§ The bill being recommitted,
said, he was not aware of the intention to propose any alterations in this bill, but if any such were intended, he should feel obliged if they were now brought forward, as the present was the most convenient stage for such discussion. In the clause excepting places which had no more than 150 electors, from the authority of magistrates to erect booths for polling, &c he himself proposed to move an alteration. Nothing could be more regular, he understood, than the mode of conducting elections in the city of London, where 8,000 electors were usually polled in eight days, and therefore he proposed to insert the exception of London in this clause, in addition to that of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
§ Mr. Lockhart
adverted to the clause authorizing a returning officer to adjourn the poll to the next day, when any riot should take place to prevent the electors 417 from coming to the poll, and remarked, I that as it was proposed in the bill that if 400 voters had not been polled at the close of the second day, the election should finally close, the candidate likely to suffer from that decision might himself contrive to excite a riot, with a view to obtain time for the collection of votes. Such riot might, indeed, with the same view, be renewed day after day by the unsuccessful candidate, in order to harass his opponent. It also appeared from this clause, that the existence of the riot was limited to the place of polling, for wherever or however it occurred, the power of the returning officer to adjourn the poll was to be established. This he thought such a latitude of discretion as was but too liable to corruption. He had not any substitute to propose upon the points alluded to, but he felt it his duty to throw out these suggestions for the consideration of the author of the bill.
expressed his readiness to attend to any suggestion from the hon. gentleman. But as to the discretion proposed to be granted to the returning officer, that, like every other degree of discretion at present belonging to that officer, was to be exercised, subject to the right of superintendence and revision on the part of that House, which right must always form a guard against the abuse of such discretion. With respect to the other point alluded to by the hon. gentleman, it would be admitted that a riot serving to prevent electors from coming to the poll, might happen at a distance from the place of polling, and it was to meet such a case that the clause under consideration was so constructed.
§ Mr. Lockhart
observed, that the only remedy which occurred to his mind at present was this, that upon the re-opening of the poll, after any adjournment, no elector should be allowed to vote, unless he swore that he had been previovsly obstructed or prevented by riot from coming to the poll.
Upon the provision that any candidate, against whom no poll was demanded, should be declared duly elected, although the poll should go on among other candidates.
observed, that it was evidently a great hardship that a candidate, against whom no objection was made or poll demanded, should be subjected to the expense and trouble of an election, merely because there were other candidates, with 418 respect to whom a difference of opinion existed among the electors. To provide against such a grievance, this clause was proposed; but the committee would see that no evil could result from its adoption, because, if a poll were demanded by one elector, the declaration alluded to could not be made, and as there were few candidates who had not at least one enemy, it was not very probable that this provision would be often acted upon. If, however, only one case should occur, the benefit of this provision should in justice be extended to it. Of this clause, however, he was not so tenacious as of the other provisions of the bill.
§ After some farther conversation, the clauses were agreed to, and the Report ordered to be received on Monday.