Public Business. - Electoral (Dail Eireann and Local Authorities) Bill, 1945—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is of a very simple character, and is entirely related to the machinery governing the preparation of the electoral register. I think most Senators are aware of the laws under which our register is prepared, but, in case there are a few who are not aware of them, I should like to advert very briefly to the present position. The Electoral Act, 1923, and the Local Government Electors Registration Act, 1924, provided for the keeping of a register, and provided all the regulations for setting up a register, and for hearing claims and objections by persons who consider that they have a right to exercise the franchise. In connection with that enactment, the register comes into force on June 1st, and it consists of persons who are qualified by their age and residential status to vote on November 15th of the previous year. During recent years, it has been found very convenient to hold general elections in June. In fact, the custom of holding general elections in June, if there are no untoward or unusual political circumstances, has become one which is likely to continue in the future. The reason is not far to seek. The weather is propitious; the days are long; the time is just between the setting of the crops and the harvesting season, and, from the standpoint of the rural community, is very convenient. Moreover, under the Local Elections Act, 1927, in the normal course we should have local government elections every three years, and the local authorities are empowered to choose the date of the local government election as being between June 23rd and July 1st. The Government has received representations that the time for bringing the register into force for carrying out the necessary arrangements for printing, checking proofs, and so forth, is not sufficient, and the Government considers it desirable to advance the date on which the register comes into force to April 15th, and to advance similarly the qualifying date to September 15th. We have also received representations from returning officers that if the election is held some time in June they have barely sufficient time in which to complete efficiently all the arrangements which must include for the most part the use of the new register. I think all political parties would be in agreement also with the general idea that more time should be allowed for them—that they should be given more time to have up-to-date registers in order to complete their preparations for an election. The Government considered this matter, and has decided to alter the dates as I have already mentioned.

The Bill is a very simple one. There are only two important sections. Sections 2 and 4 are the governing sections of the Bill, and alter the dates from June 1st to April 15th and from November 15th to September 15th. All the remaining sections of the Bill are consequential amendments. Important changes have been made in the dates for publishing the first Electors Lists, for receiving objections, for receiving claims, for publishing claims, for hearing objections to claims, and for the final period of revision. There are statutory limits in between each one of these events, in order that the whole machinery for completing the register should work smoothly. The dates have been altered to conform with the new date for the coming into force of the register. There are only two occasions where the date is not altered exactly in proportion. One is that allowance is made for the incidence of the Christmas holiday, and a total extra period of two weeks is being given prior for the final printing of the register.

I think Senators from rural areas will note that, so far as provision for their electors lists is concerned, the revising officers will have better weather and a longer day in which to do their work. Equally, I think Senators from city areas will agree that the Bill is an excellent one from the standpoint of enabling returning officers in city areas to complete their work expeditiously and efficiently. The Bill is put forward on the basis that a very large number of general elections and local elections are likely to be held in the month of June. That is the sole purpose of the Bill. It is entirely concerned with machinery, and is not in any sense a Bill having any Constitutional significance. I think that is all I need to say at this stage.

I think this Bill can be generally accepted. There is a matter which I intend to raise on the Committee Stage, but there is no need to detain the House by referring to it now.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 7th March, 1945.