ORDUITHE AN LAE. - ELECTORAL (AMENDMENT) BILL, 1927—SECOND STAGE.

I move the Second Reading of the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1927. This brief Bill purports to bring the electoral law and machinery into line with the Constitution, as recently amended, and to remove other anomalies which are more or less consequential on the amendments. The amendments, which make these alterations in the electoral law essential, are, first of all, the re-election of the Ceann Comhairle; the deletion of the provision that the day of the election shall be a public holiday; and, third, extension of the duration of the Oireachtas. This Bill is mainly intended to give effect to the altered Constitution. The other provisions, as I say, are mainly consequential. So long as the day of polling is not a public holiday, it is better not to fix that day on a Monday, which is in many respects the worst day, as the ballot boxes have to remain over night in the houses of the presiding officers, which is not always an advisable thing. The Bill gives a certain amount of elasticity as regards the day. We are not tied to Monday or any other particular day That is a good thing, because if you fix a particular day you may find that it falls on some holiday, such as the 12th of July, which would not be satisfactory in some districts for polling.

In regard to the duration of the Oireachtas, it is suggested that the limit be five years. In a case of emergency, the limit can be extended to the full period in the Constitution, six years. The hours of polling will also be extended under the Bill. That is necessary in order to make up for the fact that the polling day will not be a holiday, and, accordingly, people will not have the same facilities for voting. The other portions of the Bill refer more particularly to the general election, which is due to be held this year. The actual date of the election will depend largely on the date of the dissolution. The new register is being prepared, and it will be well to hold the election on that register. This will be the case if the Dáil dissolves any time after the middle of May. Two possible complications have to be met. The university register comes into force on the 15th of June, and the register in the other constituencies on the 1st of June. It is proposed to bring both registers into line to come into force on the 1st of June. If the Dáil is dissolved towards the end of May, that is another difficulty—the last day for nominations will be early in June, and the nomination papers must be checked against the register in force on the particular day they were received. This might possibly be a source of confusion, which the Bill removes, by providing that, so long as a person is registered as an elector on the register in force for any portion of the period for the receipt of nominations, he is to be considered as a registered elector, and, accordingly, he can nominate a candidate. Briefly, that is all the Bill purports to do.

There is not much to be said as regards the principles of this measure, inasmuch as we were all warned of the necessity for it after the passing of the Constitution Amendment Bill. There are one or two points of detail that I think ought to be amended, and that it would be more convenient to deal with now. In the first place, I refer to the hours fixed in sub-section 3 of Section 3, from 9 o'clock in the forenoon till 8 o'clock in the afternoon. In the discussion that took place at the Committee dealing with the proposed change in the Constitution this question was referred to in connection with the proposed abolition of the public holiday. As the Minister has pointed out, some change is necessary, consequent on the abolition of the holiday, but the change proposed here is not at all satisfactory.

We must think of it in the light of the practice regarding summer-time in the country. Notwithstanding the law, it is the practice to recognise the old time, even during the summer months. Consequently, to close the poll at 8 o'clock in the evening will mean that very large numbers will be kept from voting. I made the suggestion at that Committee that it would tend to increase the convenience of the polling day, and increase the total poll, if instead of an early morning opening and an early evening close, we might even postpone the opening of the poll until, say, eleven o'clock and keep it open till 10 o'clock at night. Some people think 10 o'clock at night too late for country districts, but 8 o'clock is certainly too early. If it is the view of the House that 10 p.m. is too late, I would press very strongly for 9 o'clock at night at the very earliest, even if we had a 10 or 11 o'clock opening in the morning. It is pretty generally recognised that the morning hours of polling are very slack, and are quite unnecessary, either in town or country. We can afford to be elastic in that and still fit the convenience of the people engaged in the business of the election.

A thirteen or fourteen hours day is almost too much for electioneering, whether behind the ballot box or for people working in the election, and I think all the requirements would be met, if, say, 10 in the morning were the hour of opening, whether in town or country, and I would suggest the possibility of a 10 o'clock closing in the cities, and, perhaps, 9 o'clock in the country. I certainly would strongly urge the necessity for having the poll open until 9 o'clock whether in town or country, and I hope that this decision of 9 o'clock in the morning to 8 o'clock in the evening is not a final one, and that the Minister will accept this suggestion of a later hour of closing the poll, whether he alters the hour of opening or not.

