In a July 18, 2007 statement to Parliament on the occasion of the opening of the First Meeting of the third Session of the Seventh Parliament, Dr. N.J.O Liverpool, the deceased former President of Dominica, said that while voting is a civic right, “there are certain legislative requirements such as citizenship, age of majority and residence” which guard that right to vote.
Dr. Liverpool further stated as follows:
“The Constitution provides that every person whose name is entered in the register of voters in any constituency is entitled to vote in an election of Representatives for that constituency. In order to be registered the intended elector must either be a citizen of Dominica or a Commonwealth citizen over the age of eighteen years, and must have resided in the particular polling district for a continuous period of three months immediately preceding the date of registration. In addition, the Commonwealth citizen must have resided in Dominica for a period of twelve months before the qualifying date for registration.”
The matters raised by Dr. Liverpool are enshrined in the electoral laws of Dominica. As we continue to look to the past for guidance on the onward journey, we believe that such wisdom should not be shunned, especially as the former deceased President served as Head of State during the present incumbent party’s stint as majority party in the government of Dominica.
It is our view that the democracy of our country is being stretched to its limits to serve the interest of a select few. Recent statements of the newly installed member of the Dominica Electoral Commission, attorney-at-law, Lennox Lawrence, and past electoral behaviors of the party which has nominated him as commissioner, bear testimony to that.
The commissioner’s call for a lowering of the residency period for voting eligibility can be fixed very easily. In fact, we believe that Dominicans should vote any and every time, irrespective of their location at the time of the vote. This is the thinking behind APP’s Vote In Place (VIP) initiative. VIP allows every Dominican the privilege to vote where ever they reside for overseas government representatives of their choosing.
In both cases – that which is being proposed by Commissioner Lawrence and the APP’s VIP initiative, there will be need to revisit LAWS OF DOMINICA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY (ELECTIONS) ACT, CHAPTER 2:01.
Our VIP would, however, take away all the ambiguities in, and debate over, the overseas based Dominicans and whether they qualify or not, to vote in Dominica’s elections.
Our VIP proposal is simple and it is in the democratic electoral interest of all:
- Reregistration of voters as prescribed by the Dominica Electoral Commission (2009), the joint Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Commonwealth mission (2014);
- Voters names which do not reappear in the new registration and who are residing overseas will be able to vote where they reside, if the signup with Dominica’s new overseas registration protocols by presenting their citizenship credentials with an embassy of the government of Dominica or an approved government agency;
- All overseas Dominicans who were once registered and follow the protocols listed in # 2 (above) will cast an electronic vote from their location for diaspora representatives to serve the interests of the Diaspora constituents and the nation on a whole.
With our recommendation, all parties will benefit equally and every Dominican will have an opportunity to vote. The nation’s democracy will also be preserved and transportation of voters into Dominica would no longer be necessary. There are other aspects to VIP which will be placed on the table during discussions with the people and electoral/legislative officials.
We patiently await an audience with the Dominica Electoral Commission, which should be the only authority administering to such reforms. Any expertise, including that of Sir Dennis Byron who has been single-handedly appointed by the majority party is also welcome, and APP also looks forward to having a conversation with the learned judicial luminary and the other interested parties.
Let us reform Dominica’s electoral processes together, because we are all interested in the democratic development of our blessed land.