Leader of the Opposition, Lennox Linton has said the United Workers Party (UWP) has submitted written proposals for electoral reform to the Electoral Commission.
Linton said during a United Workers’ Party (UWP) press conference held at the Prevost Cinemall on Friday 26 May 2017 that the Parliamentary Opposition wrote to the Electoral Commission on 18 August 2016 outlining the areas it felt ought to constitute proper reform of electoral system in Dominica.
He said the Parliamentary Opposition did not receive a response from the Commission however in a letter in response to their request for the withdrawal of the proposed amendment Bills, from the Prime Minister through the Attorney General (AG), parts of their August 2016 letter was referenced.
Mr. Linton did not read the AG’s letter during the press conference however summarized the UWP’s proposal for electoral reform.
There are six areas proposed, they are as follows:
1. An accurate register of voters. This he said means a total re-registration of all eligible voters on the basis of which a new voter’s register will be issued.
“Cleaning the list of electors is a critical component of electoral reform, a bloated list that included despite prohibitions to law in law to the country the names of dead people and people living outside of Dominica for over five years is and will continue be used to corrupt the voting process. The Opposition believes a total re-registration is the best way to clean the list, this has successfully been done in neighbouring island states in relatively short periods or six months or less,” he read.
All registrations, Mr Linton said must be done by the Commission exclusively in Dominica and must be subject to the current residency criteria for voter registration.
He asked for the Commission to make the necessary adjustments to legislation to have this completed by the first quarter of 2017.
This is the area he said the AG quoted in his letter of response on behalf of the Prime Minister.
2. Voter identification cards. This means picture ID cards for all eligible voters or the new registered voters who will be obligated to use the cards as identification during elections and all ID cards must be issued by the Commission exclusively in Dominica.
“We urge the commission to determine the enabling legislative amendments that will be necessary to facilitate mandatory voting with ID cards and complete the issuing of voter ID cards by the end of the first quarter of 2017.”
3. The Rule of Law. Enforcement of the provisions in our electoral laws against bribery, treating, personation, illegal voting and election offenses in general, he said.
“The last three elections in Dominica have increasingly featured the corrupt practices of bribing and treating local and overseas voters eligible and ineligible to cast ballots for the Dominica Labour Party. We have seen the valuable consideration of huge sums spent on airline and ferry tickets to corruptly influence the votes of overseas based nationals. We have seen huge sums spent on bringing in foreign artists to provide entertainment to corruptly influenced voters,” Linton said.
He added that this has happened under the watch of an Electoral Commission that refuses to accept to act to prevent fraudulent manipulation of the electoral system even though it is fully aware of the applicable laws against these practices.
4. Voting by electors living overseas. “Here we refer to lawful facilitation of registered eligible voters living overseas to vote in general elections in Dominica. We observe that a practice of a political party paying millions of dollars from undisclosed sources to transport thousands of voters from various overseas locations to vote is illegal, corrupt and represents a most dangerous obstacle to free and fair elections,” he explained.
5. Media access for the Opposition. The Opposition is requesting fair access to the news and current affairs programs of all state owned, state operated and state controlled media.
“In Dominica we continue with a longstanding, corrupt practice of denying the Opposition access to state media funded by the public purse. We urge the Commission to support equal access to the news and current affairs programming on DBS Radio, Marpin television and the Government Information Service for both sides of the Dominica parliament with immediate effect,” he said.
6. Campaign finance reform. This is he said is to ensure at the very least that declarations of campaign contributions and election campaign spending by any political party of no more than EC thirty dollars per registered voter per election.
“So we have communicated in clear and specific terms what we believe are the elements of electoral reform in Dominica,” Mr Linton said.
“For the avoidance of doubt the attempt to rush major and highly controversial changes to our electoral laws through Parliament was disrespectful and contemptuous of the people of Dominica, many of whom exercise their constitutional right to decent and protest peacefully,” Mr Linton continued.