I think that there is an omission from the Bill which might well have been dealt with, and it is not a matter affecting one party more than another. I refer to the question of the deposit and the conditions under which the deposit will be returned. I do not know whether this would constitute the kind of amendment which would be reserved to the Minister, but I would urge upon Ministers and upon the Dáil that the condition of the present Act, requiring the candidate to receive one-third of the quota before he can get the return of his deposit, is unnecessarily severe, and is not required to meet the purposes of the deposit. I think everybody will admit that the idea behind this provision regarding deposits was to prevent forcing elections, forcing the community into expense merely for a sport candidate, and to prevent the irruption of all kinds of freak candidates into an election. While one may not, perhaps, like this kind of a monetary test of a man's ability and capacity, it is the law at any rate, and we are not making a major change. But I press this idea on Ministers and on the House, that the third of the quota is unnecessarily high for the purpose of achieving the end aimed at by this provision regarding deposits, and it works inequitably as between one constituency and another. I accidentally found this morning a cutting from a newspaper dealing with the last election. It states that up to that date ninety-seven forfeits in twenty-one constituencies had been made owing to the absence of the quota.

I know that in a number of those cases, and in some of the by-elections, the candidate who had to forfeit his deposit was by no means a freak candidate, and in the case of a general election you are not preventing a contest. A candidate goes forward as one of a group, with quite a solid backing and a legitimate aspiration for election, with perhaps a strong body of opinion behind him, but he happens to be one more than that group is able to carry home. I think it is quite inequitable and unreasonable that that particular candidate should have to forfeit these deposits in the same way as if he were a candidate who had no backing and support. So much depends upon the extent of the poll. Under the present method there is an actual advantage to a man, if he had a modicum of support which he can rely upon, to prevent a heavy poll. A man might find that he could rely upon 2,000 or 3,000 votes, and it would be to his advantage to urge that there should not be a heavy poll. I think that that is quite a drawback to the system, and it should not be a temptation to anybody to urge a small poll. Take two constituencies. In one the quota is perhaps 10,000 and in the other the quota is 5,000. One-third of 5,000 is only a half one-third of 10,000, and yet in the one case the man may have twice the number of supporters that the other man may have and still be obliged to forfeit his deposit. I say that that is inequitable, and I submit that the way this should be met is that a certain fixed figure, covering the whole country, should be named as a minimum, whether it amounts to one-third of the quota or not, and that that figure, having been reached, might be reckoned to be the figure which would warrant the return of the deposit. No particular Party is affected by this more than another, but I think that the provision militates against the success of an election and is inequitable, and we might well alter it without any loss, except perhaps £1,000 or £2,000 to the Minister for Finance. I do not think the Minister for Finance should be a participant in the profits of forfeits, and I urge upon the Minister the desirability of introducing an amendment to the Bill dealing with this question of forfeits and altering the present law, so that, let us say, one-fifth of the quota, or 1,500 or 2,000 votes, whichever is the smaller number, should be required by a candidate before his deposit is returned. Otherwise I think the Bill is merely a matter of machinery and one which, as we have passed amendments to the Constitution, is necessary and calls for no comment.

I am, in general, in agreement both with the Minister and with Deputy Johnson. I think the Bill is a necessary one and an improvement on our present machinery, and I specially welcome what the Minister describes as consequential provisions, that the polling date need not necessarily be a Monday and is not to be a public holiday, because it is, I think, desirable in the interests of the State that as many people should vote as possible. There was a tendency in certain quarters, when polling day was a Monday and a public holiday, to regard it as a bank holiday which justified a long week-end and took the voter away from home and away from the polling booth where he was needed. I am very glad from that point of view that this Bill has been brought in. But I wish it had been possible to introduce a longer and more comprehensive Bill, and I wish it had been based, not on the report of a committee consisting of officials and members of the Government, but of a committee representative of all Parties. But it will not be difficult for the Government to get the goodwill of all Parties in the matter of electoral reform.

