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Thursday, 31 May 1928

Mr BLAKELEY (Darling) .- I am not sure that a declaration or certificate of a presiding officer should be accepted as prima facie evidence of the fact that an elector has voted at an election. This practice has been observed hitherto, but there is no provision governing it in the act. I question the wisdom of accepting as prima facie evidence such declarations from all presiding officers. I have in mind an incident that occurred at Hermidale, in the Darling division. About 200 people voted at that polling place at the last election, and quite a stir was caused subsequently when fifteen well-known residents received a communication from the divisional returning officer calling upon them to explain why they had not voted. Of course, it was quite an easy matter for them to prove that they had voted. One of the persons was a scrutineer on my behalf, and another was a local resident who acted as one of the officials at the polling place. The trouble was due to the carelessness of the presiding officer in omitting to mark off the names not only of some of those electors with whom I came in contact, but a number of others also. If certain presiding officers are so careless as not to mark off the names of electors who have voted, it is safe to assume that they would also mark off names of electors who have not voted. The responsibility should not be upon the elector to prove that he has not voted at an election. I suggest, therefore, that the clause be negatived, and that the divisional returning officer should, as heretofore, depend upon the available evidence as to whether or not an elector has voted. If this provision is inserted in the act, it may impose a serious hardship upon electors.

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