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Bailiff of Southampton are the Returning Offi- CHAP. II. cer of the said town and county."1 Many recent statutes, however, have used, in such cases, the plural number.


In counties, the Returning Officers have been officers in from ancient times the Sheriffs.


which are

and not pro

In such cities, or towns, being counties of In cities, &c., themselves, as are not provided for in this re- counties of spect by the various statutable provisions which themselves, will presently be noticed, the Sheriff's of such vided for by cities or towns are generally, but not always, Statute: the Returning Officers.2

boroughs not

In other boroughs or towns, not so provided In other for, the office generally devolves on the prin- so provided cipal functionary of the place, but may be found for. in the possession of a variety of persons; such as stewards; mayors; bailiffs; port-reeves; constables; and the like; according to the customs of the places concerned.3


Such are the general rules for determining Statutable who is the possessor of this office; but they officers in have been superseded in many English, Welsh, England and and Scotch boroughs by express enactment as


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of Oxford or

And, first, as regards England and Wales:In the University of Oxford or of Cambridge, In the Univ. the Returning Officer is the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge. the University.


In a large proportion of boroughs, the Return- In boroughs ing Officers have been especially designated by in Schedules the Reform and Municipal Corporations Acts; C or D. of

122 Com. J. 445, 449; Taunton, 1 Peck, 406, 421, 432; 58 Com. J. 382; Roe, 438a.

See, as to England and Wales, 16 & 17 Vic. c. 68, s. 1; as to Scotland, 2 & 3 Will. 4, c. 65, s. 28; and as to Ireland, 13 & 14 Vic. c. 68, ss. 3 & 4.

3 Roe, 438a. In some places, lords, and even ladies, of manors have been the Returning Officers; Heywood B. E. 54; Roe, 437.

16 & 17 Vic. c. 68, s. 1.


the general effect of which may thus be Reform Act, stated:

and for which


For some of the boroughs named in Schedules Officers pro- C and D of the Reform Act, Returning Officers are therein expressly provided.1

vided there


Or where no such provision, and since

In any other borough so named, and which has been incorporated since July 11, 1832, by incorporated; any royal charter authorising the election of a Mayor, or other chief municipal officer, the Returning Officer is the functionary whose election has been thus authorised.

Or where no such provi

And, as regards every other borough so sion, and not named, the Act provides that the Returning

since incor


Officer shall be appointed by the Sheriff of the county, subject to the following rules:-The appointment must be made in March (except when made to fill up a vacancy occasioned by death, or incapacity), by writing under the Sheriff's hand; which writing must be delivered to the Clerk of the Peace of the county, and by him be filed and preserved among the records of his office. The person appointed must be fit for the post, and a resident in the borough. He must not be in holy orders, nor be a churchwarden, or overseer of the poor, nor can one who has been thus appointed assume either of the two latter functions during the period of his office. His appointment is to last till the ensuing March; so that he would appear to have no power of resigning at pleasure. But no person can be compelled to accept the appointment who has served before, or is qualified to be elected as a member of Parliament; provided that, within a week of his receiving notice of such appointment, he makes oath of such qualification before a Justice of the Peace, and forthwith notifies that he has done so to the Sheriff. If the Returning Officer dies, or becomes incapacitated,

12 Will. IV. c. 45, s. 11.

2 Wakefield, Bar. & Aust. 271; Rogers, 270.

the Sheriff is to forthwith appoint (subject to the same rules, and for the unexpired residue of the year of office) a successor.1



In every borough under the Municipal Cor- In boroughs under the porations Act, other than cities, or towns, being Municipal counties of themselves, and other than the town Corporations of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Mayor is Returning Officer; and, if at any time when he is required to act as such, he is absent, or incapacitated, by death, or otherwise, the council of the borough must forthwith elect an alderman, to act in his stead. If there are two mayors in the borough, the one to whom the writ is directed is to be Returning Officer.2


In Scotland, it is provided that the Return- Statutable ing Officer, in any election for a district of Officers in cities, boroughs, or towns, shall be the Sheriff Scotland. appointed for such district by Schedule L of the Scotch Reform Act; and, in other cases, the Sheriff of the shire.3

directed when the

vacant :


