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The Evening Star FRIDAY, MAY 17, 1889.

Roll-stuffing is a device so obnoxious

to all well-regulated minds that the recent attempts to Boii-stulßag. pjace bogus voters on tho

burgess lists must ensure general reprobation. In a small way it has been tried on in some of the suburban municipalities, but the essay made on the City roll was of such a wholesale character as to excite surprise at the audacity of the perpetrar tors, no less than indignation at their vicious purposes. As Councillor Smith said; “ There is something absolutely bad about the matter.” It would seem to be a growing evil ; for whilst in 1887 only four claims were put in, last year there were twelve, and in the present year eightythree. That sixty unqualified persons should individually, and each of his own mere motion, seek to have his name inserted on the roll, is extremely improbable. All the circumstances seem to point to concerted action, and it is on the cards that authorised agents have been employed for the purpose by unprincipled persons to serve some special object. What that object may be is, of course, merely a matter of surmise; but it is rather remarkable, to say the least, that a large proportion of these claims is connected in one way or the other with the liquorselling interests. In the case of some breweries, such “premises” as malthouses, cooperages, bottling-houses, offices, and stables are set forth as separate and additional qualifications for the municipal franchise. Billiard rooms and stables are made to do similar duty in relation to hotels. A harness room and a loose horse-box are pressed into the service, and so is the bookkeeper’s office of a newspaper*. The occupancy of an apartment forms the basis of another of these extraordinary claims. How the misguided claimants or their advisers ever supposed that their pretensions would be admitted is astonishing. The Municipal Corporations Act is clear upon the point. Only the possessors or occupants of rateable property are entitled under the Rating Act of 1876 to have their names placed on the burgess roll. By “ rateable property ” is undoubtedly meant property which can

be and is separately rated. If, then, | anyone not on the ratepayers’ list, or not possessing the qualifications specified in the Act, seeks to have his name inserted in the burgess list, he tries to do that which the law disallows. There is no penalty for making an invalid application, nor would it be right that there should be, since it might be honestly, though mistakenly, made. But in the cases Under review, it would be difficult to persuade anyone that there was any mistake. The transaction has all the appearance of a bold, unscrupulous, and organised attempt to stuff the roll, and it was promptly and righteously defeated. The Town Clerk is entitled to much credit for his vigilance, and the councillors for their unquestioning rejection of claims which bore the impress of illegality in their very nature. They could do no less, indeed, and little inquiry was needed at their'hands. The rate book supplied nearly all the necessary information. It is strange that, with the plain facts before them, any of the councillors should have hesitated as to the proper course to adopt. But in every body or assemblage of men there is generally one or more contentious individuals, who objects without cause, and protests without reason. And so it happened on this occasion. If ever there was a question respecting which it would seem that perfect unanimity must prevail, it was this. Roll-stuffing is an offence against the whole of the ratepayers, since, if suffered to prevail, it would tend to place the municipal funds and municipal offices at the mercy of non-paying and unqualified voters —a result which actually ensued in New York, with most disastrous consequences to the community. Yet, plain as was the duty of the councillors, one of their number—Councillor Fish, in fact—endeavored to create obstacles to its performance. Unless this was done in the spirit of sheer opposition, it can only be conjectured that his sense of right and wrong was lamentably warped. We attach no importance whatever to his “protest,” and less to his reading of the Act. It is quite true that the Town Clerk has to make out the burgess list from the valuation roll, and that any ratepayer may object to persons whose names are not on the roll. But the Council have full power to amend the burgess list “at any time ’ by “ the addition or “ erasure of names of persons who “have acquired or parted with their “qualification respectively.” This is precisely what was done. It is assumed that those whose names were placed on the list have “ acquired ” the qualification. Those w’hose names were struck out neither acquired nor parted with the qualification, for they possessed none.

Whether any further action can bo taken is a question for the Corporation solicitors’ consideration. If this outrageous proceeding can be proved to be the work of unscrupulous and designing persons, at present behind the scenes, there should be some means of reaching and punishing them. Otherwise the dictum that there is no wrong without a remedy falls to the ground. If there really is not any such remedy, it is high time one were provided by the Legislature, for this abominable practice requires to be checked before it becomes a customary practice, and develops into an “institution”—save the mark ! As for those who were apparently used for the purpose, it is charitable to suppose that they did not know what they were doing, but simply walked into the trap. The Council appointed a committee to inquire into the circumstances under which such a large number of claims were sent in this year, and their report should be an interesting and instructive document.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890517.2.8

Bibliographic details

The Evening Star FRIDAY, MAY 17, 1889., Evening Star, Issue 7909, 17 May 1889

Word Count
972

The Evening Star FRIDAY, MAY 17, 1889. Evening Star, Issue 7909, 17 May 1889

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