Select inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison might become eligible to vote prior to election day if a pending amendment to the territory’s 25-year-old Elections Act is passed in the House of Assembly.
The Elections (Amendment) Act, 2019 is currently being debated in preparation for the upcoming general elections which must happen by April 16.
While detailing some of the more significant changes included in the amendment, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said: “Clause 21 now provides for additional persons to vote under ‘advanced poll’. These include prisoners on remand and persons travelling in advance of the date of the general elections. These exempted voters cannot vote earlier than seven days before polling day.
Dr Smith said another proposed amendment provides for a 100 percent increase in the deposit for the nomination of candidates from $500 to $1,000.
“The provision in Clause 28 that govern whether the deposit is forfeited or returned remains unchanged,” the premier noted.
Candidates code of conduct, electronic voting machines
A code of conduct — which the premier said is much-needed — is also being introduced for political parties and candidates. The amendment also provides for the much-talked-about electronic voting machines that are being introduced.
Premier Smith confirmed that the machines will be used for the upcoming elections and assured that further testing will be done leading up to polling day.
“With the electronic voting system, paper ballots will continue to be used. The difference is that, as voters cast their ballots in the ballot box, they are being scanned and tabulated. This new system is aimed at ensuring a more efficiently-run general election.”
Persons can still vote manually
Opposition legislator Archibald Christian declared his support for the machines during his contribution to the debate on the amendment on Tuesday.
And amid recent concerns about the introduction of the machines, Christian said: “The manual system is still in place. As a matter of fact, the majority of this Bill allows for the manual process to take place and, simultaneously, for the electronic voting to take place. So, even if a voter was not totally up to date or comfortable with the electronic process, he or she still has the right to vote manually. No one is taking that right away from them.”
Timing off, why are these changes being made on ‘eve of election’?
However, another opposition legislator, Andrew Fahie, said while he too supports the machines, he is concerned about the timing of its introduction.
“Yes, I am young and I love my technology and I believe in it. But, the anxiety of all these changes on the eve of the election has created hysteria in the territory to a lot of persons. How could we overlook that? We had four years to amend the Elections Act, we had four years to bring in the voting machine,” Fahie argued.
The amendment to the act represents recommendations that were made during the 2011 and 2015 General Elections.
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