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was no use in talking nonsense to an Aberdeen man,” and Aberdeen would not even hear of Conservatism without the Ballot. Mr. Gladstone made great fun of Mr. Disraeli's notion that the proportion of illiterates to citizens who marry is the same as the proportion of illiterates to citizens who vote, remarking that he had been credibly informed and believed that the practice of marrying went down to the lowest strata of society, and included, for instance, all the agricultural labourers, who had no county vote; and he pointed out that very stringent securities were taken against any publication by the presiding officer of the illiterate person's vote, which securities the Lords had done away with. After a short discussion, in which Mr. Cobbett (Conservative member for Oldham) declined to vote for this Bill, though pledged to the Ballot, on the excuse that it does away with the nomination-day; and Mr. Hanbury the New Conservative member for Tamworth, admitted that the strength of the public feeling had forced the Ballot upon him, and declared that he would support it, the option-giving amendments of the Lords were disagreed with by a majority of 68 (302 to 234). Mr. Henry James made a strong protest against the principle of the scrutiny, but was beaten of course by 245 (382 to 137).
The Lords' amendment, making the Ballot an eight-years' experiment, to expire in 1880, unless previously renewed, was disagreed with by a majority of 81 (246 to 165), after a somewhat sharp collision between the Prime Minister and Mr. Cavendish Bentinck, who, as usual, arrogated to himself the most absolute certainty on a point on which he was entirely astray.
On the question of the optional system there was some reason to fear that the House of Lords would persist in a policy which might have compelled the Government to resign or to dissolve. The majority had placed itself in a false position by an indirect negation of the principle which had been previously affirmed in the second reading of the Bill; but the discipline of the Conservative party in the House of Lords is sufficiently elastic to enable independent members on occasion to correct the errors of their chiefs.
Lord Ripon moved that their Lordships do not insist on the word
secretly,” which raised the question of the optional Ballot. He strongly appealed to them not to insist upon an amendment which destroyed the whole character of the Bill. It would have been better to throw out the measure on the second reading than to adopt an illusory Ballot, which ate out the heart of the Bili.
The Duke of Richmond, in recommending their lordships to insist upon their amendment, disputed the assertion of Lord Ripon as to the feeling of the country, by quoting South-West Yorkshire and other elections against the returns for North-West Yorkshire and Tamworth, which had been relied upon by the President of the Council. Believing that the great bulk of the country was not in favour of secret voting, he declared that the majority ought not to be coerced by the minority. Under the Bill as it stood those who wished to vote secretly could have as much secrecy as they pleased.
The amendment which their lordships had adopted on his recommendation had been brought forward with due thought and deliberation, and he asked them to give those who wished to vote openly an opportunity of doing so.
The Duke of Northumberland regretted that he felt bound on this occasion to vote against his party. He was not disposed to look upon the Ballot with favour, and the course taken by its former opponents had done much to shake his faith in public men. He saw, however, many strong objections to an optional Ballot, and their lordships would, he thought, show true courage in retreating from an untenable position.
The Duke of Marlborough recommended their lordships to insist upon the optional Ballot.
Lord Grey said that he intended to support the amendment which limited the duration of the Bill, but their lordships would be cutting the ground from under them on that question unless the Ballot were tried in a form and manner satisfactory to its advocates. He had heard with astonishment the assertion of the Duke of Marlborough that he did not wish to delay the settlement of this question, it being notorious that to insist upon this amendment would be fatal to the Bill.
Lord Russell, premising that he had had great Parliamentary experience on this subject, said that when he went to Lord Grey with the draught of the Reform Bill of 1831, Lord Grey insisted on the Ballot being left out. To this he had no objection, because, in the small Committee which sketched out the Bill, he had used every argument against secret voting. The Reform Bill was, therefore, passed without it. The Balloi was also opposed by Sir Robert Peel, who was as strongly averse from it as Lord Grey. After controverting the allegations upon which the Prime Minister had rested his conversion to the Ballot, he said that secret voting would increase bribery, personation, and fraud. The privilege of a man to vote publicly should be guarded as sacredly in Old England as it was at this day in New England. While our modern Parliamentary history had been one continued and successful struggle for publicity, and while it was insisted upon even in the disclosures of our Divorce Court, elections alone were now to be secret and private. The introduction of secret voting would not, however, stand alone. Universal suffrage might soon follow in its train, and he contrasted regretfully the constitutional language of the Earl Grey of the Reform Bill with the language used at Blackheath in regard to organic change. What he now vainly desired to experience was a permanent feeling that the safety of the Constitution was assured.
