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As at the approaching session of Parliament one of the most important subjects for consideration will be the passing of a Bill, or Bills, dealing with the representation of the people, and the mode of electing representatives, it is none too soon to direct public attention to the matter. This, we observe, is very properly being done by the " Christchurch Press," and by others of our contemporaries, the journal named declaring (as might have been expected) m favor of the adoption of the Government proposal of grouped electorates, and a modification of the Hare system or election. The first point which will be raised, however, judging from the straws drifting on the political current, will be that of the number of seats, for although that was presumably settled by the Act passed m December, 1887, which fixed the number of European members at seventy instead of ninety-one as at present, it is evident that an attempt will be made to revert to the larger number. We do not think that that attempt will be successful, nor do we think that it should be. We admit the force of the argu ments m favor of a large House, and we also agree that the change resolved npon is an experiment, bat it has been resolved upon by the constituencies generally, no less than by their representatives m Parliament, and we are satisfied that to repeal the Act of 1887 would be to go counter to the wish of the country. If we are right m that view, then unquestionably it is the duty of Parliament to let the experiment be made. Assuming that this will be the case, the next question is whether the country is to be re-divided into seventy single electorates, "or whether into ten or a dozen large electorates each returning five or six members, according to population. If the former, then most certainly the question of differential calculation as regards the populations m city and country districts must be revised. The 18 per cent, allowance made m favor of the latter was not as large as it should have been even while there were ninety-one seats, and if the number of seats is to stand at seventy, a substantial* increase m the percentage must be made if the country is not to be swamped by the town. A fair adjust* ment would be a " nominal addition " to the population m country electorates of 33£ per cent., m other words an allowance of one-third. Even if the grouping system be adopted, such an allowance m favor of the country would be only fair, though its absolute necessity might then perhaps be not quite so apparent. As to the grouping proposal itself there is doubtless much to be said m favor of large electorates as having a tendency to subordinate mere local questions to those affecting the general weal of the colony, and it is unquestionably true that large electorates will develop larger politicians, that is to say men whose minds will travel on a higher plane. But it may be questioned whether the time has yet come for this. ' Had the Provincial Councils been still m existence, so that for those local matters which are often regarded as of more importance by localities than the broader questions of State there could be assured full consideration, discussion and attention, then the elimination from Colonial politics of all petty local questions would not only be desirable, but alto-; gether and easily practicable } but now that we have only one central Legislature, we are of opinion that the constituencies will by large majorities object to sacrifice their political identity, and to pink all local matters m the pool of large colonial interests. The Government as political reformers would therefore, we think, do well m this case to adopt the motto Festina lente, and be content with the one step already taken of fixing the number of seats at seventy, leaving the Commission to do i£s work of re-mapping out the electorates, and allowing the elections fsr the new seats to proceed under the presently-existing law. But if a majority of Parliament be found willing tp proceed farther, and to adopt the BVBtem of grouping the seats into nine, ten, a dogen or more large electorates j each returning five to ten members, then the further proposal to elect those, members by a modified " Hare " system may just as well have a trial. Under this every elector will vote if he chooseß for any or all of the candidates whose names are submitted for his choice, by placing against each name a numeral indicating the order of that choice. On making up the poll, the excess of votes over the quota required to return the candidate who stondg at the head of the list of totals, will be passed on to the one who comes next, and so on down, the result being that the number of wasted votes will be reduced to a | minimum, and the deliberate choice of the electors much more fairly ascertained and given effect to than at I present. The whole matter is one of the greatest possible interest, and it is time that the electors began to think it out and to make up their minds about it.

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Bibliographic details

Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2099, 1 April 1889

Word Count

THE REPRESENTATION. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2099, 1 April 1889