I move amendment No. 1:
In page 20, subsection (2), line 29, after "disability" to insert "as certified by a medical practitioner".
Recently there has been a lot legislation relating to reforms in the electoral area, including the Local Government Bill and the Presidential Elections Bill. We are now dealing with referenda and there will probably be changes in Seanad elections to allow the regional technical colleges, the new universities and, perhaps, those living abroad be represented. That is something we can look forward to.
I am concerned about including section 31 (2) without objection. If this subsection is included in this Bill it could be reflected in future legislation. I am not worried about the problems experienced when bringing someone in a wheelchair to vote. I do not know of any situation where a physical illness or disability of seven days duration is looked on so casually as not to require a medical practitioner's certificate. If one applies for sickness benefit, one does not require a doctor's certificate for the first three days. However, on the fourth day, in order to be paid, one must have such a certificate. If one wants to be paid from the first day, one must have the certificate back-dated by the medical practitioner to the first day. We are worrying about a medical practitioner's certificate for three day's pay. Yet in this important electoral Bill we are setting up something which could be reflected in future legislation.
Does this Bill seek self-certification? Does the local returning officer need a medical qualification so he may argue that a person's illness is not severe enough and he or she should return to their own polling station if the person gives a week's notice? This could lead to problems. Could the Minister advise me of other circumstances as serious as the one where a person seeks to change where they cast their vote? Again, one must remember that this Referendum Bill concerns one constituency. What happens if it is reflected in other legislation where, for example, we know the number of votes from one electoral ward to another. The number of votes in those wards may make a difference to the outcome. This is unsatisfactory.
I would not like to see creeping non-certification by the medical profession starting in this legislation. I would like to know if there are other serious areas where a person, a returning officer or one's aunt, can say one's physical illness or disability disbars one from voting?