REGIONAL: OAS election official says voter ID card is needed to address voter registry challenges in Dominica

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(DNO) – Chief of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission for the 2019 General Elections in Dominica and former Prime Minister of Bahamas, Hurbert Ingraham, has identified several challenges in maintaining an accurate voter registry in Dominica.

Ingraham, who was speaking during a virtual meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS on Wednesday, said Dominica is one of the few countries in the Caribbean without a voter identification card and the issuance of such a card will facilitate the identification of voters as well as the voting process.

Hubert Ingraham

“The mission identified several challenges in maintaining an accurate voter registry in Dominica,” he said.

According to Ingraham, while the electoral law provides for the voters list to be updated and published annually, there is no provision for a full enumeration exercise to replace it.

He said the mission recommends amending the registration of electors Act to provide for a full enumeration exercise to be conducted to replace the existing voters and thereafter, allow for the periodic verification.

The former prime minister went on to say that the Registration of Electors Act provides that Dominicans living abroad are allowed to remain registered and cast their votes in person if they remain outside the country for less than 5 years.

“The mission notes that neither the electoral commission nor other stakeholders consider that a voting abroad mechanism is urgent at this time, although it may be technically desirable in the long run,” Ingraham stated.

Meantime, Dominica’s Ambassador to the OAS, His Excellency Dr. Vince Henderson, said the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica remains committed to enhancing the electoral process and has maintained the position “that there must be review and modernization of the electoral process to ensure that every vote is counted.”

He said in this regard the government has since 2018, made available to the electoral commission almost $4 million for the purchase of equipment for hiring and training staff to implement the national identification card system to be used for elections.

“The Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica has also engaged Justice Sir Dennis Byron, Former Chief Justice of the OECS Supreme Court and the Caribbean Court of Justice and Privy Counselor, as the commission’s role will be to examine the issues related to the enhancement of the electoral process and advise on a way forward,” Dr. Henderson stated.

He said the government reiterates its position made before the Permanent Council last year with regards to the introduction of voter ID Cards being used for elections.

“The introduction of voter identification cards, a recommendation of the OAS electoral mission following general elections in the Commonwealth of Dominica, was accepted by the government to enhance our electoral system,” Dr. Henderson said.

He went on to say that since 2013 the government has been working towards the implementation of the recommended actions which will pave the way for mandatory use of voter identification cards during elections as well as ensure the accuracy of the voters list, the register of electors.

“Changes to our legislation have to be made to facilitate the introduction of the cards,” the ambassador said.

Dr. Henderson said that there has been no reported or prosecuted case of fraudulent voting in Dominica or any credible claim, “of a dead person ever voting.”

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