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or for neglect in carrying out the provisions of this Act, the Local Government Board may order an official enquiry to be held, and if the charges of misconduct or neglect shall be substantiated to the satisfaction of the Local Government Board, the local registration officer. may be dismissed, and the parish vestry shall, in such case, be forthwith convened for the appointment of a successor.
22. All expenses of the county registration officer in connection with the registration of voters shall be defrayed out of the county fund.
23. Any person whose name shall be on the register for more than one constituency, and who shall vote more than once at a general election of members of Parliament, or more than once in the same constituency at any other election, shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding £500, or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.
The present arrangements for registering the crowded dwellers in populous cities are virtually those which sufficed when the Statute of Henry VI. for the first time restricted the county franchise to 40s. freeholders. The electoral registration of London's five million souls is left to no better organization than that of a rural hamlet of the last century:
At present only one in eight of London's population is on the register, as compared with one in six of the United Kingdom outside London, and one in five in many provincial boroughs. The term of occupation is absurdly long, and so arbitrarily dated, that every removal in London practically involves from eighteen months' to two years' disfranchis. 'nent.
This part supersedes the cumbrous mans of legal technicalities con. tained in thirteen acts of parliament, and makes the work of registration as simple, economical, and nearly automatic as possible. The present interval of more than four months between the date of claim and the date on which the register comes into force, is reduced to one month. Adult suffrage is enacted with the minimum term of residence necessary for the purposes of registration. Under the existing Registration Acts, the work of registration, which is only done once a year, commences in April or May, and is not concluded till the 12th October, which is the last day for the holding of the Revision Court. Under such a scheme as that proposed, the Register would be made up four times a year, and the four registrations would only take a few weeks longer to prepare than the one list under existing regulations. The individual voter is relieved of trouble and expense in claiming and supporting his claim, and provision is made for the punishment of misconduct or wilful neglect on the part of the registration officers. The existing system of revision of the voters' lists is abolished, and a saving effected in the item of revising barristers' salaries in England of £25,000 a year. The work of preparing the register is left to parochial officials, subject to local control, but subject also to the general supervision of an officer appointed by the County Council. There will be only one register for all elections, local as well as parliamentary.
The term of qualification in other countries is almost everywhere excessive. In Natal, for English people, three years' residence is the qualifying term; for natives, twelve years. In New Zealand, one year's residence in the colony and six months' in the constituency are required before registration. In France and Queensland, six months; and in Japan, twelve months' residence in the constituency qualifies. In the Netherlands, eighteen months' residence at home, or in the colonies, is sufficient. In the United States the provisions vary from State to State ; there is generally a minimum term of residence in the State required, which varies from six months to two years, and often, in addition, a residence of one month to six months in the particular constituency.
Payment of Election Expenses. 24. The returning officer at an election shall be entitled to his reasonable charges not exceeding the sums mentioned in the schedule to this Act in respect of services and expenses of the several kinds mentioned in the said schedule, which have been properly rendered or incurred by him for the purposes of the election. The amount of such charges shall be paid out of the county fund.
The returning officer shall not be entitled to payment for any other services or expenses or at any greater rates than as in the said schedule mentioned, any law or usage to the contrary notwithstanding; nor to any charges which are not duly included in his account rendered to the county treasurer, together with all receipts and other vouchers proving the expenditure, within twenty-one days after the day on which the return is made of the person or persons elected at the election. The schedule referred to is not printed in this Tract.
Reduction of Security from Candidates. 25. The returning officer shall require the sum of £10 to be deposited at the time of nomination by, or on behalf of, every candidate at a parliamentary election, and should any candidate poll fewer than one-tenth of the total votes polled or 500 votes, whichever shall be the smaller number, his deposit shall be forfeited and paid over to the county treasurer, and in any other case the deposit shall be refunded after the declaration of the poll; provided that no candidate shall be deemed to have been duly nominated until the deposit shall have been paid.
The necessity of retaining the obligation to give some security is obvious. Individuals are not wanted who thrust themselves upon the constituencies, without being the nominees of some organized body of electors, to whom the provision of the small amount of £10 would be easy. The penalty would operate as an obstacle to mere self-advertisement, but would not restrict the free choice of the electors.
The amount of security now required from candidates in this country varies from £100 to £700 in boroughs, and £150 to £1,000 in counties.
In Greece, each candidate is required to give £7 security.
In Natal, a deposit of £25 is required, and it is refunded if the candidate receives one-fifth of the votes polled by the lowest successful candidate.
Official Notification of Polling Places. 26. The returning officer in every constituency shall, three days before the day of election, forward by post to every elector an official poll-card, showing the names of the candidates, the number of the elector on the register, and the place at which he is entitled to poll. The poll-cards shall be transmitted through the Post Office and delivered free of charge, subject only to the regulations of the Post Office relating to inland letters. If any poll-card or form of promise to vote be printed or issued by any candidate or his agent, bis election shall be void.
27. The returning officer in every constituency shall, within three dave of the date of nomination, cansa tin ha printed and posted
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 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
Free Use of School Rooms, &c. 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 poli, 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.
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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