We realise the disadvantage of the present situation, and there would be more force behind the measure of electoral reform if it came as the result of previous consultation and agreement between all Parties of the Dáil. However, I want rather to call attention to the omissions. I agree with Deputy Johnson on the question of polling hours. I do not know that I would go quite so far as he does in suggesting that the poll might not be opened until 11 o'clock, because it is of some convenience to candidates, and of some convenience to voters if they can vote before going to their work. The present Bill provides for eleven hours' polling. Seventeen years ago the polling period was always twelve hours, and I believe in Great Britain now it can be made thirteen hours, and that under a much simpler and less complicated method of election than ours is. In Great Britain all that the voter has to do is to get the ballot paper, with two or three names on it, and put a cross on it. We are handed a list of anything from eighteen to twenty-five names on which we have to mark our preferences—1, 2, 3, and so on. It is a slower and more complicated process, and I think it is therefore strongly arguable that at least as much time should be afforded to the voter in carrying out this slower process as is afforded to the voter under the simpler system in Great Britain. I also agree with Deputy Johnson in regretting that no provision has been made as to the forfeit of deposits. I do not think that the existing law on the subject would stand examination from the point of view of proportional representation. A man may have a very considerable amount of support in a constituency and yet not be able to get 2,000 first preference votes, and in County Dublin it was necessary to get at least 2,000 first preferences at the last election in order to be sure not to forfeit your deposit.

Not first preferences.

It might be first preferences. You could be eliminated. The Minister for Education has not gone into this. It might be possible even for a Cumann na nGaedheal candidate to be eliminated. Fortunately, from the Cumann na nGaedheal point of view, in the last election the Minister for Justice obtained three times the quota, and his transfers enabled the other Cumann na nGaedheal candidates, except, I think, one, to make themselves safe, but it might be quite possible for a candidate getting 1,000 first preferences to forfeit his deposit. Anybody who can get 1,000 preferences has some solid support behind him. I do not think the Minister for Finance has made any provision in the Budget for these forfeited deposits.

There is £2,500.

The Minister astonishes me by his moderation. I think he will get probably ten times that amount, if only from those who are elected and do not take their seats.

He got £10,000 last time and more.

I think the Minister for Local Government could make this concession, and say that anybody who gets less than 1,000 first preference votes should forfeit his deposit, without seriously deranging the calculations of the Minister for Finance. I pass on to two points of my own. The first is that I do very deeply regret that in this Bill there has been no reform of the existing system of registration. I do not think the present system of registration is at all suited to the conditions of this country, because it is an entirely irresponsible registration. I think anybody with any experience of the working of a big constituency knows that the registration is extraordinarily patchy—that in some parts of the constituency it is done extremely well, and in others you find omissions and misdescriptions, people coming in and saying that their Christian name is not James but John, and things of that kind. That is because it is done by entirely irresponsible people who are not the servants of the State but the servants of the local authority. Whatever their errors are, and however carelessly they do their work, there is no means of bringing them to book. I think the Minister for Justice once said that he did not believe that registration would ever be satisfactory until it was done by people on a uniform system—by the Gárda, for instance.

The Deputy's information is very much out of date.

I was speaking from memory. I may be wrong. If the President corrects me, I accept the correction. I will not say that any Minister said it, but that it is my personal experience.

That is not the point I wish to correct the Deputy on, but the point that the registers are not correct—that there have been mistakes, misdescriptions and so on. That is not the case. Every year the register is more perfect than the previous year, and no matter what alterations may have been made regarding registration generally, it is as correct now, having regard to the system that has been adopted, as is humanly possible in the circumstances.

I have not yet begun to study the 1927 register. I am talking about the 1923 register, which was not perfect—at any rate in certain parts of County Dublin.

Every year shows a marked improvement on the previous year.

I am very glad to hear it, and I hope the President's statement will be borne out. I think the existing system is very far from perfect. The President could hardly answer for every individual rate collector.

The rate collectors have been followed practically all over the country and checked, and I think at least one or two have paid the penalty for not being more correct in regard to their work. It has had a wonderful effect.

I am very glad to hear that. I hope also that steps have been taken to see that the rate collectors go to the head of the house for the information with regard to the register, because in my experience the man compiling the register has come and talked to servants, and taken from them the Christian names and so on of which they had no knowledge whatever, instead of approaching the head of the house. That has happened within the last year. The system is not perfect, and I do not think the rate-collector system was ever a desirable one in this country. You would want to get somebody not concerned in local politics, like a member of the Gárda, who comes from a different district and is not vitally concerned. I do not think that anybody, whatever his party feelings are, would suggest that a Gárda entrusted with a responsible duty of that kind would act as a partisan. I think that that would be a better system and I hope the Government will consider it. The Government, after all, are in articulo mortis—they might make their soul, not by any amendment of this Bill, because I realise that it would be a big amendment to bring in at present, but by a pledge that if they survive the election and are still the Government they would then go into this matter again. The other point I should like to raise is redistribution. There is a provision in the Constitution that after a census there should be a redistribution. That has not been carried out. It would deprive certain constituencies of a number of Deputies, which I should regret.

