By Demion McTair. Updated 5:03 a.m., Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Former Prime Minister and founder of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Sir James Mitchell says he wants “the last-minute registration of voters” scrapped.
“I keep repeating, nobody is bothering with me, that we should scrap the last-minute registration of voters” Sir James said on BOOM 106.9 OMG Morning Show on Tuesday (July 7).
The former Prime Minister is referring to a 15-day special voter registration period allowed by law, enabling eligible persons to register to vote within a 15-day period after the Governor General issues an election writ.
The measure is enshrined in the Representation of the People Act 1982, section 17, subsection 1 (a), which reads: “Where the Governor-General issues a writ for an election in a constituency – (a)he shall declare the period ending fifteen days after the issuing of the writ to be a special voters registration period”.
Sir James, who served as Prime Minister for some 16 years (1984 to 2000), said “I know that that is when a lot of skulduggery takes place with transferring and moving and people… which the supervisor of election, successive supervisors of elections have said they cannot monitor”.
“Why we not doing that?”, Sir James asked, adding that the special registration period “should be abolished”.
The Commonwealth Election Observer team to St Vincent and the Grenadines General Elections 2015, in a report that praised the conduct of the elections, had listed the issue in their report.
“The Team believes that the 15-day special voter registration period does not allow adequate time for political parties, voters and concerned stakeholders to scrutinise the voters’ list, and make objections and appeals,” the report stated.
Sir James said “don’t tell me about young people will be registering at the last minute. Show me the statistics of the number of people who suddenly become 18 who are registering. That is not the exercise there at all, and in any event, if you know there is a cut-off point at the moment that there is an election, when the election is declared, make sure your name is down before that”.
“You want to tell me, continuing registration going on now and you or the young people… you going to wait until Parliament dissolve and you can do it now and you can do it all the way because you became 18 a year ago and you need to have that period? That is an area of my concern” – the former Prime Minister said.
He also said as the elections get closer, there are a number of issued he would like to be sorted out, including the use of cellphones by voters in the polling box, which he says he is worried about.
When asked by the program host – Mr. Dwight ‘Bing’ Joseph, if he has confidence in the electoral system, Sir James said “Well, I have no reason not to support it”.
General elections are constitutionally due by December 2020, with a grace period of up to three months, making it legally possible to hold the poll in March 2021.