The Electoral Commission has made it clear that the much touted national ID cards will take at least two years to fully implement and will not be used in the upcoming general election.
The issuance of the cards has been a matter of great discussion which has been drawn along political lines.
It has been a long running contention between the government and opposition parties in Dominica.
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 the UWP, voter ID cards will help “clean up the voter’s list” and make “voters of this country independent.”
The Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) has also questioned the issuance of the cards by the Electoral Commission asking under what Act it has the authority to do so.
Leader of the DFP, Michael Astaphan, has pointed out that the Election Act gives the Electoral Commission the sole responsibility of printing and issuing voter’s ID cards and not national multi purpose ID cards.
On the other hand, the government has made it clear that a national ID card is the way to go, arguing that voter ID cards will be too expensive for the country.
Speaking on the radio talk show ‘The Heng’, in 2011, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he believes that the initial cost of issuing voter ID cards would be US$2.089-million, not accounting for the management and implementation of the system.
Thus, he argued, it would be better to issue national ID cards instead of the voter ID cards, which would only serve a single purpose.
He further stated that at “the OECS level, there is talk of the introduction of an OECS wide-card and one would be able to use one’s National ID card [to travel between OECS countries].”
During the same Heng program Skerrit mentioned, for the first time, that the aim of the government is to have the national ID cards ready for use in the next general election, constitutionally due in 2015.
The story of the multi purpose card got jucier when health minister, Julius Timothy, told a Dominica Labour Party rally on March 12, 2013 that 100,000 of the cards could be made available to Dominicans by the end of 2013.
He said Cabinet had given the commitment to provide US$96,000 for the issuance of the first 100,000 cards.
This was in addition to a US$3.14 million contract awarded to 3M Innovative Properties to provide multipurpose ID cards to Dominicans.
“Based on the project plan, the electoral commission will begin to issue identification cards before the end of this year. So our national ID cards will be ready and issued,” Timothy said.
But the latest figures by the Electoral Office show that number of those enrolled for the cards is a far cry from the 100,000 as said by Timothy.
According to the figures just 3,900 has been enrolled for the cards so far.
In a statement on Monday the Electoral Commission said it will take approximately two years for for implementation and will not be used for election, “unless it was satisfied that each person who is entitled to vote had the reasonable opportunity of being enrolled and issued a card.”