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in convenient places throughout the constituency an official placard showing the names of all the candidates, the date of the poll, and the polling places assigned to each district.
Free Provision of Polling Apparatus. 28. The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office shall provide an adequate number of ballot boxes, and a separate stamping instrument for each constituency, materials for voters to mark the ballot papers, and all forms, other than ballot papers, required for use at an election, and shall supply them, free of charge, within ten days of the receipt of the requisition of the returning officer for the constituency in which they are to be used. All fittings and compartments furnished for municipal or school board elections shall be used, so far as is practicable, for parliamentary elections; and all ballot boxes furnished for parliamentary elections shall be used, so far as is practicable, for municipal or school board elections.
29. The returning officer shall furnish, free of charge, all ballot papers and all forms of nomination of candidates at a parliamentary election, and he shall, free of charge, provide each polling station with copies of the register of voters, or such parts thereof as contain the names of the voters allotted to vote at such station, for use by the presiding officer and the personation agents of each candidate.
Free Postage of Election Addresses. 30. Every duly nominated candidate shall, on the day of nomination, furnish the returning officer with a copy of his election address, which shall not exceed in length one thousand words. The returning officer shall cause the addresses of all such candidates to be printed, and shall hand them to the Post Office, which shall transmit and deliver them, free of charge, to each registered elector in the constituency, subject only to the ordinary regulations of the Post Office relating to inland letters; provided that the address of each candidate shall be done up in a separate cover by the returning officer or his agents, and all the addresses shall be handed in for transmission on the same day.
Free Postage of Campaign Literature. 31. Every duly nominated candidate may once during an election period hand to the returning officer a packet of literature for each elector, folded and addressed ready for transmission through the post, the whole not to exceed two ounces in weight, which shall be transmitted through the Post Office and delivered free of charge to each registered elector, subject only to the ordinary regulations of the Post Office relating to inland letters.
These are novel provisions, intended to diminish the cost of elections, and to equalise, as far as possible, the chances of rich and poor candidates. The only exemptions from postage at the present time are petitions and addresses forwarded to the Queen, and petitions forwarded to members of parliament, or peers, for presentation in the House of Commons, or the House of Lords.
The official correspondence of Government departments is franked by having the signature of a duly authorized official stamped on each letter or packet. It is now sought to extend this practice to returning officers for election purposes.
Free Use of School Rooms, dc. 32. Any candidate at an election may use, free of charge, for the purpose of public meetings during the period of an election, any suitable room in any school receiving a grant out of moneys provided by parliament, after the ordinary school hours, and any suitable room in any building, the expense of maintaining which is wholly or partially payable out of any local rate; provided that three days' notice of the proposed public meeting be given to the committee or managers of such school or building; provided also that the use of the school or building shall be granted in the order of the receipt of the application by or on behalf of the candidates; provided also that no candidate shall have the use of the same hall or room on a second occasion should any other candidate desire to make use of it under the provisions of this clause ; provided also that if it be proved that any such meeting was not a public meeting within the meaning of this Act, it shall be an illegal practice, and the person by whom and the candidate on whose behalf the meeting was convened shall, on summary conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding £100.
The cost of a general election, even under the restricted scale of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act (1883), is still such a tax on the candidates as to re-establish the property qualification supposed to have been abolished in 1858.
In boroughs, the maximum expenditure allowed for one candidate is £350, where the number of electors does not exceed two thousand, and rises by £30 for every succeeding thousand, or part of a thousand electors. In counties, the maximum is £650 for two thousand electors, and £60 for each thousand or part of a thousand electors above that number. This scale does not include the returning officer's expenses, which, though limited by the Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers) Act (1875), amounted to £134,000 in 1880, and £140,000 in 1886. The total expenditure, according to the candidates' returns, at the general election of 1868 was £1,383,903; in 1880, £1,650,000; in 1885, £1,026,646; in 1886, £624,000, many elections being uncontested. The returning officer's expenses would be largely reduced by this part of the act so far as his old duties are concerned, and the extra expense involved by his new duties would be minimised by having the printing, &c., done on a large scale. The schedule of charges at present allowed would be considerably modified, and the amount of personal expenditure by the candidate reduced.
By these provisions, everything practicable has been done to place the poorest candidate on an equality with the richest.
