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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - I wish to know from the Minister if there are regulations authorizing a returning officer to refuse to allow an elector to vote at a polling booth other than that for which he is registered ?

Mr Groom - No.

Mr CARPENTER - At the last election scores of electors in my division were refused the privilege of voting under form Q. They wished to vote at the chief polling place, and were told that they would have to vote where their names were registered. Later, when some of them pressed the matter, acting under advice, the returning officer gave them blank forms to fill in. I believe that the Act requires that these forms shall be filled up in the presence of the returning officer,- but in the case to which I am referring they were filled up outside the polling booth, and the returning officer was afterwards induced to indorse them. There should be regulations expressly instructing the returning officer and his deputies as to their duty in this matter.

Mr Groom - In accordance with regulation 8, the presiding officer must, before allowing any person to vote, be satisfied that his name is on the roll, though he is entitled to put certain questions.

Mr CARPENTER - Men coming into the cities to work have to vote either during their dinner hour, or between 5 and 7 in the evening, and many of them try to take advantage of the dinner hour. At the last election I told the returning officer at Perth that some hundreds of men would probably flock to his booth during the dinner hour on polling day, and advised him ti procure the assistance of a few extra clerks for that period. He refused to do so, with the result that the booth was beseiged from 12.30 until after 1 o'clock by men who could not vote because they were not provided for. The Minister should issue instructions to the returning officers in the larger centres to procure additional assistance during the earlier parts of the day. On the occasion to which I refer, hundreds of men in Perth lost the right to vote because proper facilities had not been provided for recording their votes.

Mr Groom - The instruction has been issued that all necessary assistance must be asked for well in advance. I will make a note of the honorable member's suggestions.

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby).- The honorable member for New England appeared to question my veracity, and though it is hardly worth while to take notice of what he said, I wish to inform the Committee that I made no imputation of unfairness against the employer referred to. The last election was held on the 16th December, when there was a great press of work, and hands were, therefore, compelled to work overtime. Most of the workers in the large city factories live in the suburbs, and are unable to return to their electorates to vote duringthe dinner hour. That was the case in the instance to which I referred. But while those electors were legitimately kept at work, men may, on other occasions, be prevented from voting for sinister reasons. I am not inconsistent in this matter. I have said that I am prepared to strike out the provision for voting under form Q, and for postal voting, but it is ridiculous to make a fuss about the few persons who would be unable to vote if we abolished postal voting, and, at the same time, to object so strongly to a provision which is of advantage to an infinitely larger number of voters, and does not open the door to fraud to anything like the same extent.

Question - That the word and figure proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put.

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