McMahon v Attorney General

Judgment Date01 January 1972
Date01 January 1972
Docket Number[1970. No. 168 P.]
CourtSupreme Court
Attorney General

"Secret ballot" - Ballot paper and counterfoil bearing the same serial number - Counterfoil also bearing the number of the voter on the register of electors - Electoral Act, 1923 (No. 12), ss. 21, 24, 26 and Schedules3-5 - Electoral Act, 1963 (No. 19), s. 16 -Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Articles 16, 34, 50.

Article 16, s. 1, sub-s. 4, of the Constitution of Ireland, 1937, states that "no voter may exercise more than one vote at an election for Dáil Éireann, and the voting shall be by secret ballot". The plaintiff, a citizen of Ireland, brought an action in the High Court and claimed a declaration that certain provisions of the Electoral Acts 1923 and 1963 were invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. Rule 22 in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Act of 1923 requires that an elector's number on the register of electors shall be marked on the counterfoil of his ballot paper immediately before that paper is delivered to him; and the directions mentioned in s. 16, sub-s. 2 of the Act of 1963 require that a particular serial number shall be printed on the counterfoil of a ballot paper and also on the ballot paper. Rules 38 and 39 in Part I of the said Fifth Schedule provide that in special circumstances rejected ballot papers in the custody of the clerk of the Dáil may be inspected, and that sealed packets of counterfoils in such custody may be opened and that counted ballot papers in such custody may be inspected. Held by Pringle J., in making the declaration, 1, that the words "secret ballot" in s. 1, sub-s. 4, of Article 16 of the Constitution mean a ballot in which there is complete and inviolable secrecy. 2. That, accordingly such of the provisions of the Act of 1923 as enable a voter's completed ballot paper to be identified are inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and were not continued in force pursuant to Article 50 of the Constitution; and that such of the provisions of the Act of 1963 as enable that identification to be made are invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution within the meaning of s. 3, sub-s. 2, of Article 34 of the Constitution. 3. That the special...

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