By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AMID low voter registration, Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall is seeking legal advice on whether it would be lawful to automatically re-register people for the next election who had registered to vote in the 2012 general election.
If done, those people would not be required to reproduce documents like passports or birth certificates in order to be registered for the 2017 election.
This comes as members of the Constituencies Commission have started their work in preparation for the next election.
House Speaker Dr Kendal Major confirmed to The Tribune yesterday that the commission had its first meeting and that it will meet again on November 2.
Dr Major said he hopes the commission will complete its work and be ready to submit its report by the final week of November.
The Free National Movement’s representative on the committee, Peter Turnquest, confirmed that the group had its first meeting, saying yesterday: “We haven’t discussed boundary cuts or addition or the subtraction of seats. We simply discussed the registration process and how to get the numbers up.”
Only about 57,000 people have registered to vote so far, both Mr Turnquest and Mr Hall told The Tribune yesterday.
That’s less than the 100,000 or so people who had registered to vote by this point in 2011.
Mr Turnquest blamed the low numbers on the registration process itself, describing it as too burdensome.
Mr Hall, however, disagreed.
“We’re following the same law that has been applied this way since 1992,” he said.
Nonetheless, after discussing the issue with politicians, Mr Hall is awaiting advice from the director of legal affairs in the Office of the Attorney General as to whether the 2012 voter card files can be used to re-register people for the next election, potentially adding thousands to the voters’ list.
Although he is awaiting the written report about the matter, he seems to have taken the view that this would not be lawful.
“If they registered in 2012, what politicians want me to do, is accept the 2012 card for 2017. My position is, some of those people didn’t get their cards by producing a birth certificate or passport. Suppose some of those voters got their cards by deception?”
Some in the government insist Mr Hall has the power to extend the use of the 2012 voter cards and, where concerned about the legitimacy of some people’s citizenship, he can investigate those people by requiring them to go through the usual process of producing certain documents.
One government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “First time voters are a different thing, obviously, as they have to go through the entire process of producing necessary documents as it’s their first time registering. But for those already registered, the law entitles them to be registered again without having to go through the burdens. And if the parliamentary commissioner is sceptical about their status, he can investigate or other parties sceptical can follow the process and have those people investigated further. The law allows for that.”
Mr Hall, however, said the law puts the onus on residents to prove that they are who they claim to be.
“We can’t investigate every case and we can’t know who to be suspicious of so the voter must present ‘xyz’ so we can confirm who they are,” he said.