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From the Supervisor of Elections – Vol II No 15: Has Electoral Reform begun?
Office of the AG
From the Supervisor of Elections
Vol II Issue No 15: Has Electoral Reform begun?
On the 27th October, 2020, His Excellency the Governor General assented to a change in the Electoral Laws. The changes, contained in Amendment No 13 of 2020, distinguished between CARICOM and COMMONWEALTH nationals, and clarified ordinary resident a bit more.
Previously, all Commonwealth nationals, both Caricom and other, qualified to register as voters after residence for twelve months. The change kept the twelve month qualifying criterion for Caricom but increased it to three years for all other Commonwealth citizens.
This change means that as of that date, the rights of 2.38 billion persons of the 42 commonwealth countries in the world would have been amended. They now have to wait for 3 years to register to vote. The remaining almost 18 million of the full member CARICOM territories would retain their rights. In real terms, Anglo-african, Canadian and British nationals (including British Dependent Territories), Australia, New Zealand and Bermuda must wait for 3 years, while nationals of the OECS, Barbados, Guyana, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are unaffected. In a way, that answers the question that was before the Court some time ago about student rights.
The other change was the imposition of a 6-month period into the definition of ordinary residence. It says in part, “where a person who is ordinarily resident in Saint Christopher and Nevis is registered as a voter for a constituency and he or she has ceased to reside in that constituency then he or she shall continue to be registered as a voter for that constituency, for a period not exceeding six months…”
Interpreted, a voter is free to move around the country for up to a 6-month period before his/her registration becomes affected. This has implications for how objections based on incorrect address are processed. It may also have implications for first time registrants.
This latter amendment draws from the Report of the Electoral Reform Consultative Committee, at item 188.8.131.52, (page 57), that called for legislative amendment to clarify residency in order to avoid the misapplication of the concept of the qualifying address when determining where an individual is authorized to cast his or vote. “This will eliminate the practice of voters shifting their registration from one electoral district to another solely to affect the outcome of an election”. It continued: “the amendment should also … address the issue of the determination of qualifying address of citizens living overseas as well as citizens born overseas who intend to register.”
The 6-month issue can also shed light on section 39(5) of the Act. That section allows for dual ordinary residence; and gives the right to the registrant to elect the place he/she desires to be registered.
Combined, these adjustments may help strategize towards one person having one vote in the right place, and give fairness to all.