Friday, November 20, 2009

Elections - 3. Objecting to Voters

Revised 27 March 2015
3. OBJECTING TO VOTERS
I hear people say, There are persons who are on the official list of voters who are not qualified.  What can I do to have them removed?  Or, you may hear, “I met Colville Petty in Albert Lake and complained, and he has done nothing!  I have also heard, “I have written to the Attorney-General, and he is ignoring me!  What can I do next?  Now that elections are just around the corner, you hear these types of complaints every day.
The first thing to note is that neither an informal complaint to the Supervisor of Elections, nor a complaint to the Attorney-General, amounts to a valid complaint.  The law sets out a formal procedure that must be followed if a truly valid complaint is to be made about certain persons who should not be on the voters' list.  If persons were able to informally approach an official in Anguilla, and have him remove someone from the voters' list, that would be a terribly unfair thing.
The first line of defence against fraudulent registrations is the institution of the 'scrutineer'.  Each political party is entitled to apply to have its 'scrutineers' appointed to keep a check on who is applying to be on the voters' list for each polling division.  Each party is entitled to one 'scrutineer' for each polling division.  There is a form in the Elections Regulations, that must be completed and submitted to the Registration Officer.  The forms have been available at the Central Electoral Office which is located in the Passport Office in The Valley.  The Registration Officer appoints the official scrutineers.  Each scrutineer must take an oath of office.
The function of a scrutineer is to accompany the enumerator at all times when the enumerator is making house-to-house inquiries.  The scrutineer is not permitted to ask any questions or make any remarks, other than to say, “I represent the . . . . . party.”  The scrutineer takes notes, and, at a later date, the scrutineer can make any objection in the proper form.  If he obstructs the enumerator or any other election officer, he is liable to a fine of $4,000 and to losing his appointment as a scrutineer.
When I used to live in St Kitts in the early 1970s, the list of voters was revised.  I can well remember that when the enumerator came to my home and I went through the procedure for registering for the upcoming elections, there was a scrutineer from both the Labour Party and from the Peoples' Action Movement present.  The two took notes, but did not ask me anything.  I have never known a scrutineer to come to my home in Anguilla with the enumerator when the voters' lists are being revised.  I have no idea whether the political parties or the candidates are sufficiently well organised to be able to appoint scrutineers to accompany the enumerators on their home visits.   This is necessary to protect their candidates and the electoral process from election fraud.  It would be a shame if our politicians do not use this mechanism that works so well in other countries.  Since the last enumeration year of 2008, the scrutineers do not play any role in observing the registration of voters.  Starting 1 January 2009, we have a new process called the continuous registration of voters.  By this process, any person who attains the age of 18 years during the any quarter of any year is entitled to attend during that quarter, at the Central Electoral Office, which is in the Passport Office in The Valley, and apply to be put on the list of voters.  Any person who had been accidentally left off the list of voters could similarly apply at any time. 
No scrutineer would be present to observe what is going on.  However, there is a burden placed on the Electoral Registration Officer to make sure that she checks each application for registration.  Her questioning of applicants to be registered is the first line of defence in the process of continual registration.  The applicant is required to attend personally before her and to be questioned and made to produce evidence of residence and other qualification.  It is not every Anguillian who is entitled to vote in Anguilla.  You have to be a qualified Anguillian, and you must not be a disqualified Anguillian.  So, for example, any Anguillian, who has ever been declared bankrupt in any country, and is still an undischarged bankrupt, is disqualified from voting.
The second line of defence against fraudulent registration of voters is the 'objection'.
Regulation 36 deals with the correct way that one can object to any person who has made a claim to be added to the list of voters.
Notice of objection to claims
36.(3)   After the enumeration year, any person whose name appears on the existing register of voters for an Electoral District may object to the registration of any person whose name is included in the list of claimants prepared in accordance with section 35(2) by delivering or causing to be delivered a notice of objection in Form 23 to the Electoral Registration Officer and a copy of the notice to the person whose claim is being objected to.
(4) A notice under subsection (3) shall be delivered not later than 15 days after the first day of publishing of the quarterly list of voters.