At present the expenses of elections for school boards, town councils, local boards, vestries, district boards and boards of guardians, as well as county councils, are paid out of local funds. The proposal to put the expenses of parliamentary elections on the county fund would equitably spread the cost over the whole body of ratepayers. The cost of registration is already paid locally.
In no European country, but Great Britain and Ireland, is the expense of printing ballot papers, provision of ballot boxes, voting compartments, forms of nomination and return, travelling of presiding officers, and conveyance of boxes, etc., to the place of counting votes and declaration of the poll, placed upon the candidates. _In this country, the above expenses, known as the Returning Officer's Expenses,” are divided equally, between the various candidates, and they create what is equivalent to a heavy “ Property Quali. fication” for Members of Parliament. Freedom of choice can never be secured to the workers until the expense of running their own candidate is reduced to a minimum.
In France, Austria, Hungary, and Italy, the payment is made entirely
out of the State Exchequer. In the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Japan, the burden is thrown on the local rates. In Belgium and Greece, the expense is divided, the ballot boxes, desks, and permanent fixtures being provided by the State in the first instance, and stored, renewed, and repaired by the localities to which they are allotted for use ; all other election expenses are paid out of the local funds. In Germany, the polling expenses are defrayed locally,
In Norway, election to the Storthing is absolutely free of expense.
In Natal, the Colonial Engineer supplies all ballot boxes, papers, and stamps, together with other requisites for the polling places.
Under the Act regulating the Procedure at Parliamentary and Municipal Elections (35 and 36 Vict., c. 33), the returning officer may use, free of charge, for the purpose of taking the poll at a parliamentary election, any room in a school receiving a grant out of moneys provided by parliament, and any room the expense of maintaining which is payable out of any local rate. The Allotment (Amendment) Act of 1890 provides for the free use of rooms in board schools for public meetings to discuss the question of the provision of allotments. These precedents support the proposal to render the expense to which candidates are at present put in hiring rooms for public meetings, as far as possible, unnecessary. In many country parishes the school. room is, moreover, the only meeting place available.
Simultaneous Elections. 33. All writs issued by the Clerk to the Crown at a general election of members of parliament, to the returning officers of constituencies shall bear the same date, and shall on that day be issued.
The returning officer of every parliamentary constituency shall appoint the day for the nomination of candidates to be not later than the fourth day after the day on which he receives the writ, and the day for taking the first poll to be the third Saturday after the date on which the writ is issued.
At a General Election all elections will thus take place on the same day. Saturday is appointed as the universal polling day in order to enable workers to poll without the risk of losing wages. The extension of the hours of polling (see Section 42) will enable Jewish citizens to poll after sunset.
Second Ballot. 34. In every Parliamentary constituency which has one representative only, the returning officer shall declare the total number of votes cast, including spoilt votes; and if any one of the candidates has obtained more than one-half of this number of votes, the returning officer shall declare this candidate duly elected, and shall proceed as provided in the Ballot Act, 1872. But if no one of the candidates has obtained more than one-half of the total number of votes cast, the returning officer shall declare the election undecided, and shall give public notice that a second poll will be taken.
35. In boroughs which return two representatives to parliament, the returning officer shall declare the total number of voting papers used, as hereinbefore provided, and if two of the candidates shall each have obtained more than one-half of this number of votes, he shall declare these two candidates duly elected. If none of the candidates has obtained more than one-half of the aforesaid number cf votes, the returning officer shall declare the election undecided, and shall give public notice that a second poll will be taken. If one of the candidates only has obtained more than one-half of the aforesaid number of votes, the returning officer shall declare this candidate only to be duly elected, and he shall give public notice that, in respect of one representative, the election is undecided, and a second poll will be taken for this representative.
In any satisfactory scheme of Redistribution of Seats, provision would be made for the abolition of all double-barrelled constituencies.
36. Whenever a second poll is necessary, as provided in the previous sections, it shall be the duty of the returning officer to appoint the Saturday next succeeding the first poll to be the day for taking the second poll.
37. The candidates at the second poll shall be not more than twice the number of members to be elected, and shall be the highest candidates at the first poll who shall not have given notice in writing of their retirement to the returning officer before 8 a.m. on the Thursday next preceding the day fixed for the second poll. No new candidates shall be nominated for the second poll.
