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Gonsalves, Eustace to discuss voters’ list with Supervisor of Elections

Gonsalves, Eustace to discuss voters’ list with Supervisor of Elections

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Steps are being taken, which may lead to an amendment of the Representation of the People Act (1982), to allow for the removal of persons from the voters’ list who have neither registered nor re-registered to vote in over a decade.

Yesterday, Supervisor of Elections {{more}}Sylvia Findlay met with Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan to discuss amendments to the Act, a move, which from all indications, may have the support of both Opposition and Government.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, August 20, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace said he should be meeting soon, with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and the Supervisor of Elections to discuss the matter – which he has called for several times in the past.

Eustace revealed: “I am favourably inclined to it.”

It is estimated that some 37,295 voters stand to be removed from the list, should the amendment be approved in Parliament.

“She [Findlay] has been in discussion with the party before on ways to reduce the size of the list,” he explained. “She’s been trying to see how it can be done.”

During Parliament on Tuesday, August 19, Gonsalves outlined the rationale behind the proposal being made by the supervisor of elections to amend the Act.

“In the absence of evidence to substantiate any claim that these persons have been out of the state for over five years, the supervisor of elections is powerless to delete the names of these individuals from the voters’ list,” he stated.

“It would be much better if we have a voters’ list which accords to a number close to the 68,624 persons who have deployed identification cards.”

The current voters’ list shows that 105,919 individuals are currently eligible to vote, even though a 2012 census indicated that there is a local population of 109,188.

The supervisor of elections is proposing that the names of those persons who registered as voters before January 1, 2004, and have not updated their registration over that 10-year period “be deleted from the voters’ list, due to be published on the 15th of October, 2014, or the voters’ list due to be published by the 15th of January, 2015.”

In Parliament, the Prime Minister said that according to law, if a citizen resides outside of the country for five years or more, his/her name should be removed from the voters’ list.

According to the Act, this is one of four situations under which a voter’s name can be removed – the others being death of the voter; if an objection to the voter’s registration has been allowed; or if the voter has been disqualified under any law for registration of exercising his/her right to vote.

In a previous SEARCHLIGHT article (Tuesday, August 12), Findlay-Scrubb said that the matter is a “complex” one because it is difficult to prove that a registered voter has been residing abroad for over five years; and that removing said voter without an amendment to the Act would open her office to the risk of being challenged legally.

In Parliament, PM Gonsalves said that he wants to keep the voters’ list “largely for those who are here.” However, he pointed out that despite the high number of voters on the list who are abroad, if elections were to be called within 30 days, the public could still expect a “free and fair election.”

“The number of those persons who are coming home to vote at election time, it’s a miniscule number,” he countered.

Despite this, the Prime Minister said that he finds the proposal to be “attractive.” He pressed upon the Opposition the importance of both political parties discussing the issue with the supervisor of elections and agreeing on how to move forward with it before bringing the amendment before Parliament, so that the “political capital” invested into it does not go to waste.

He added: “If we agree on that, we come here [Parliament] with it.” (JSV)

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