Lord Penzance pointed out that if the word “secretly" were left out of the clause the voting would be neither open nor secret, but would combine the evils of both. It would especially enable bribery to be perpetrated with far greater ease and facility than at present.
Lord Harrowby, who warmly renewed his objection to secret
voting as “shabby,” maintained that an optional Ballot would give a very fair trial to a change which could only be regarded as an experiment.
Lord Granville, alluding to the impatience manifested by some Opposition Peers, said that this clamour for an early division showed that noble Lords were hardly aware of the importance of the occasion. In answer to the Duke of Richmond's charge against the Premier, of having sneered at the House of Lords, he said that last year the Ballot Bill was postponed because they were told that it was impossible to discuss it in less than three weeks or a month. Mr. Gladstone had, therefore, a right to advert to the fact that the Bill had been got through and materially changed in the course of a single evening. He could hardly conceive that their lordships would place themselves in opposition to the other House on question affecting the procedure at elections. Lord Russell had quoted Victoria as a colony which had refused to adopt the Ballot, but Victoria had the very form of Ballot which was engrafted upon this Bill. Lord Russell was, naturally perhaps, laudator temporis acti, but he had not used one good argument in favour of this mixture of open and secret voting. Doubting whether it was consonant with true Conservative feeling for that House to declare that the House of Commons was not the correct exponent of the feeling of the country, he impressively cautioned their lordships never to take a stand against the other House unless their ground was much firmer than it was upon this question.
heir lordships divided upon the question that they insist upon their amendment, when the Contents were 138 and the Not Contents 157, being a majority of 19 in favour of the Government.
The Lords thus conceding the main point in dispute, and the Commons on their part accepting the Scrutiny Clause (with certain modifications), and Lord Beauchamp's amendment, making the operation of the Bill temporary, a great constitutional change was completed, after a controversy of forty years, in spite of the all but unanimous hostility of the House of Lords, the secret disapproval of the House of Commons, and the indifference of the general community.
| There are thirty-three sections in the statute, divided into four parts, and there are six schedules. The first part relates to the procedure at Parliamentary elections in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
In England the nomination of candidates for a county or borough is to be in writing, by two registered electors, as proposer and seconder, and eight other registered electors assenting to the nomination, and is to be delivered during the time appointed for the election to the returning officer by the candidate himself or his proposer or seconder. If, at the expiration of one hour after the time appointed for the election, no more candidates stand nominated than there are vacancies to be filled up, the returning officer shall forth with declare the candidates who may stand to be elected, and return their names to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery; but if at the expiration of such hour, more candidates stand nominated than there are vacancies to be filled up, the returning officer shall adjourn the election, and shall take a poll in the manner in the Act mentioned. A candidate may, during the time appointed for the election, but not afterwards, withdraw by giving a notice to that effect, signed by him, to the returning officer, provided that the proposer of
The first election under the new Act took place in August, at Pontefract, the successful candidate, curiously enough, being Mr. Childers, who solicited re-election on being given a seat in the a candidate nominated in his absence out of the United Kingdom may withdraw such candidate by a written notice, signed by him, and delivered to the returning officer, together with a written declaration of such absence of the candidate. In case of the death of a candidate the returning officer, shall countermand notice of the poll. In the case of a poll the votes to be taken by ballot. The ballot. paper to show the names of the candidates, with a number printed on the back, and attached to it a counterfoil, with the same number printed on the face. At the time of voting the ballot-paper shall be marked on both sides with an official mark and delivered to the voter within the polling station, and the number of such voter on the register of voters shall be marked on the counterfoil, and the voter having secretly marked bis vote on the paper, and folded it up so as to conceal his vote, shall place it in a closed box in the presence of the officer presiling at the polling station after having shown to him the official mark at the back.' Any ballot-paper which has not on its back the official mark, or in which votes are given to more candidates than the voter is entitled to vote for, or in which anything except the said number on the back is written or marked by which the voter can be identified, shall be void and not counted. After the close of the poll the ballot-boxes shall be sealed up, so as to prevent the introduction of additional ballot-papers, and shall be taken charge of by the returning officer, and that officer shall, in the presence of such agents, if any, of the candidates as may be in attendance, open the ballot-boxes, and ascertain the result of the poll by counting the votes given to each candidate, and shall forthwith declare to be elected the candidates or candidate to whom the majority of votes has been given, and return their names to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. The decision of the returning officer as to any question arising in respect of any ballot-paper shall be final, subject to reversal on petition questioning the election or return. Where an equality of votes is found to exist between candidates, and the addition of a vote would entitle any such candidate to be declared elected, the returning officer may give such additional vote, but shall not in any other case be entitled to vote at an election for which he is returning officer. The offences in respect of nomination-papers, ballot-papers, and ballot-boxes are set forth. The law is amended as to the division of counties and boroughs into polling districts. The duties of returning officers and election officers are detailed. The alterations as to Scotland and as to Ireland are set forth.
