A statement from the office of the Attorney General on electoral reform was released to the press on Thursday, September 26th based on observations and recommendations of a visiting electoral expert panel.
The press release says Government invited a joint mission of electoral experts from the Caribbean Community, the Organisation of American States and the Commonwealth Secretariat who spent August 6th to 9th meeting and discussing electoral reform with Government, the main political parties and other stakeholders.
Electoral reform has been under discussion for some time now with talk about updating the voters list and the issuance of voter identification cards.
Updating the voters list involves cleansing the list of voters who have died, have been overseas for more than five years, who are disqualified from voting or who otherwise are not entitled to be on the list.
The visiting mission said that electoral reform must be carefully executed to avoid confusion, disruption and serious consequences.
It suggests a house-to-house verification exercise to update the voters list which Government says it is unable to accept.
According to the Attorney General, the house-to-house exercise would result in confusion and disruption and is contrary to best practices.
He said, “The recommendations, in particular in relation to re-verification, are unworkable and, if implemented, will cause confusion and disruption, contrary to best practice, and, importantly, will not result in the required updating of the Register a.k.a. ‘cleansing of the List.’”
He continued, “Specifically, the proposed re-verification will not result in the mandatory use of photo ID cards for the purpose of voting i.e. every voter being issued with and required to use a photo ID card to vote, nor will the Register of Electors a.k.a the Voter’s List be properly updated or “cleansed” i.e. removal from the List of the names of all persons not entitled to be on the List because they are dead, have been overseas for more than 5 years.
“Additionally, the recommendation that a house-to-house re-verification exercise should be conducted across the country is not supported by Dominica’s laws and even if it was, it could not properly update or “cleanse” the Voters’ List because it proposes that persons whose names are on the List but were not met with during the re-verification exercise would still be allowed to remain on the List and to vote.”
He believes, “Dominica will essentially be in exactly the same place in respect to the Voters’ List as we are now. Accordingly, the Report will have the unacceptable impact of causing the State to incur significant increased financial, human and other resources costs for no real reform or discernible improvement in our electoral process.”
Attorney General, Levi Peter says legislation will lead to voter ID cards and not house-to-house verification.
The visiting mission in fact also recommends amending the existing electoral laws to enable the introduction of photo ID cards.
“Government has not received the cooperation and support of the opposition parties in its efforts to bring about these reforms,” he says. “Instead, the Government has at every turn been impeded, obstructed, and has even met with violence and the threat of increased violence, in its efforts to get Parliament to pass the necessary amendments to the electoral laws so that the two main reforms: mandatory use of photo identification cards for the purpose of voting, and updating of the Voters’ List, can be implemented.”
Nevertheless, he says, Government will continue to seek to engage opposition parties, other stakeholders, the joint mission and other partners to achieve electoral reform.
They say it will require the cooperation, political maturity and goodwill of a cross section of the society.
Read the full statement here Joint Mission Press Releasee
and the RESPONSE to Joint Mission Report