THE United Workers Party is unhappy with a list of unverified electors that were published three weeks ago by the Electoral Department and is calling for the non-removal of these names from the Voters List.
The party’s spokesperson on the subject, Guy Joseph calls the publication of those names a “suspicious” act.
However it appears that the party’s concerns are unnecessary because an elector whose name is on the list for removal can vote if an appearance is made on voting day, according to the Chief Elections Officer, Gasper Jn Baptiste.
The Electoral Department published its unverified list of electors on February 7 along with various claims and objection forms. These notices were posted island-wide on public buildings, registration centres and at embassies and consulate offices and other places where the list of unverified electors are to be posted.
Registered voters whose names appear on the list are asked to avail themselves at one of the offices listed in the notice not later than March 15 of this year, as failure to do so will result in their names being deleted from the Voters List in accordance with the Elections Act.
It is this that has raised the ire of the UWP, along with the time frame given for persons whose names are listed to make their status known to the Chief Elections Officer.
Opposition Leader, Gail Rigobert questioned the timing of the publication of the names and the amount of time given for persons to verify their status with the Chief Elections Officer.
“Is that in keeping with the best spirit of democracy?” she asked at a recent press conference.
“We respect that this exercise may be necessary, but why wasn’t it done sooner and why haven’t we been given more time to scrutinize the list?” she asked.
Chief Elections Officer, Jn Baptiste when contacted said that his office does not respond to everything a politician says about the workings of the department. However he noted that the list will remain in the public domain for verification of the names for another month.
“The Voters List must be cleaned and we make every effort to ensure that electors who are alive and in good standing with the electoral laws are on the Voters List. This is something that must be done. Having said that it must be pointed out that if an elector’s name is not on the Voters List but is on the unverified list, that person will be allowed to vote on voting day,” Jn Baptiste said.
Joseph, the UWP’s Castries Southeast representative was more forceful on the subject and led the charge against the Electoral Department for its publication of the 30,000 names on the list of unverified electors.
“How did the Electoral Department arrive at 30,000 names to be removed in an election year? What was the procedure that was used by the Electoral Department to arrive at 30,000 names?” Joseph queried.
Jn Baptiste maintained that he will not get into any contest with politicians referring this reporter instead to the Elections Act which gives the Electoral Department’s reasons for its actions to date.
Section 12 sub-section two of the Elections Act stated that where it is observed as a result of a house to house enumeration that an elector registered at a registration office or centre does not reside at the place of residence which he or she submitted at the registration office or centre where he or she was registered, the Chief Elections Officer shall by notice publish in the Gazette and in a local newspaper so notify the elector and shall after giving him or her an opportunity to be heard, make such correction in the register or supplementary list as may be necessary for the proper registration of that elector.
Said Joseph: “I am appealing to the Prime Minister and the Electoral Department to revisit their proposed actions and to allow these names to remain (on the Voters List) and to deal with these names after an election.”
Section 14 of the Act gives the reasons why deletions can be made from the voters register. These include death of an elector; an elector being absent from Saint Lucia for a continuous period of five years or more and an elector being disqualified under the Act or of any other enactment.
Section 13 deals with disqualification for registration.
Joseph wants to know whether the Electoral Department checks with the Immigration Department to find out who breaks the five year continuity and as such should not be on the unverified list.
“People who have been out of Saint Lucia for 10 years their names are not down to be removed. It is clear to me that this process being introduced by the Electoral Department is very questionable. Every right thinking Saint Lucian would know that this action is very suspicious,” Joseph said.
A press conference is planned by the Electoral Department sometime this week to clarify the issues raised by the UWP.
Jn Baptiste says that the department’s actions are above aboard and are in harmony with the Elections Act.