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Gonsalves waiting on response from Eustace on Voters’ List clean-up

Gonsalves waiting on response from Eustace on Voters’ List clean-up

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As preparations for the next general elections begin, steps are being taken to make it possible for the Supervisor of Elections to remove from the Voters’ List the names of persons who have neither registered or re-registered to vote in the last 10 years.{{more}}

At a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves revealed that a draft proposal for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act has been created and is to be discussed among Members of Parliament.

“The Supervisor of Elections had worked with the Attorney General and there is a draft amendment in accordance with what the Supervisor of Elections had said and what I reported in Parliament,” he said.

“Now everybody knows that the voters’ list is bloated. It doesn’t mean that because the voters’ list is bloated, that the voters’ list is wrong or that people who are entitled to vote would not get an opportunity to vote. Where it is bloated is not with dead people name on it, but persons who migrated for in excess of five years.”

The Prime Minister noted that while the Supervisor of Elections has the authority to remove such names from the list, she has to be satisfied that there is enough evidence to do so.

Furthermore, he highlighted the difficulty that may be faced as there is no technological connection between the Immigration Department and the office of the Supervisor of Elections.

According to the Representation of the People Act, there are four situations in which a voter’s name can be removed: if a citizen resides outside of the country for five years or more; the 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.

The Prime Minister explained that the Supervisor of Elections has suggested that legislation be passed so that anyone who does not have one of the newer ID cards issued in 2004 or 2005, must re-register for their name to remain on the voters’ list.

In an article published in SEARCHLIGHT in August, 2014, it was stated that an estimated 37,295 names stand to be removed, should the amendment be approved in Parliament.

Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibility for Electoral Affairs, noted that he sent a letter to Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace on December 4, 2014 and enclosed a copy of the draft amendment to the Representation of the People Act and outlined a number of steps that may be taken, once Eustace is in agreement with the document.

“… If you are interested for parliament to proceed with this matter, I propose the following: the parliamentary Opposition and your lawyer meet with the Supervisor of Elections and the honourable Attorney General to discuss the draft with a view to clarifying any relevant issues. The parliamentary Opposition and the Government will then meet with the Supervisor of Elections and the Attorney General to finalize the draft; thereafter, a bill reflecting the agreed draft will be tabled for debate and passage in January 2015.”

The Prime Minister pointed out that he had not yet received a response from the Opposition Leader and said he was raising that matter openly, in the hope that Eustace’s response would be forthcoming.

General Elections are constitutionally due in St Vincent and the Grenadines by March 2016.

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