The population of County Dublin has gone up.

The population of Co. Dublin has gone up to such an extent that one extra Deputy would be returned to this Dáil. I regret that, not because I am particularly afraid for myself, but because I feel that possibly some very valuable Deputy in this Dáil may find himself denied, and if I did not happen to raise this question I should reproach myself. I want to go further. I do not think our existing constituencies are in many cases laid out on the wisest lines. I think they are too large. It is very hard to serve 97,000 people. It may be possible to do it when you are one of a Party and can devolve your duties on colleagues. But where there is one Deputy of a Party, say the Farmers' Party, or one Independent Deputy returned for a big constituency the work is almost more than he can perform if he tries to do it conscientiously. It is not only in County Dublin. It is the same in Tirconaill and Galway and Tipperary. In any of the big county constituencies returning from seven to nine Deputies the work is very heavy indeed. It is even more so in what I might call the linked constituencies— Carlow-Kilkenny for instance. I do not know whether there are any secret affinities between Carlow and Kilkenny which make the link desirable, but I know there are very few between Sligo and Leitrim. I think these constituencies might well be divided. Sligo and Leitrim return seven, so that four Deputies should be returned from one and three from the other. It is said that these big constituencies are a protection to the minority. I do not think that is the case. You have only to look at Wicklow and Kildare, each returning only three Deputies and returning three Deputies of different parties —Wicklow returning Deputy Everett, Labour; Deputy Wilson, Farmer; and Deputy C. Byrne, Clan Eireann; Kildare returning Deputy Conlan, Farmer; Deputy Wolfe, Cumann na nGaedheal; and Deputy Colohan, Labour. The minority gets a show even in a small constituency, and I wish that there was some redistribution, some reduction of those linked constituencies, and possibly some division of the larger counties. You could divide Co. Dublin into Dublin North of the Liffey and Dublin South of the Liffey, one returning five members and one returning three, in the same way. It would make for a better performance of our duties as public representatives. Though I regret the Government have not had time to deal with these things, and that they have not consulted other Parties in the House in order to deal with them, still the Bill is an improvement, and I support it.

I wish to make one point clear. When I said that the rate collectors were followed I did not mean in the county or city of Dublin, and I did not mean any district round about here. It was one particular part of the country where we learned the returns were not correct. I think anybody who followed registration generally will pay tribute to the great improvement that has taken place. The underlying idea was that the register should be compiled free from the usual support, which was traditional in this country, of the various political parties; that it should be a correct register of electors, and every year it is becoming more and more perfect. I should say that, probably the 1927 register, that is the register coming on now, will be the best yet produced in the country, and I should say that by 1930 the register will be the best in any country.

I would like to add to what the President said that I have had some experience, recently, in connection with the checking of some of the work done and from the figures put before me I was certainly, like the President, surprised at the small number of errors over a very large area. I agree that there has been a marked improvement in the preparation of recent registers. Now with regard to the hours of polling, I cannot say I am in agreement with either Deputy Johnson or Deputy Cooper. It has been settled that the election day should not be a holiday. That means that it will be an ordinary day in which one carries on one's ordinary duties. Deputies must be aware that a great many working men and ordinary business men go to the country early in the day and return back late in the evening. I happen to know a very large number of such. If the polling hours are fixed, as Deputy Johnson suggests, to start at 11 o'clock in the morning, it would be impossible for those men to poll before going to the country. I am afraid that would disfranchise a very considerable number of them. Numbers of these men come up from different parts of the country the night before, and leave in the morning after they have voted, returning to where they are carrying on work. The hours in the Bill for voting are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Instead of moving with Deputy Johnson in the direction of starting later and finishing later, I would prefer to go in the other direction. I would like to see 8 o'clock substituted for 9 o'clock in the morning because that would afford great convenience to a considerable number.

What is the hour at which the train starts and what hour do they return?

A great many do not return at all. Large numbers of them are travellers, and there are a great many in the Deputy's own constituency, who come up the night before for the purpose of voting. They vote early in the morning, and then they take the train and go off to the country, where they work, and possibly do not come back again until the end of the week.

