The purpose of this Bill is to enable the bye-election due in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency and the local elections in the area to be held on the same day, if the writ for the bye-election is moved not later than 1st June; and thus to convenience electors and, incidentally, achieve some economies which may amount to a total of about £1,400.
The Bill is confined to this one occasion only so as not to pre-judge the question whether it is desirable that Dáil and local elections should generally be held at the same time. This question could be regarded as coming within the terms of reference of the Joint Committee on Electoral Law.
The provisions of Part II of the Bill are framed mainly to cover divergencies between the legislative codes governing Dáil and local elections.
Under Section 7, the returning officer for the purposes of the poll at the combined elections will be the Kilkenny county registrar, who is the returning officer for the purposes of Dáil elections in the constituency. He will be entitled to call on the county secretaries and town clerks, who would normally be the returning officers at the local elections, to assist him.
Section 8 provides for the taking of the polls on the basis of the local elections polling places. This is necessary because of some minor differences in one county between the Dáil and local elections polling schemes.
Section 9 contains the usual provisions where the polls at two or more elections are taken on the same day, for the same persons being appointed as presiding officers at each of the elections and the same official mark for the ballot papers, etc. It will also enable the Minister to extend the time for polling from 9 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. at both the Dáil and local elections in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency.
Section 10 deals with the issue of authorisations by the returning officer, enabling persons prevented by their employment with him on polling day from voting at their normal polling station, to vote at another polling station at the bye-election and the local elections.
Provisions as to expenses, which will be shared between the State and the local authorities, are contained in Section 11. Sections 12 and 13 contain the usual provisions in Bills of this kind for the maintenance of secrecy by persons concerned in the elections, and for the attendance of agents of candidates at polling stations and at the various counts. Section 14 will enable minor administrative difficulties which may arise in the taking of the polls together to be dealt with expeditiously.
In conclusion, I may say that if the writ for the bye-election is moved not later than 1st June, I intend to fix 23rd June as polling day—the day which the local authorities concerned have already fixed as polling day for the local elections.