July 31, 2015
Electoral Office retracts decision

This country’s Electoral Office has retracted a previous decision to suspend registration of voters in all 15 constituencies for a one-month period.

Last Friday, a release was issued, stating that no voter registration would be carried out from August 3 to September 4, as the Electoral Office focused on preparation and publication of the revised Voters’ List. Voter registration in constituencies was expected to resume on September 7.{{more}}

However, in a release dated July 28, the office withdrew that decision and stated that registration will continue uninterrupted throughout the month of August.

“The Electoral Office will however work simultaneously to prepare and publish the new Voters’ List and to make it available to the public for scrutiny. The new Voters’ List will be published in mid-August. This List will reflect the names of persons who were registered as voters between 01 June, 2005 and 31 July, 2015,” the release stated.

“The Electoral Office urges new voters as well as individuals who are re-registering to make use of the services provided in the constituencies. The Electoral Office further advises the public that the registration schedules will be published in the weekly newspapers and on the Electoral Office page of the government website.”

The release also indicated that registering officers are expected to post schedules in strategic places in each constituency and the registration schedules will be available to all political parties.

One day before the Electoral Office’s decision was withdrawn, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, during the New Times radio programme, expressed his displeasure with the decision.

“You cannot prevent people from registering,” he said, while revealing that he had spoken with the supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay to say that the New Democratic Party will not support the decision.

“We don’t know when the election will be called. Let us say it is called anytime in that period…what you’re going to do? Go back to the old list? There are a lot of issues involved here.”

The Opposition Leader also questioned why was the Electoral Office stopping constituency registration after he had repeatedly been assured by Findlay that the office had the capacity to handle an influx of persons who wished to register.

Parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown and vice-president of the NDP St Clair Leacock also shared his views on the issue during Monday’s radio programme.

“It goes against the grain of an election that is pending, that for six weeks the electorate will be virtually shut out from becoming a participant in the democratic process. I really don’t like that,” Leacock said.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves read the recently issued release from the supervisor of elections and expressed full confidence in the supervisor of elections and her staff.

“They have been doing a lot of work. They have been very open to the political parties to make suggestions. There is no need to have any war with the supervisor of elections and her office. She is a woman stuffed with integrity and if there are problems, if we want to highlight any deficiency, we can do so and she will do so. Let us not create the impression that we don’t have a good electoral system or that there is any hanky-panky which is going on because there is none,” he said.

The 30-day period provided in the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2015 for voters to update their registration and so avoid being excluded from the new Voters’ List, came to an end on July 27.

The Prime Minister, however, pointed out that persons can re-register in the coming months before the general elections are called. In addition, Gonsalves noted that persons will also have the 15-day special registration period before the day of the general elections to register, but he advised that “the earlier you do the registration, the much better.” (BK)