, the only way of dealing with the matter would be by means of an election petition. If a man is on the register, but not entitled to vote, the University authorities cannot prevent him from voting.
If a person, who is not entitled to vote, actually does vote, there is a penalty prescribed.
I should like the Minister to think it over.
I will think it over.
Report Stage to be taken on Wednesday, 17th November.