From the Supervisor of Elections…

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Voting by persons who reside overseas is not unique to St Kitts-Nevis. An internet search shows that it happens in at least 14 countries.In some, the ballot is obtained before polling day while in others it is not. Here, no ballots are obtained before-hand.

When the Electoral Reform Consultative Committee canvassed public opinion in 2006, the views of the public ranged from leaving it alone, nothing is wrong with it to applying conditions such as a residency requirement of 3 – 6 months, evidence of a visit to the federation at least once during the past 5 years, to demanding evidence of ties to the federation such as property ownership, investments, bank accounts or remittances, a demonstration of ‘intent to return’ and evidence of self-payment of their passage home. Some respondents suggested a removal or suspension of voting rights to citizens who have migrated, while yet others asked for the introduction of absentee voting in the adopted country of residence, with the embassies or consuls as the focal point for collection of these ballots. Yet others called for the creation of a diaspora constituency.

Interestingly, in 2006, of those persons who commented on the overseas citizen vote, 86% re-affirmed the rights of these overseas citizens to retain their voting rights.  Of that 86%, more than half (55%) were in favour of simply leaving it alone.

The ERCC report further stated:The difficulty arises when an individual who resides overseas and claims qualification based on domicile is allowed the option of choosing which qualifying address he/she wants. …a citizen whose ordinary residential address is in New York can chose to register in his/her nascent domicile, ie. where he/she was born, the ancestral home, or where the parent(s) have property.  That person can be guided to register in a constituency whether or not he/she has any ties to that community or even lives there. Hence voters who live overseas are not required to meet the strict residency qualification that locals are subject to.

…Political parties have become involved in arranging the transportation of voters from abroad for elections, If this is done in large enough numbers,[it] can cause undue influence on the outcome of an election.

…overseas voters return to cast their ballot on election day. …they come they vote they depart with apparent disregard to local concerns. This gives rise to the feelings of resentment by many local voters.  Furthermore, the way that they are courted by political parties gives rise to the notion that locally based votes are of lesser value when compared to the local vote.

This concept of diminished value of a local vote versus an overseas vote is explored in depth by professor of political science at Florida A & M University, Kittitian Dr Keith Simmonds, in his book entitled Electoral Reform in the English Speaking Caribbean: Blueprint for the 21st Century.

This is yet another twist to be sorted out as we strive to ensure one man, one vote in the right place, and fairness for all.