(5) When the Registration Officer or the Electoral Registration Officer, as the case may be, receives a notice of objection under this section, he shall immediately deliver or cause to be delivered a notice in Form 26 to the person in respect of whose claim the notice of objection is given and a notice in Form 27 to the person making the objection.
Any voter in the Electoral District in question may object to the registration of any person whose name is included in the published list of claimants.  Such objection is to be delivered not later than 15 days after the first day of publishing the quarterly list of voters. 
By Regulation 37, the Electoral Officer publishes a list of claims to whose registration notice of objection has been given not later than 16 days after the first day of publishing the quarterly list of voters.  Regulation 38 then provides what is to happen after the Notice of Objection has been given.
Notice of Objection to Registration
38.    (3) After the enumeration year—
(a) any person whose name appears on the existing register of voters last published for an Electoral District, may object to the registration of a person whose name is included on the quarterly list of voters for that Electoral District; or
(b) any person whose name appears on the preliminary list of voters for an Electoral District, may object to the registration of a person whose name is included on that list; by delivering notice of objection in Form 23 to the Electoral Registration Officer.
(4) A notice of an objection referred to in paragraph (3)(a) shall be delivered not later than 10 days after the first day of publishing the quarterly list of voters and a notice of an objection referred to in paragraph (3)(b) shall be delivered not later than 8 days after the first day of publishing the preliminary list of voters.
Regulation 38(3) provides that, for a person whose name has been wrongfully entered on the preliminary list of voters, the same Form 23 must be used to object.  The person objecting must be a person whose name is on the Register for that Electoral District. 
By Regulation 38(4), the notice of objection must be delivered to the Electoral Registration Officer not later than 8 days after the first day of publishing the preliminary list of voters.
The Electoral Registration Officer will then give notice to the person who has been objected to, and will set a date for hearing the objection.  A list of the names that have been objected to will be published for 5 days.  The Electoral Registration Officer will then set a date to hear both parties.  The person objecting and the person objected to must turn up at the hearing and give their evidence as to why they should or should not be on the list.
The Electoral Registration Officer than makes a written decision.
Anyone not satisfied with the ruling on the objection has a right of appeal to the Magistrate.
That is not the end of the opportunities to object.  Regulation 50 provides that at any time between the revision of the preliminary list of voters and nomination day, if the Electoral Registration Officer has any reasonable cause to believe that a name of a person who is not qualified for inclusion appears on the register of voters, she shall hold a special revision to investigate the case, giving 5 days’ notice to the person of the time and place at which the special revision shall take place.  But, no special revision shall be held later than 7 days after nomination day.
Regulation 55 provides that the Registration Officer may, if she thinks it necessary, require any person to produce a certificate of birth or a certificate of belongership or any other evidence, or to make a statutory declaration, respecting his qualification as a voter, as the Registration Officer considers appropriate.  Any person interested is entitled to inspect and to take copies of any such declarations.
Regulation 56 provides that any evidence given before the Registration Officer may, at the request of any person, or on her own initiative, be required to be given on oath.  Any person who makes a false statement on oath is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for 1 year.
Regulation 59 provides that any person who is not qualified to be registered as a voter and who gives any false document or information to the Registration Officer is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for 1 year or to a fine of $10,000, or to both imprisonment and such fine.
That is the procedure for objecting to persons who you are convinced have wrongfully made a claim to be on the list, or who are wrongfully on the list, or who are mis-described.  It is no use meeting the Supervisor of Elections on the street and quarreling with him or her.  It is not a strange or new procedure to us in Anguilla.  We have used it before.
I well remember back in about 1979, when I was the Magistrate of Anguilla, Jeremiah Gumbs of Rendezvous Bay Hotel appealed a decision of the Electoral Registration Officer to the Magistrate's Court.  Somebody had objected to his being on the voters' list because he had become a naturalised US citizen.  He had been born in Anguilla, and had not renounced his British Dependent Territories Citizenship.  He was both a US citizen and a British citizen.  I found that there was nothing wrong with a voter holding two or more citizenships.  I ordered his name restored to the List of Voters. 
From what I hear, I am expecting lots of objection forms to be filed in the process of producing the list of voters this year.  Make sure not to miss the deadline.