With regard to the question of extending the hour of 8 o'clock in the evening, it has been my experience, and possibly it is borne out by the experience of others, that more "dead men" vote after seven o'clock in the evening than at any other time. That is an extraordinary fact, but I think it will be found to be so, and I do not think it is a very desirable condition of things. I do not lay much stress upon it, but I do upon the other point, that it would be desirable, if possible, to start a little earlier in the morning, rather than later. For those engaged in the polling booths during the month of June, I do not think it is very desirable to keep them longer than eleven hours. For these reasons I would not be in favour of extending the hours longer than those proposed in the Bill.

I wish to draw attention to what I consider the greatest defect in our electoral system, and that is the responsibility thrown upon the various candidates in supplying the electors with their number on the register and their place of polling, and with the letter of the table at which they are to poll. It is a big responsibility for a candidate who has 95,000 electors on the register. It may have been noticed that at the last election, at least in two constituencies, only two candidates went to the trouble of supplying the electors with their official numbers. Just consider what the position would have been had these two candidates not issued to the public their numbers, and if they had taken the same chances as other candidates, and just issued an ordinary private card, with no information whatever on it. I think that is a defect that ought to be remedied, and that the responsibility for giving this information to the electors should be put upon the Government through the returning officer. The numbers would then be such that people could rely on them, because I have also a similar experience of candidates mixing two separate areas in the one constituency, and sending people their wrong numbers. The result was that when the voters presented their cards they were told by the returning officer they had not the proper numbers and had better go and get them. It is all very fine for one who is a member of a party, where the cost of giving this information is spread over a big number, because it falls lightly on the man who does not go to any trouble and has merely to subscribe his portion of the cost, leaving some agent to do the work for him. In my case, and in the case of Deputy Myles Keogh, we tried to give the people this information. When I tell the House that there are 98,000 voters on the north side of Dublin, and, I think, 95,000 voters on the south side, they will see the magnitude of this task.

I think the Dublin constituencies are far too large, and that there ought to be four constituencies in Dublin instead of two. As regards the Bill before the House, I agree that it is an improvement. With regard to the polling hours, and taking into consideration the convenience of the public generally, I think there ought to be a closing hour at some portion of the day to allow the officials inside the booths to get lunch. Proper management would permit that being done. The polling stations could be closed between 3 and 4 o'clock, and then the hour taken off for the convenience of the officials in the polling stations could be added on to the hours in the night time. I am satisfied one hour additional in the evening would be of far greater advantage in the city than one hour earlier in the morning. At present the booths open much too early, and if there is any increase in hours I hope it will not be in the direction of an earlier opening, but of a later closing. I certainly also hope that the Government will consider the advisability of giving to the voters their official numbers on the register.

I would like to know from the Minister whether what I am going to state is the correct thing to do: that it is only necessary for a voter when he goes into a polling booth to do as I always do, namely, when the official asks me for my number I tell him I do not know it. When he asks me my name and address I give it, and it seems to me that it is only necessary for every voter to do that. I would like the Minister to say whether that is legal advice to give or not. I do not see why people should be asked to remember their numbers. You meet an extremely large number of people who are not able to remember their telephone numbers. When semi-illiterate people go into a booth, and numbers on a card are produced before them, they are not able to remember their numbers. I assume that people act quite legally by giving their names and addresses. The numbers, I think, should only be used for counting up the people who enter the booth.

I desire to associate myself with the request made by other Deputies for an extra hour for voting in the evening. In the country districts where the old time is observed it is really only 6.30 when the booth is closed at the official hour of 8 o'clock. The workers in rural districts cannot leave their work on a June day so that they may be able to reach the booths before that hour. In the constituency that I represent some 200 or 300 voters were unable to cast their votes at the last election because of the fact that the booth was closed at 8 o'clock summer time. There are complaints. too, from a great many people with regard to the situation of the polling booths. There are voters who have to travel distances of from six to eight miles in order to record their votes. I do not think the Government could even expect their own supporters to travel such long distances after a hard day's work. I think some better arrangements should be made with regard to the situation of the polling booths. I know that in Longford and Westmeath there are people living within two miles of a polling booth and yet that is not their polling booth, but instead they have to travel a distance of six miles to vote. I observe that under this Bill the election is to take place six days after the nomination day. In the Principal Act the period was seven days, and the polling was to be on a Monday, but under this Bill the election can be held on any day, not earlier than six days after nomination day or later than fourteen days. Within that period the Government will have the new register at their disposal but other Deputies will not.

Why not?

