Referendum (Amendment) Bill, 1984: Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I am not altogether happy with the Minister's reply to the point I raised, because he has stated that the difference in a candidate or candidates, if I got him correct, will not be as narrow in this election and will likely be greater than in other local or Dáil elections. That is not my concern. It is not really that the casting of a vote or a number of votes would make a difference as to which candidate was elected. My concern is that a person who is entitled to vote is able to vote, because there are very many people who in fact refuse positions on polling because they are being denied their right to vote, even though in elections the eventual figures would prove that their vote made no difference to candidate, party or whatever. People like to be able to exercise the franchise when their neighbours are so doing. This is my concern, not that it makes a great difference to the result of the election. We should endeavour to make it possible for all those on the register to vote, and nothing that the State or the returning officer does should prevent them from casting their votes. I am not so sure that it will not happen on this occasion, even though it will happen to a lesser extent.

I am sure it will happen because, as I read it, the city of Dublin will be one area for voting and the county of Dublin will be another. Many of my constituents were appointed to city constituencies. I have been concerned about that for a considerable time. It is not only a question of leaving my constituency and going into city or other constituencies, but it is also the reverse. I find there are electors from city constituencies working at polling booths in my constituency. They have also been denied the right to vote in the past. My reading of this Bill is that the elector will be confined to the county or county borough in which that elector is normally entitled or registered to vote. The elector can vote there, despite the fact that the ballot paper is the same all over the country. In the past in a presidential election or a referendum such electors were denied the right to vote simply because they took up a position outside their own constituency and in this case it will be outside their own county or county borough.

Ceist amháin. This business of sending out cards has become slightly mixed up with elections. Up to two elections ago, if people had not got their voter's card they felt they were not entitled to vote. During a postal strike one year, cards were not sent out. The Government should do something to ensure that people know they do not actually need the voter's card to vote. It is a help in cities to enable people to know where exactly to vote. A special effort should be made to emphasise the fact that, if people have not got their voter's card, they can still vote as long as they know where their vote is.

I have to say to Senator McMahon unfortunately that some people will not be able to vote if they are presiding in areas which are not in the county where they are registered, if they are presiding in another county, which would be very unlikely. In the city of Dublin they might be in areas outside their normal constituency. In that event, I have to say they will not have a vote in the referendum. In the wider European election constituencies I cannot see them being deprived of their vote. Should they be on the borders of Leinster and presiding in Dublin or in the Leinster constituency and presiding in Dublin County they might not be able to vote in either election.

I would imagine the practice will be followed by county registrars in various areas of using presiding officers from within their own county where possible. Generally they do not move outside and bring people in. I accept the fact that in Dublin this is not always the case. I have to say there will be casualties in that respect and people will not be able to vote in the referendum because they come from outside a particular constituency area.

Regarding the polling cards, on this occasion a very special effort will be made to see that polling cards will be delivered to every elector on the register. It is important that the terms of the referendum will be outlined to every individual and be sent personally to him or her. An effort will be made to make people aware of the terms of the referendum on which people will be asked to make their choice. This will be done in the obvious ways, in newspapers and in the polling stations. The wording will be there. I accept that on occasions people do not get cards and are of the opinion, therefore, that they cannot vote irrespective of the number of times they are told that they do not require these cards.

I can assure Senators that we will be using the media to inform people that they are entitled to vote as long as their names are on the voting register. I am sure the publicity both of these elections will receive will acquaint everybody of the issues involved. I hope that a special effort will be made to ensure that polling cards are delivered more effectively than in the past and, therefore, more people will have a personal indication of the terms of the referendum.

The Minister has highlighted the anomaly we are likely to have in this election. Granted that it will be much less than in other elections but, at the same time, I understand from what he has now said people who will be appointed to a polling booth in the city of Dublin from the county, or vice versa, will be entitled to vote provided they have their card with them in the European elections because they will be within the same European constituency, but they will not be given the other ballot paper. Neighbours of my own have been appointed to polling booths in Ballyfermot. I am sure the same thing happens in Cork, Limerick and the other major centres of population. To me it is an unusual situation. I ask the Minister to request returning officers to ensure that the personnel they appoint are within their own area and entitled to vote. Returning officers work from a list at one election after the other but we must have regard to the movement of constituency boundaries. A person could be appointed, say, from Tallaght, Saggart or Clondalkin to a polling booth in Terenure, the city end of Templeogue, Ballyfermot or any part of the city. He will have his polling card with him and he will be entitled to one ballot paper but not the other. To say the least, it is a most extraordinary situation for any voter in this State to find himself in.

That is the situation. I cannot change it at this stage. The Electoral Act, 1963, is there and the arrangements will be made in accordance with the Electoral Acts. The problem can be very much minimised by the proper selection of presiding officers who will be within their own electoral county or borough area. This would certainly minimise the difficulty which I accept will occur. I hope it will be minimal if a sensible approach is taken to the selection of both presiding officers and poll clerks to make sure that everybody can vote in the elections.

Perhaps the Minister would take some steps to draw the attention of the returning officers particularly of the larger areas of the population to this problem.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Could I say something that might be helpful to the Minister in this regard and which follows up the very valid point made by Senator McMahon? This anomaly will exist even within a Dáil constituency because, if a Dáil constituency extends over both a country borough and a country area as, for example, in the constituency in which I live, Cork South-Central, and if a person living in one part of that constituency is appointed as presiding officer in the other portion of the constituency, he will not be entitled to a vote in the referendum. It does not apply only in respect of that situation. The same thing applies in Senator McMahon's old and future stamping ground of Dublin South-West which covers part of the city and part of the county. There is an additional problem there. The Minister might see if anything could be done to change this. A new definition of "constituency" might solve the problem. Anybody who can understand section 2 is a genius.

I will look at the problem.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.