August 12, 2014
That voters’ list – only Parliament can clean it up!

Tue Aug 12, 2014

The latest version of the list of eligible registered voters in St Vincent and the Grenadines has been released and it indicates that 105,919 persons would be eligible to vote if general elections were to be held today.

With a population in St Vincent and the Grenadines of 109,188, based on the housing and population census of 2012, the list clearly does not accurately reflect the total number of adult Vincentians who normally reside here, plus those who have returned home within the last five years.{{more}}

The list, which has been released to the political parties, also gives the number of persons who have the new identification card and those who still hold the ones issued prior to 2009. The number of persons holding the new cards is 68,624, which is closer to estimates of the adult population in this country based on the census.

For years now, there have been calls for the Office of the Supervisor of Elections to clean up the list and bring it down to a more realistic figure, but careful study of the Representative of the People Act would indicate why this is easier said than done.

The Act has only one reference to an ID card, and nowhere in the Act does it say that a person is required to have a valid ID card in order to be eligible to vote. All that is required. according to the Act, is for the the person’s name to be on the voters’ list.

And removing a person’s name from the list is not that simple, the Supervisor of Elections explained to SEARCHLIGHT yesterday. With the absence of computerized immigration records which would definitively say which Vincentians have not returned home for over five years, removing a person from the list, based the report of a relative or neighbour would be risky and may open the Supervisor of Elections to legal challenge.

The Supervisor of Elections is therefore understandably treading cautiously, as it is better to have bloated list than to disenfranchise a single voter.

Despite this, no one should feel happy about this list, as the status of 35 per cent of those on it is uncertain – one does not know if these are people who are resident in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but have not bothered to register for the new cards, or persons who have been overseas since before 2009 or even some who are dead.

Uncertainty about the status of such a large percentage of the list is cause for concern, as it leaves too much room for electoral fraud and other irregularities.

The political parties have been complaining about the list for many years now, but we are not aware of a call by any of them for the Representation of the People Act to be amended to allow for a cleansing of the list. It certainly seems that amending the Act would be the only way to clean the list in any meaningful manner, given the strictures placed on the Supervisor of Elections by the Act in its present form.