Voter Disenfranchisement Allegations Resurface In Nevis by Merv-Ann Thompson

Objection hearings began Tuesday in Nevis 9 amid claims CCM supporters living overseas are being illegally removed from the voters list. Many are saying the same tactics which led to the court nullifying the July 2011 NIA election result for Constituency #2, are back in effect ahead of an impending federal election. Some 200 proclaimed CCM supporters had been disenfranchised, the court ruled in March 2012, when the electoral officials failed to adequately notify voters of objection hearings. In October that year the Court of Appeals upheld the high court’s decision and ordered the respondents to pay costs, which totaled over $2mil. The names which had been removed from the list were restored and voters able to cast their ballots in the January 2013 NIA election. As elections draw near, constitutionally due early 2015, the same accusations have resurfaced. One CCM supporter said, “The NRP is again trying to disenfranchise voters. They have objected to voters who support CCM knowing they are properly registered but hoping they don’t show up for the hearing so their names can be removed from the Voters List.”Deputy Premier, Hon. Mark Brantley, who won the landmark election petition case, claimed ‘they are especially targeting CCM supporters who reside overseas”. He warned the public to be vigilant and to attend objection hearings. “Do not let NRP repeat their gangsterism of 2011! They have been ruled null and void before for the same shenanigans but here we go again,”he said, “What I don’t understand is why they feel that the same illegalities that they tried before and lost will avail them now.”Former Premier, NRP Leader, Hon. Joseph Parry told The Observer the ‘disenfranchisement’ claims were baseless, his party is only vetting the lists for deceased persons and those registered to vote where they do not reside. “We are challenging the names because some have moved from say, Charlestown to Cotton Ground, but are still registered in Charlestown,”he said. “Some persons are dead; so we’re having their names removed from the list.”Brantley, however, accused the NRP of trying to remove CCM supporters from the voters list to compensate for their losing ‘the voters rented to them from Labour in St. Kitts”. “So now they are trying to remove legitimately registered CCM voters to balance that loss. But we are watching and waiting patiently. We faced scamps in high places before and those now involved yet again must ask where are those scamps now?”The Nevis 9 MP issued a warning to those he alleged are trying to disenfranchise voters. “Who can’t hear will definitely feel …Who have ears to hear should listen… they should know by now that CCM is not afraid to take them under the clock [to court],”he said. To persons living overseas he said, “If you are overseas, then contact us and we shall represent you.”An NRP supporter is not only refuting the disenfranchisement allegations, he said some of the objectees are purposefully dodging the process. “Why you all don’t say people have refused to take letters from the postman too, knowing they do not live in St. John’s? Is bailiff had to go look for them. People are being notified; the problem is some people believe they smart, not taking letters from the postman so they could say they ain’ get no letter. Is a bailiff delivering them now,”he claimed. Persons whose names are objected to have to be notified of objection hearings at least 5 days before the date of the hearing. There is no deviation from the process to take into account persons not resident in Federation. Parry stated that persons who are overseas would have to return home to re-register. Whether or not a voter’s name is removed from the list is determined by the objection hearing ‘judge’. “The judge will determine whether the challenge is a good or bad one,”Parry said. Nevis 10 and 11 objection hearings were scheduled to be heard next week, but those for 11 have been postponed in light of the death of registration officer Carlysle Hobson. .

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