The purpose of this Bill is to assist voters at the referendum on the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution Bill by making available to them a statement explaining the issue on which they are being asked to vote. It also proposes that the poll at the referendum be taken on the basis of counties and county boroughs instead of Dáil constituencies as the European Assembly elections which will be held on the same day as polling at the referendum are organised on a county and county borough basis.
The explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill explains the purpose and content of this measure in some detail and it does not appear necessary for me to make a lengthy statement on the matter. Briefly, section 1 provides that a polling card, containing the statement set out in the appendix to that section, must be sent to every elector, including postal voters. The statement will also be displayed on posters in, and in the precincts of, polling stations. Presiding officers will be authorised to assist blind, incapacitated and illiterate voters by reading out the statement to them, where necessary, and asking them whether they wish to vote in favour of or against the proposal and then marking the ballot paper in accordance with the voters' answers. These arrangements are identical with those made in relation to previous referenda on Bills to amend the Constitution.
Section 2 provides for the taking of the poll at the referendum on the basis of counties and county boroughs instead of Dáil constituencies. This change will apply only to the forthcoming referendum and is being made because of referendum is to be held on the same day as the European Assembly election which is being organised on a county and county borough basis. Having the two polls taken by reference to the same areas will facilitate the work of the returning officers.
The information arrangements provided for in this Bill are additional to the permanent provisions of the referendum law under which copies of Bills to amend the Constitution are made available in post offices for inspection, free of charge, and for sale at a price not exceeding two and a half pence.
The Bill is a technical one, identical in form with previous similar measures. The important part of the content is the statement set out in the appendix to section 1. I am sure Senators will find this a reasonable description of the proposal contained in the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution Bill.