In a recent conference, Lead Advisor of the Dominica Election Reform Commission, Sir Dennis Byron, stated that although a modernized national ID card would align with current trends in identity management this will necessitate additional legislation for the proper issue administration.
He made this comment at a review of draft electoral legislation for Dominica hosted by the Dominica Business Forum Inc.
At the meeting, Sir Byron states that in regards to national identification cards, as it relates to voters, the majority of Dominicans from a survey showed a preference for a multipurpose ID card.
“I believe that a modernized national ID card would align with current trends in identity management and consequently I’ve incorporated provisions in the draft bill for the issuance of national identity cards however this will necessitate additional legislation for the proper issue administration and distribution of these ID cards.”
He added that only those residing in Dominica are eligible for voter registration stating that over the years there has been concern about the bloating of the electoral register.
“In 2019 for instance there were 74,885 voters electors with only 40,762 casting their votes and it was considered possible that this was caused by deceased individuals and other ineligible electors remaining on the register.”
He said this led to the objective of introducing measures to cleanse the register of electors and that the registration of elector’s bill proposed solutions including mandating the chief registry officer to regularly remove individuals who became disqualified.
Byron went on to speak on the category of removal for those absent from Dominica for five years, noting that this requirement is part of Dominica’s currently enforced law. The chief registration officer indicated that he was severely limited in managing objections on this route due to difficulties in interpreting the provision, given that there was no definition of absence and in accessing evidence of absence.
Another significant measure noted to cleanse the voters list was the requirement to create a completely new register.
Meantime, Sir Byron spoke on the law of bribery which includes the payment or promise of payment to a voter of his traveling expenses on the condition expressed or implied that he or she would vote for a particular candidate.
“The House of Assembly elections bill very carefully addresses and stipulates punishments for a wide range of election offense with penalties up to $5000 or imprisonment up to six months,” he said.
He also spoke on media access to political parties during an election season noting that political parties and independent candidates participating in an election shall have access to state-owned media during election campaign periods under the guiding principle of total impartiality.
He said the Electoral Commission is required to monitor the equitable allocation of airtime during campaign periods and it may issue directives.
“It is understood and, in my view, reasonably so that access to private media is governed by business principles and rules of contract and consequently political parties and candidates who wish to utilize private media must pay commercial rates.”
Sir Byron said he is optimistic that a constructive approach by all stakeholders will lead to the success of the electoral reform and modernization process.