The Electoral Commission of Dominica has announced that it now has at its disposal $6,130,350 to fund the necessary infrastructure for the introduction of identification cards, the effective verification of the identity of voters and the sanitation of the list of electors.

The funds were requested by the Commission and the government has recently approved it.

“For more than 30 years, successive Electoral Commissions and Chief Elections Officers, have sought approval for the financing required to enable the implementation of voter identification cards and the cleansing of the voters’ list, both seen as imperative for the enhancement of the electoral process in Dominica,” the Commission said in a release.

The funds will go towards the purchase of equipment and the hiring and training of personnel for the implementation of the identification card system, as well as the provision of other equipment and staff necessary to aid the process.

“The Commission has begun the recruitment of about 15 young persons who, subject to the passage of the enabling legislation, will be engaged as enrolment officers, as part of the process of enrolling new electors and confirming those registered electors, who are eligible to remain on the electors list in accordance with the law,” the release said.

The release added, “The Electoral Office has in the last several months, worked closely with the Legal Affairs Department, in ensuring that proposed revisions to the House of Assembly Elections Act and the Registration of Elections Act and accompanying Regulations, are effective in introducing adequate procedures for the implementation of the identification system and cards. This follows several months of review of the proposed bills by the Electoral Commission, in accordance with its constitutional mandate.”

The Commission also announced that Pearl Fontaine-Butler has been appointed as its new Press/Public Education Officer.

“This appointment comes as the Commission prepares to commence its public education campaign, to inform the Dominican public about the proposed national identification system and the manner in which its introduction is expected to enhance the electoral process and consequently, democracy in the Commonwealth of Dominica,” the release noted. “Members of the public will have the opportunity to fully appreciate what is being proposed and to air their views in free and open exchanges. The Commission looks forward to the participation of all stakeholders.”

The release stated that both the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Office remain “committed to improving the electoral process and to working towards the continued delivery of credible elections which meet the highest international standards and the expression of the free will of the Dominica electorate.”

The matter of ID cards for elections has been a long-running contention between the government and opposition parties in Dominica.

The government preferred national ID cards as opposed to voter ID cards, arguing that voter ID cards will be too expensive for the country.

The United Workers Party (UWP) has been adamant that voter ID cards, as opposed to national ID cards, are necessary since it was recommended both by the Chief Elections Officer in a report in 2009 and an OAS observer mission to Dominica.

Furthermore, according to the UWP, voter ID cards will help “clean up the voter’s list” and make “voters of this country independent.”