38. After the second poll, the returning officer shall declare the number of votes for each candidate, and in constituencies which elect one representative only, he shall declare the candidate who obtains at the second poll the greatest number of votes, to be duly elected; and in boroughs which elect two representatives, he shall declare those two candidates who obtain the highest number of votes, to be duly elected : provided always that in case one of the representatives in boroughs, which elect two representatives, shall have been declared duly elected at the first poll, then the returning officer shall declare that candidate only who at the second poll obtains the highest number of votes to be duly elected.
Absolute Secrecy of the Ballot. 39. All ballot papers shall be burnt immediately after the declaration of the election of members, in the presence of the returning officer and the candidates or their agents, and a certificate of their destruction, signed by the returning officer and the witnesses, shall be forwarded to the Clerk of the Crown, or the Speaker, with the election return.
The proposal of a second ballot, contained in this part, is of extreme importance. We have suffered too long under the tyranny of the minority. The Tories obtained more than half their majority in the House of Commons in 1874, owing to splits amongst the Liberals. Without the second ballot, there can be no certainty that the representation of the majority in a constituency will obtain the seat. Until we get this reform, the Labour candidate will always be in danger of being squeezed out by the official wire-pullers, under the plea of not endangering the seat. With the second ballot he might insist on going to the poll and proving whether the electors preferred him to the official Whig: Whichever of them got the smaller number of votes could then retire, and leave the other to fight the Conservative at the second ballot.
This proposal is already the law in many continental countries.
In Austria and Hungary where no candidate obtains more than 50 per cent. of the votes polled, a second ballot is necessary and is restricted to the two competitors standing highest at the first poll,
In Germany, where no candidate has obtained a clear majority of votes, a new ballotage takes place, and the expense, which for a town of 100,000 inhabitants rarely exceeds from £15 to £20 in each case, is borne exactly as before.
In Belgium where the number of candidates exceeds that of members to be elected, a second ballot is taken if no candidate obtains more than half of the votes.
In France, a second ballot is required in all cases where no candidate has received both (a) the absolute majority of the votes polled, (b) a number equal to one-fourth of the electors on the roll. The second ballot takes place on the second Sunday following the day of the first poll. On this occasion, that candidate is elected, in whose favour the relative majority of votes is recorded whatever the number of votes may be. If an equal number of votes is given to two candidates, the elder of the two is declared elected. The State pays the same expenses at the second elections as it does at the first.
In Italy, the candidate is elected who obtains the greatest number of votes, provided that number is above one-eighth of the electors on the roll.
In the Netherlands, a second ballot takes place whenever no candidate ob. tains an absolute majority. The second ballot, when necessary, takes place about fourteen days after, and a mere majority of votes is sufficient. If the votes are equal, the eldest is elected ; and if the ages are the same, the question is decided bg lot. At the second ballot twice as many candidates as there are persons to be elected are submitted to the vote.
In Norway, a second ballot is only taken when two candidates poll the same number of votes.
The second ballot is also in operation in Portugal.
In Switzerland, an absolute majority is required, and when this is not obtained, a second ballot is taken amongst all the candidates. In the event of no absolute majority being obtained at the second ballot, a third is taken at which the number of candidates must not exceed three times the number of persons to be elected, Should it do so, those candidates who have received the lowest number of votes must retire until the limit is arrived at.
Two incidental but valuable reforms enacted by this section are the holding of all elections on one day, and the abolition of the power of scrutiny by the destruction of the used ballot papers. This will, for the first time, make it perfectly clear that the ballot is absolutely secret. It appears better to ensure this conviction of secrecy than the possible benefit of a scrutiny.
In France, Germany, Spain, Natal, and Victoria, all elections are held on one day.
Restriction of the use of conveyances. 40. No conveyance shall be permitted to be used for the purpose of the conveyance of electors to or from the poll, unless the owner of such conveyance shall himself accompany it; and any person who shall otherwise lend or employ for the purpose of the conveyance of electors to or from the poll any conveyance whatever, shall be guilty of an illegal practice, and shall on summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding £100.
This would effectually prevent the swamping of constituencies at bye. elections by carriages lent by outsiders.
Adequate provision of Polling Places. 41. The returning officer in every constituency shall appoint one or more polling places in every parish in such manner that every elector shall have his polling place within a distance not exceeding one mile from his residence: provided that it shall not be necessary to appoint any polling place in pursuance of this provision if the