Foreign voters will not be disenfranchised!
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – PRIME MINISTER of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris said that the Electoral Law applies equally to everyone and, in terms of residency, foreign voters would not be disenfranchised.
Dr. Harris made this pronouncement, among others, in response to a question posed by a journalist at his recently held Monthly Press Conference in the Parliamentary Lounge at Government Headquarters.
He was asked if overseas-based citizens would be disenfranchised should he call a snap election within three months, taking Electoral Reform into consideration in which the Election Amendment Act 2017 proposes a six-month residency for eligible voters.
The Prime Minister emphatically declared that Electoral Reform is an ongoing process with many facets and he does not think it would ever end, adding that “as we do elections after elections, we learn and we make the necessary adjustment”.
He stated that whenever a general election is called, his Government would deal with “what is at play”.
Speaking directly to the issues of overseas-based citizens, Dr. Harris said: “I want to distance myself from the notion that there is an element of the Reform that is specific to foreign voters. There is no such provision; there is nothing in the electoral law that speaks to foreign voters. There is one law.
“The law applies equally to the person in Bird Rock, who goes over to West Basseterre to vote and he or she no longer does not resides in West Basseterre. It applies to the person in St. Paul’s who is directed by his leader to go to Old Road and vote, because we need to deliver the Old Road seat. And it applies equally to the person who may be in Cayon but who may be voting in Conaree.”
“Everyone, every voter complies with the same law. There is nothing that distinguishes the foreign voter or the person abroad from those. One law, which every person should comply with.”
Dr. Harris explicated that when the law speaks of residency, it is speaking to everyone and that everyone must vote where they reside.
He however claimed that if there are persons abroad who do not reside in a particular location, they would be given a ticket and on arrival in St. Kitts they would vote in East Basseterre because they were told to register there.
“We know that is wrong and all we are attempting to do is to bring Electoral Reform, taking into account the experiences that we have had, the troubles that we have had and the need to resolve the fairness of the system.
“What we have, for the record, is a West Minster Parliamentary System where people vote for a representative for a particular district. And it can only be fair and right that those who are residing in that geographical district be the only ones to make determination as who their representative will be.”
PM Harris stressed that in terms of residency, that is all the Electoral Reform is attempting to do and that it falls on each one in the same measure.
“There is nothing at all that is specific to foreign voter as oppose to somebody else. One law; and everyone, regardless of where you’re at, must accord,” he advised.
He lamented that the Constitution provides the legal mechanisms by which persons should be allowed to participate in voting. “And once the law says and spells out clearly, then everyone must abide by the law. And that is what we are attempting to do; we are attempting to bring a law.”
The Prime Minister reminded that the Federation went into past elections with that law, but pointed accusing fingers at the previous administration for alleged acts of dishonesty.
“Everyone in St. Kitts and Nevis said they had a problem. We have had almost fights after fights in St. Christopher Four, where the party leader now in opposition would have encouraged persons to ‘vote where you want’. And persons who knew they ought not to have gone and register their names almost created chaos in two elections, particularly in Number Four. And we are saying that unfairness and that injustice must come to an end.”