The second part of the statute relates to municipal elections, and the third part to “personation” at Parliamentary and municipal elections. It is to be deemed a felony, and the offender is to be liable to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. In the fourth part of the Act the schedules and notes are to be deemed part of the Act. The Acts repealed, according to the extent specified in the schedules. The statute is to be cited as “ The Ballot Act, 1872," and to continue in force until December 31, 1880, and no longer, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine. The first schedule contains rules for Parliamentary elections, the poll, country votes, and general provisions. The second part contains rules for municipal elections. The second schedule contains forms to be used, and the other schedules relate to the various statutes affected by the new law. There are six offences set forth at elections. Every person is guilty of an offence who forges or fraudulently defaces, or fraudulently destroys any nomination-paper, or delivers to the returning officer any nomination-paper, knowing the same to be forged, or forges, or counterfeits, or fraudulently defaces or fraudulently destroys any ballot-paper, or the official mark on any ballot-paper, or without due authority supplies any ballot-paper to any person, or fraudulently puts into any ballot-box any ballot-paper other than the ballot-paper he is authorized by law to put in, or fraudulently takes out of the polling-station any ballot-paper, or without due authority destroys, takes, opens, or otherwise interferes with any ballot-box or packet of ballot-papers then in use for the purposes of the election. Any such offence is to be deemed a misdemeanour, and a returning officer or clerk in attendance at a polling-station is to be liable for it to two years' imprisonment, with or without hard labour, or any other person to six months' imprisonment, with or without hard labour. Any attempt to commit any of the offences specified is to be dealt with in the way of punishment as the offence itself is punishable.
Cabinet. He was returned by a vote of 658 to 578, and as the number of registered electors is 1960, more than a third of the constituency abstained from voting. An interesting statement of the working of the Act was sent to the Times by the Mayor of Pontefract. The abolition of the public nomination he regarded as a decided improvement. The excitement and drunkenness which invariably attended the first stage of a contest under the old system were nowhere to be observed on this occasion. The town wore its every-day aspect; hardly any one left his work or business. There was, of course, more bustle on the polling day; but no one was shocked by the familiar scenes of other times. The publichouses were quiet; there was no crowd round the polling-places, and no difficulty in getting to the poll. So much for the external aspect of things. In the mysterious recesses occupied by the returning officer and his deputies the dreaded innovation worked, on the whole, equally well. The illiterates gave some trouble: the time wasted over them was extreme. The average time occupied in taking the votes of those who could read was, however, only from thirty to forty seconds each, and surprise was generally expressed at the simplicity of the process. Much had been said about the delay which must arise in counting the ballot papers. The authorities at Pontefract were new to the work, and were, perhaps, a little nervous; but the Mayor believed that this part of the returning officer's duty may be made much less laborious and protracted than might be supposed. On one other point connected with this subject his testimony is interesting. He does not believe that the ballot deterred any considerable section of the electors from voting. The illiterates-who, it was predicted, would shrink from the ordeal of declaring their ignorance-came to the polling-places in as full proportion to their numbers as the rest of the constituency.
A more interesting experiment, because on a larger scale, was that which followed shortly afterwards at Preston, Mr. Holker being the Conservative and Major German the Liberal candidate. The following graphic account appeared in the Times :
Usually an election day here has been a day of great political tumult and uproar. But to-day the general aspect of things was changed. When the poll opened the principal streets of the town were almost as quiet as usual. Fishergate, the main thoroughfare, was actually quieter. At the polling-booths, thirty-seven in number, there was very little crowding, and generally, the town seemed to have got up this morning no earlier than usual, though in an extreme state of mystification. At each polling-booth there was erected, under contract with the Corporation, the compartments prescribed by the Act to secure privacy to the voter while marking his voting paper. These compartments consisted of an open, movable box, with four stalls or recesses, each supplied with a small ledge to serve as a desk, and placed back to back, so that four voters might be engaged in marking their papers at one and