That Voter I.D. Card
By Henry Dyer, Former- Attorney General Of Dominica
Identification Card-Compliance with the Law
The constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica gives citizens an entitlement to be registered as voters for electing representatives in parliament. There are qualifications for this entitlement; for example, voters must be eighteen years and over.
The right to vote is a right which we all should hold sacred and ensure that everyone who is entitled to exercise that right does so according to the Laws of the State and according to International Standards.
Section 19 of the Registration of Electors Act Chap 2:03 states:- "The Chief Registering Officer may cause identification cards containing the prescribed information to be issued under the regulations or may employ other suitable methods of preventing elector from voting more than once in the same election".
Again, the Registration of Electors Regulation made under section 25 of the Act Chap 2:03 by section 15, which is headed IDENTIFICATION CARDS, states section 15- "The Chief Election Officer shall cause to be entered on an identification card (Signed by such person) the particulars required to be stated therein in respect of the applicant including his name and registration number."
Section 19 of the said regulation states that:-
"Any person who without lawful authority destroys, mutilates, defaces, removes or makes any alteration in (c) an identification card is guilty of an offence under these Regulations."
The joint effect of the above provisions under the law is to ensure that every voter entitled to vote does so only once at any general election so that using identification cards is legal and forms part of the electioneering process.
But Dominica has an Illiterates Protection Act- Chap-21:01 - and Sec 2(e) of that Act: States- "Illiterate person means a person who is unable to write his name."
Section 5. sub-Sec (1) states in this section that the expression "document" includes letters, petitions and every writing other than the documents specified in Sec. 2.
Sec. 5- Sub-Sub Sec (3) states- where the name or Mark of any person is subscribed at his request to any document, the scribe who writes the name or mark shall write on the document below the name or mark a certificate consisting: (a) of words signifying that (such as "signed by me" or words to the like effect; and (b) his full name, occupation and usual place of abode.
Sec 5- Sub-Sec. 4- states that- "Such Certificate by the scribe shall be deemed to imply a declaration by him that the document was read and explained by him to the person whose name or Mark has written and that the person said that he understood the contents of the said documents and approved of them and that the person's name or Mark was thereupon written by the scribe at the person's request.
It is my opinion, with all the discussions and talks about electoral reform, it appears that very little or no attention has been addressed to the Illiterates Protection Act of DOMINICA, and some citizens of Dominica who are entitled to vote in a General Election in Dominica.
One will remember just a few years ago, a Commission of The Dominica Police Force, when addressing a passing out parade of young Police Officers at Morne Bruce- stated publicly that they gave him men who could not read and write.
When one considers that in today's world, identification cards are used in almost (if not) all businesses transactions, e.g., social security, banking systems, and traffic departments, then one can only conclude that the best way to ensure that "John Joseph" who enters a polling station to vote and is a registered voter on the voting list is for him to show his identification card, with his name, picture, registration number and signature or Mark on such identification card. This is in keeping with international voting standards, and Dominica should be no exception.
The comments of Sir Vincent Floissac C.J of OECS. Supreme Court in a case from St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Russell. V.S.A.G. (1995) 50 WIR 27) is very instructive here, he stated:-
"The Constitutional right conferred by section 27 is twofold, "the first section 27 (2) (a) "is the basic right to be registered as a voter in the appropriate constituency" the second right by Section 27 (2) (b) "is the concomitant right to vote in the appropriate constituency. The similarprovision in the constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica is Section 33 (2) (a) and (b).
A legal ODYSSEY TELFORD GEORGES, A DOMINICAN who was one of the most distinguished Jurists in the Caribbean- had this to say,
"It seems a truism to state that no society can survive without law. Quite early on in the history of the Jewish people, Moses went up to the mountains. He descended with the tablets inscribed on the basic rules, adherence to which he hoped would keep his simple tribe folk together and wedded to their religious tradition. Moses, of course, was not a lawyer. He was a lawgiver, a breed which certainly, in our age, is considered a peg or two below the lawyer in the public estimation (an attitude reinforced by the fact that so many lawyers are legislators). The technique which he used is significant. He sought to impress the tribe that his prescribed rules had come from a source above and beyond him. That device is not, alas, available to us today. Perhaps the same result may be achieved if the legal profession can change the perception of its role now so prevalent and project an image of itself as a group of well-trained professionals dedicated to ensuring that the law functions as an agent for furthering justice in the community."
In my view, I believe that the best way to maintain the one man one vote Principle is to establish a Voter I.D Card for our Dominica we love you so dear.