I feel sure the Government Party will not be like the ordinary Deputies who will not see a copy of the register until the day on which it is issued. The Government Party probably have it in their possession at the present time. Well, I think that is letting the other Deputies down. I do not see how other Deputies will be able to send out circulars and letters lo their constituents in less than six days. As far as I am concerned, I would not mind if the Government were to run the election to-morrow, but if the Government intend to run the election in June then I think they should let all Deputies have copies of the register three or four days before the nomination day so as to give them an opportunity of getting out the extra numbers on it. I agree with Deputy Good—it is not often I do—in his remarks with regard to the improvement in the register. I think the officials deserve the very best praise for the manner in which it has been got out. The last register was a great improvement on the one issued in 1923. If the Government cannot see its way to alter the situation of the polling booths, then I think—I am not speaking in any personal way now— it should provide motor transport for the purpose of taking people to vote. I am sure the Government is democratic enough to carry the supporters of other Parties to the polls.

I appeal to the Government to grant the extra hour in the evening for voting. I am satisfied as regards the morning hour, but the extra hour is needed in the evening because in some places the old Irish time is observed; in other places they keep winter time, and then you have the official summer time. I agree with Deputy A. Byrne that it would be well if we had a split hour in the evening on polling day. It would be a great convenience for many people. It has been put into the Liquor Bill. It will, I think, do harm there, but it would certainly be a very good thing to have on an election day, because it would enable people engaged at work all day to get to the booths in time to vote. It would prove of great advantage in towns where you have 800 or 900 people working in factories. They are not able to get to the booths to vote during meal hours. In many cases the booths are closed by the time they are able to get to them in the evening after taking tea. At the last election 40 people were turned away from one polling booth in Athlone at 8 o'clock. The same thing, I imagine, applied at other booths in that town. I think the people should be afforded facilities to record their vote for the form of Government they want to live under. I sincerely hope the Government will grant the extra hour in the evening.

I desire to join in the plea made by Deputy Cooper and Deputy Johnson with regard to an extension of the hours for voting in the evening. The hour of 8 o'clock mentioned in the Bill will, in rural areas at least, involve hardship. I agree with Deputy Lyons that, where Greenwich time is kept in the country, 8 o'clock is altogether too early for closing the booths. If, as seems likely, elections are to be held during the summer months, then I think the closing hour should be 9 o'clock. Of course if the elections were held in the winter the matter would be quite different. In the summer, however, 9 o'clock is quite a reasonable time for closing the booths. To close the booths before that hour must nceessarily deprive a lot of working people down through the country from exercising their vote.

There was a further point with regard to the register. It appears the proposal in the Bill is that for the coming election, and evidently for every subsequent election, we can have candidates nominated on the old register, but the election is to be held on the new register. In my opinion that is hardly a desirable principle to establish, but in any case let us realise that this novel proposal is introduced by the Government as a measure of expediency for this particular general election. They want to get their poll early in June, and in order to do that they bring in this Bill which is establishing this principle as a permanency. It is quite possible under this Bill that, not at the next election but at some other election, the new register can come into operation on the very day of the poll, in other words that Parties will not be supplied with the valid register, and that they will have to do all their election work on the old register. I do not think that is a desirable principle to establish. I think, myself, the House would be well advised to resist this Section 5. It seems to me that the general principle should be that the election should be held on the register on which nominations are made. It is not asking too much, and I do not see why, even for the sake of a temporary expedient, the Government should be facilitated by this House to pass this Section 5.

The Deputy does not realise that it is the candidates that are being facilitated.

I hope he will understand it later on. It may not have penetrated yet but it surely will penetrate later on.

I desire to make another suggestion—that when the voting papers are being printed, or perhaps even when the nomination papers are being made out, that each candidate will have to stipulate what Party he is supporting—Cumann na nGaedheal, the Farmers' Party or the Labour Party—and that the name of the Party should follow the name of the candidate on the ballot paper. That may seem a jocular suggestion, but it is not. It is meant seriously. I believe we will have in certain constituencies at this election as many as 20 candidates. A lot of voters, perhaps some people who are almost but not quite illiterate, get confused with the enormous number of names. It is a great advantage to the man who has the alphabetical priority. The A man stands well above the K man, and you may have two Joneses and two Smiths. One is a Cumann na nGaedheal candidate and the other is a Farmers' candidate. Very often the Cumann na nGaedheal candidate gets the Farmers' vote and so on. I am not quite sure whether I will be in order in proposing such an amendment, but I intend to do so. It has been suggested in other places. It has been suggested in Australia. I do not know whether it has been carried out or not. I desire to support the suggestion, speaking on behalf of the farmers in the constituency I represent, that the polling hours should be extended to 9 o'clock. I think it is very important that they should be extended. I also want to say that most Deputies will give their approval to the suggestion put forward by Deputies A. Byrne and Lyons. Perhaps it could be carried further and that we could get the Government to send out all our propaganda and literature, and to see that each candidate gets only equal space in the newspapers so that we will all have an equal chance.