It has next to be considered how the writ is writ, how to be directed in those cases where it is ordinarily directed to the Returning Officer, but post is where, at the time of its issue his post is vacant. If this should happen in an English, or In an EngWelsh, county, and the vacancy is occasioned lish, or by death, the Under, or Deputy, Sheriff, who is county: the person appointed by statute to fulfil ad interim the deceased Returning Officer's duties, would seem to be the proper person to whom to direct the writ.4 A vacancy from any other cause than death does not appear to be expressly provided for; but, in all probability, the Crown, on a proper representation being made to its responsible advisers, would solve the difficulty by wielding its often questioned, but never aban

12 Will. IV. c. 45, s. 11.

25 & 6 Will. IV. c. 76, s. 57.
3 2 & 3 Will. IV. c. 65, s. 28.
43 Geo. I. c. 15, s. 8; Roe, 458, 459.


CHAP. II. doned, prerogative of making a Pocket Sheriff to supply the vacancy; without waiting for the ordinary ceremony of a nomination in Westminster Hall.1

In an English, or

Welsh, city or borough:

In a Scotch

As to a vacancy in the office in an English, or Welsh, city or borough, it is provided that, "in the absence" of the Returning Officer and of his Deputy, the writ is to be directed to the Sheriff of the county; and it is further enacted that, "in all cases whenever there shall be, either from temporary vacancy, or from some [i.e. any] other cause, no person duly qualified in any borough, city, or town, to perform the duties of a Returning Officer for the same, the Sheriff of the county in which such borough, city, or town, is situate, shall be charged with the execution of the said writ, and shall execute the same, and in all respects perform the duties of, and incidental to, the office of Returning Officer: Provided always, that it shall not be lawful for the said Sheriff to receive or execute the writ, except when there shall be no person within the said borough, or city, or town, legally qualified and competent as Returning Officer to execute the same. "2

Where the office is vacant in a Scotch conconstituency: stituency, the proper person for the writ to be directed to would seem to be the officer appointed by law to fulfil the electoral functions of the vacant office; namely, the "ordinary Substitute at the head burgh of the shire appointed by the Sherif" 3

In an Irish constituency:

In an Irish county, the difficulty might be met by appointing a Pocket Sheriff, as above described, and by directing the writ to him. In no other Irish constituencies does a vacancy in

Bacon Ab., Sheriff; 1 Bl. Com. 340; 3 Steph. Com. 23.

2 17 & 18 Vic. c. 57.

35 & 6 Will. IV. c. 78, s. 11.

the post of Returning Officer occasion any diffi- CHAP. II. culty on this head, as the Sheriff, and not the Returning Officer, is the person to whom the writ is directed.1

of writ.

Finally, it may happen that, in spite of every Misdirection precaution, a writ has been misdirected; and, should this occur when the House is sitting, the proper course is for the Speaker to issue a supersedeas of the writ, or to prevent its being delivered. But, should the error not be thus remedied, and should the person to whom the writ is sent execute it in good faith, the mistake will not vitiate the election.3

and Middle

Writ, how forwarded.] The manner in which the writs ought to be forwarded has been minutely prescribed by the legislature. The In London Messenger, or Pursuivant, of the Great Seal is sex: "forthwith" to carry such writs as are directed to the Sheriffs of London or Middlesex to the officers of such Sheriffs ;5 and he is also to carry such as are directed to any person who holds his office in or within five miles of the cities of London or Westminster, or the borough of Southwark, to such office; the holder of such office having first notified where he holds it to the Messenger. In all other cases, the Messenger, or his deputy, is to deliver the writ at the General Post Office in London to the Postmaster, or Postmasters, General; or to the deputy, or deputies, who shall have been appointed, in obedience to the Act, by such Postmaster, or Postmasters, General. The person, or persons, so receiving the writ is, or are, to give a written acknowledgment thereof to the person, or persons, so delivering the same; in which receipt is to be stated the time of the delivery; and a duplicate of this acknowledg

1 Ante, p. 9. 2 Ante, p. 8. 3 Roe, 443.

4 53 Geo. III. c. 89.

5 Ib. s. 1.

6 Ib. s. 3.

In other


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