THE NEW REPRESENTATION.
We have always maintained that the Electoral and Representation Bills would furnish the principal debate of the session, but we certainly were not prepared to find the whole question of representation reopened, as it undoubtedly is by the measure just brought down by Ministers.. Even the number of members of the House is printed with initials, which are equivalent to a blank, so that the members of the existing Parliament are actually invited to reconsider the question of the reduction of members passed into law two sessions ago. The Hare system forms the basis of the Representation Bill, and the Colony being divided, as proposed, into four districts, the Auckland provincial district is to return sixteen members, the remainder of the North Island fifteen, Otago eighteen, and the balance of the South Island twenty-one. This course represents the allocation of the presumed seventy; and if the total is increased or lessened a proportionate change must be made. Elaborate schedules, showing how the Hare system is to be worked, are appended to the Bill; and the pro rata distribution of representation as estimated may be gleaned from a note of which we only give the tenor, as the full fractional figures would be sufficient to cause the reader to cast aside the paper in terror and disgust. The population (estimated) on 31st December, 1888, exclusive of Maoris, being 607,167, it results that with seventy members there will be on an average one representative to 8,673 persons. Thus, Otago having a population of 155,693 will be entitled to 178,252 8,673 = 18 members. This is carrying things out to a very fine edge indeed. The schoolmaster is very much abroad, “ and time toils after him in vain.” The “examples” showing how the Hare system is to be worked are of an equally pedantic style. Here is a sample; Suppose there are only four members to be elected and six candidates stand. The total number of votes polled being 8,000, according to rule 8,000 being divided by 4 + 1 gives 1,600 as a quotient, to which, one being added, shows 1,601 to be the quota on which the members we to be elected. Then follows me counting. It is impossible to make the electors or their representatives understand these complications. The amalgamation of electoral districts is what is required, so as to destroy localism, and to create a more national feeling. But this arithmetical progression will retard, rather than further, the advancement of a national feeling. Assuredly the schoolmaster is too far abroad, in a double sense. The Registration of Electors Bill simply amounts to an adoption of the Yictorian law. Electors must register themselves, get an “ electoral right,” and pay a shilling for it. This will probably seem very aggressive to our astute democrats. The presumption on their part will be that every man who condescends to allow himself to be registered should receive a coutribu tion of a shilling from the Consolidated Revenue. Andthereisanotherprovision which will certainly jar on the susceptibilities of the intense democrat, who must write his name on the margin of his electoral right; and if he cannot do that, well he cannot get a vote, be he ever so wealthy. It will be interesting to watch the action of members in relation to this proviso. The object of compelling the signature is of course to prevent personation at the polling booths or to detect it; but nevertheless there will be an outcry about wronging “the poor man,” or we are much mistaken. One great boon to dwellers in outlying districts will be the provision that postmasters may be appointed to receive claims for and issue electoral rights; but against this there is the material difficulty enacted in another part of the Bill of having to appear “personally” before the registrar or his substitute. However, these are matters of detail which may be amended in committee if members only are ordinarily watchful and attentive to their duties. The main principle of the Bill is that the electors shall understand that the electoral vote is a privilege as well as a power, and tnat to possess it they must apply for it at least once in three years. Fourpence a year is not a heavy tax to pay for the possession of this privilege and power, and it is to be hoped that this measure will become law.
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THE NEW REPRESENTATION., Evening Star, Issue 7951, 5 July 1889
THE NEW REPRESENTATION. Evening Star, Issue 7951, 5 July 1889
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