The object of this Bill is to abolish the provision for a public holiday on the day of the General Election. I think there is pretty general agreement with that.
I am convinced that one result will be that more votes will be recorded than if it were a general holiday. However, I presume that the Minister will later on introduce legislation amending the Electoral Act, which provides for a general holiday and also that on the day of a general election the polling hours shall be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The reason the polling hours are short is because of the fact that the day of a general election was presumed to be a public holiday. At the last Seanad election the public. I think, were taken completely by surprise when the polling booths were closed at 7 o'clock in the evening. The hours were left unchanged, although the day of the Seanad election was not a public holiday, with the result that thousands of people who went to vote after tea time found they were late. If I might make a suggestion in advance to the Minister, it would be that he should alter the hours for polling: that the polling booth should open later in the morning —say about noon—and remain open until 10 p.m. The election, I presume, would take place in the summer-time, so that keeping the booth open to a late hour would not make much difference. Certainly, the later hours for polling would be far more convenient for the general public than the earlier hours from 8 a.m. onwards. Very few people, as a rule, go to the booths to vote during the early hours of the day. This early opening of the booths imposes a tremendous strain on the presiding officers and others concerned, who have to sit there for twelve and sometimes thirteen hours. That is a suggestion that I throw out for the Minister's consideration, and one that I hope he will bear in mind when the amending legislation is being drafted. It is the Minister for Local Government, I believe, that has to do with this matter of arranging the polling hours on general election days, and I trust he will give this suggestion his consideration.