The Electoral Commission, on Thursday June 29, 2017, convened preliminary meetings with representatives from all political parties and Civil Society Groups, Trade Unions and the Dominica State College Student Council to discuss the implementation process of the new National Identification Card System.
The meetings provided an opportunity for the stakeholders present to interact with the Commission and it was agreed that further interaction was necessary.
The Commission, in recent times, sought and received approval from the Government of Dominica for funding of the project to the tune of EC$6,130,350.00. The Electoral Commission wasted no time in commissioning the development of a modern identification system from a reputable international firm that the system has since been developed and installed at the Electoral Office.
In addition, the Commission has already begun the recruitment of about 15 young persons who will serve as enrollment officers.
At the meeting, it was proposed that enrolment of electors will be done on Constituency levels, with the deployment of enrolment officers to various communities and also at the Electoral Office. Provision is made to accommodate electors who are unable to go to the enrolment centres.
The Chairman of the Commission, Gerald Burton, in his opening remarks, stated, “In accordance with its mandate under section 51 of the Constitution, the Commission last year and over a period of several months, extensively reviewed draft legislation presented to it by the Executive, for its comments. The draft legislation included proposals for the implementation of an identification card system for use in elections.”
Chairman Burton stated further, “In its comments to the draft legislative amendments, the Commission urged changes to the proposed system along lines which it felt would be more compatible with the previously proposed Multi-Purpose Identification System (MPID), which had been acquired and implemented under the aegis of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).”
However, plans for the MPID System had to be halted as the system’s developer had been unable to deliver under its maintenance obligations, apparently due to the fact that it had sold the division of the company which provided the service.
As a result, the Commission strongly believed that every effort had to be made to ensure prior to the constitutional deadline for the holding of the next general elections, an ID card system, which would facilitate the cleaning up of the electoral list and the issuance of identification cards would be implemented.
The Chairman noted, “To [have] waited for the conclusion of the OECS’s negotiations with its contractor, was in our view, not an option. It was for this reason, the Commission sought out new potential suppliers and entered into discussions, which resulted in the development of the new system. The Commission is pleased that its suggestions for the process by which electors are to be enrolled as set out in the legislation, were accepted by the Executive. In addition, the Chief Elections Officer was invited to work with the drafting staff of the Ministry of Justice, to revise the drafts accordingly.”
In addition to the implementation of an ID system, the taking of biometric data and the protection thereof forms part of the proposed amending legislation.
Chief Elections Officer, Steven LaRocque during the meeting gave a brief overview of the process for the enrollment of the national ID cards.
“The period for the enrollment will be for an initial period of ten months and may be extended by the Electoral Commission. During that period, electors will be required to furnish documents such as their birth certificate, approved form of pictorial ID, (passport, driver’s license, social security card), marriage certificate in the case of married women, deed poll (change of name) and certificate of naturalization to confirm, verify and update the electors list.”
He went on to explain further, “Individuals who apply for new registration will also have to be enrolled to get an ID card. At the end of the confirmation period, the names of the electors who did not enroll for a card will be written to, at the last known address giving a time limit to respond. Failure to respond will result in the names being removed in accordance with legislation.”
When this process is completed, a new and updated Electors List will be printed and published for public scrutiny.
He also mentioned that the Electoral Office will continue to work with the Civil Registry in dealing with the electors who are reported as dead.
The proposed implementation of an identification system for use in the electoral process is just one of the latest stages of action taken by the Commission, to modernize and improve the process.
Thursday’s meetings represented the start of a series of consultations, which will include town hall styled meetings in various communities around the island, in addition to radio, television and internet promotional campaigns to be launched by the Commission very soon.
The full opening statements of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and the Chief Elections Officer can be found on the Electoral Office’s website and Facebook page.