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shall be holden on any day (Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas Day excepted) not later from the day of making such proclamation than the twelfth day nor sooner than the sixth day ; provided that this section shall not apply to the election for any county of a city or of a town.”
Formerly the original writ issued only to the sheriff, and commanded him to make returns for the whole county. The sheriff thereupon issued his precept to the returning officers of the boroughs.
Recently, however, the intervention of the sheriff in borough returns has been discontinued. An original writ goes to each returning officer.
The following is the enactment (16 & 17 Vic. c. 68. sec. i.) whereby this amendment has been made.
“The writ for any election hereafter to be directed to the sheriff of any county in England or Wales (other than the county of a city or of a town) shall require such sheriff to cause election to be made of a knight or knights to serve in Parliament for such county, and for any riding, parts, or division thereof only, and not further or otherwise ; the writ for making any election of a member or members to serve in Parliament for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and for every borough, town corporate, port, or place returning members to serve in Parliament in England and Wales, shall hereafter be directed to the vice chancellors of the said Universities, and to the returning officers of such
boroughs, towns corporate, ports, and places respectively; and such vice chancellors and returning officers shall thereupon in due course of law proceed to election, and after such election certify the same, together with the writ, according to the directions thereof; all such writs hereafter to be issued, and all mandates, precepts, instruments, proceedings, and notices consequent upon such writs, shall be and the same are hereby authorized to be framed and expressed in such manner and form as may be necessary for carrying the provisions of this act into effect."
The returning officers of the borough now issue their notices, in obedience to the writ.
Notice of Election in Boroughs.
for electing a burgess or burgesses (as the case may be], to serve in Parliament for the city or borough (as the case may be], I do hereby give notice, that I shall proceed to election accordingly on the
day of at o'clock in
when and where all persons concerned are to give their attendance.
And take notice, that all persons who are guilty of bribery at the said election will, on conviction of such offence, be liable to the penalties mentioned in that behalf in “ The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854."
And take notice, that all persons who are guilty of treating or undue influence at the said election will, on conviction of such offence, be liable to the penalties mentioned in that behalf in " The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act."
Signature of the proper officer.
The time for proceeding to election is not less than four, nor
more than six days after the day of the delivery of the precept. This is regulated by the 16 & 17 Vic. c. 68., which, after repealing the 3 & 4 Vic. c. 81., enacts, " In every city or town being a county of itself, and in every borough, town corporate, port, or place, returning or contributing to return a member or members to serve in Parliament in England and Wales, the officer to whom the duty of giving notice for the election of such member or members belongs shall proceed to election within six days after the receipt of the writ or precept, giving three clear days notice at least of the day of election, exclusive of the day of proclamation and the day of election.”
The returning officer having made his proclamation at all the polling-booths for the county, between the hours of eight and four in the spring and summer half-year, and between eight and six in the winter half-year, or having, in boroughs, given his notices at all the usual places, the preliminary work of the election, so far as the returning officer is concerned, appears to be complete.
It is proper here to remark, that although every minute portion of these proceedings is carefully prescribed by statute, and although the returning officer would be either subject to penalties, or
liable to be censured or imprisoned by the House of Commons for neglecting them, mere irregularities do not vitiate an election. Even if the returning officer be an usurper in his office, the election is good; and if the notices should be insufficient, even as respects the number of days required by statute, the better opinion, amid conflicting cases, seems to be, that the election would not be invalidated, unless it were shewn that the result of the election was affected by the irregularity. See the Athlone case, Bar. and Arn., 119. The decisions have been nearly uniform, that such objections as informal demand of poll, nonswearing of poll-clerks, or illegal adjournment of the poll, are not sufficient to invalidate the election. Even when the poll was opened and closed at unstatutable hours, the result not having, in the opinion of the Committee, been affected by this circumstance, the election was upheld.
On the day appointed in the proclamation or notice, the returning officer having taken his seat, and the usual formalities of proclaiming silence having been performed, the business commences with the reading of the writ.
It will probably be thought decent and convenient to continue this formality, although it is now no longer legally necessary, since that por
tion of the act of 2 Geo. II. c. 24. which required it is now repealed.
After the reading of the writ the returning officer must, under penalty of 501. for wilful omission, take the following oath
“I, A. B., do solemnly swear that I have not, directly nor indirectly, received any sum sums of money, office, place, or employment, gratuity or reward, or any bond, bill, or note, or any promise or gratuity whatsoever, either by myself or any other person, to my use, or benefit, or advantage, for making any return at the present election of members to serve in Parliament; and that I will return such person or persons as shall to the best of my judgment appear to me to have the majority of legal votes.'
This oath may be administered by a local justice or by any three electors, and must be “ entered among the records of the sessions of the county, city, corporation, or borough.'
The “Bribery Act” which was formerly read upon these occasions is now repealed, and the “Corrupt Practices Prevention Act," which takes its place, has no provision that it shall be read from the hustings. We have already seen that mention of the act is now made in the notice of election, and this stands in lieu of the old ceremony of reading the “Bribery Act."
The form of the subsequent proceedings is very much at the discretion of the returning officer, who is guided by the custom of the place. The departure from local usage in these respects would, if made with unfair intent, be punished by the House of Commons, and, if it