What about seeing that each candidate gets an equal number of votes?

Deputy Cooper has deplored the fact that there is not a more comprehensive measure before the Dáil. There is at present in my Department a measure so comprehensive that I believe it will make some future Minister for Local Government and Public Health turn pale at the prospect of having to introduce it. It provides sufficient controversial pabulum for some future Dáil, and I think that it will give even more scope for controversy than our Electricity Bill.

Is the Minister benefiting by the force of example?

I do not think it will help us at the present time, when we have not got very much official time at our disposal, to introduce this measure, and therefore it is not necessary for me to answer a good many of the points touched upon here. Deputy Cooper expressed doubts as to the present register and as to the means by which it was obtained. I think, in fact I can state with authority, that we have a very fine register this year. In the country districts the register was prepared under the supervision of the Civic Guard. I can state with every confidence that it is the best register we have had, since we came into office at all events. Deputy Cooper also mentioned that it would be well if there was a redistribution, such as is necessary under the Constitution. However, any redistribution of seats must be based on census, and we have no new census officially available at the moment, so that is out of the question.

Most of the controversy so far has ranged round the hours. That was only to be expected. The original hours were from 8 to 8, and we are now changing them from 9 to 8. We found from experience that there was very little voting in the morning hour from 8 to 9, and accordingly we feel that we are justified in eliminating that hour. On the other hand voters are continually being told to vote early. Sometimes they are told to vote early and often. At all events they are told to vote early, and you may expect that there will be a number voting between 9 and 10 o'clock. That is a very good hour for housekeepers, who often go out to shop between those hours in cities. I would be very slow to give way on the hour of 9 in the morning. With regard to the evening hour, there is perhaps more scope for giving way, and I would like to hear some further discussion on it in the Committee Stage. On the one hand you have the fact that in country districts it is impossible to collect all the ballot boxes together. Sometimes officials are delayed for a very long time in the polling booths before the ballot boxes can be collected, and also, as Deputy Good mentioned, the dead have a kind of predilection for that particular hour at night. It is, perhaps, just as well that we do not facilitate them in walking, while the booths are open at all events, so that for the present I would like to let the hour of 8 o'clock stand for further discussion on Committee Stage. Deputy Johnson referred to another point in regard to one-third of the quota. That is a point which I think is really outside the scope of our discussion here at present. If I were introducing a more comprehensive measure perhaps there would be something to be said for it.

The election is to take place next month.

I do not think there is anything further to be said at this stage.

I do not think the Minister has said anything in reference to the points I made. I would like to know if they will get consideration at a later stage.

As regards numbers, I think Deputy Byrne's colleague, Deputy Myles Keogh, has given the answer. It is quite correct.

Does the Minister approve of what my colleague stated, namely, that he can go into a polling station and say that he had no number? Imagine the confusion there would be if that happened all over the country. I think my point, that the Government should supply voters with their official number, is a reasonable one.

We have only one Deputy Myles Keogh.

It is a fact that in the city and county certain returning officers, quite mistakenly, turned away voters because they had not their numbers. Although the law does not allow it, I think there might be a direction given to returning officers as to their duty in the matter.

I will bear that in mind.

I did not mean to convey to the Dáil that a person could go in and say that he had no number, but he could go in and disclose his identity by giving his name and address and, if he gave a wrong number, the official would see that there was something wrong.

It would be well for Deputy Johnson to remember that there are certain hours towards the close of the poll when returning officers will do nothing except take the name and number of an applicant for a voting paper.

I am referring to the morning.

That would be a different matter.

Would the Minister answer my question about stating the party on the voting paper.

How would you manage in the case of the farmers?

I admit that the suggestion might put some Deputies in a fix.

The suggestion will be in the new Bill and it will turn the Minister pale.

Question—"That the Bill be read a second time"—put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 29th April.

Up to what day will amendments be received?

Amendments can be handed in up to Friday morning.