Electoral Reform in Dominica: What is it?
Concerned Citizens Movement Voter Education Series
The Concern Citizens Movement (CCM) will be conducting a Voter Education Series over the next few months. The purpose of this education drive is to provide the citizens of Dominica with basic information about elections and the electoral process. It is hoped that this exercise will help strengthen democratic values by generating more interest in voter responsibilities especially among the youth.
Dominica is a democratic country. Therefore, electoral laws govern the process of choosing its government. Those laws were written by legal scholars who try very hard to make sure that such laws are fair and do not infringe on rights. However, over time the need may arise where it is necessary to examine them to make sure that they are being followed. In addition, there may be opportunities to add or remove some provision that would strengthen such laws and make them fairer and enhance democracy. Any such changes could be called electoral reform. In Dominica, the electoral reform that is being sought is minimal. Most Dominicans want 1) The provisions of Electoral Act be followed in order to provide a clean voters list. 2) Make the provision for a Voter ID card effective. 3) Add some provision to control campaign finance 4) Add a provision to provide for access to media resources for all political parties. As you can see, those reforms or adherence to the existing laws are not drastic. Because any reform to electoral laws must be done in such a way that those provisions do not infringe on the constitution or diminish rights.
Clean Voters List
It is common knowledge that the Electoral Commission is the independent body that is responsible for conducting elections. The Commission receives its power from the Electoral Laws of Dominica. The Registration of Electors Act falls under such laws. This Act sets out specific provisions that the Electoral Commission is supposed to follow. Such requirements would ensure that every year on September 30th a clean or updated Voters List is published. Two of the main obligations are a) the updated voters list does not contain the names of dead people and b) the names of voters who have lived overseas for more than five consecutive years be taken off the list. However, for many election cycles the Electoral commission has not followed the provisions of the Act and so most Dominicans are asking for reform in that area. In other words, the Commission must follow the provisions of the Act. This reform does not necessitate amending the Electors Act. The Commission must institute avenues necessary to verify that all voters on the Updated Voters list are entitled to be there.
Voter Identification Cards
It is unclear why Voter ID Cards have never effected by the Commission. Especially, when Section 19 of the Electors Act makes such a provision. Most Dominicans are requesting that the Electoral Commission must provide a Voters ID Card. This is a reform, because even though the Act provided the opportunity for a Voter ID Card it has not been introduced. Hence its institution would be a change of action. In this case the Act does not need to be modified because the provision is already there. The Electoral Commission is also given the authority under the Act to include any information they think would be necessary to prevent voters from voting more than once.
Campaign Finance Regulation
Sometimes electoral reform may be the addition of a requirement. It is a fact that if one political party has an extraordinary amount of money with which to campaign then they would have an unfair advantage. Many are also of the opinion that all donations should be disclosed. This would prevent donors from having undue influence on electoral officials.
Equal Access to State Media Resources
Access to State Media resources should be available all political parties. Many Dominicans have complained at the lack of representation of differing voices on DBS, the State-owned station. Many would like to see all parties including community groups receive dedicated time so that information could be balanced. Such a provision would entail amending present law. This would be an electoral reform.
To summarize, reform is any change from the usual way one operates. As a result, most of the electorate in Dominica is asking the Electoral Commission to follow the Electors Act and above all adhere to the Constitution to guarantee free and fair elections in Dominica.
Concerned Citizens Movement; Voter Education Series – 2019: Part 1