by Elvin Bailey
January 31st is a special date in the electoral calendar of the Federation. It is the day set in law, by which the annual register of voters (ARV) is to be published for public scrutiny. This is a register of all persons who have successfully registered in the preceding period from December two years earlier to November of the previous year. Thus, the publication that will be launched at the end of this month will cover the period December 2015 to November 2016.
That list should NOT contain the names of persons who have died within the period nor those Commonwealth citizens who have repatriated. It may also not contain the names of persons whose registration was successfully challenged and who did not seek re-registration.
This ARV typically gives rise to objections to names that are included and claims for names that should have been included as well as claims for transfers from one constituency and polling division to another. It can be a very confusing time and behoves us at the Electoral Office to explain the procedure and set out some guidelines.
Any properly registered voter can make an objection to any registered person, upon the form prescribed by law. The person objected to will be written to via registered post at the address given at registration; advised of the objection and invited to attend a hearing to determine his/her eligibility. That objectee may choose to attend the hearing or to have representation made on his or her behalf. In any case, whether present, absent or represented, the Registration Officer is obligated to hear the “case”, conduct his/her own investigation and issue a decision on whether that person should remain registered or be removed from the register. Unfortunately, these are the only options open to the Registration Officer under the current law. It must be stressed, however, that the burden of proof lies with the objector and must be verified by the Electoral Official. Further, any and all decisions are subject to judicial review.
A claim, usually a claim for transfer, is made by the Registrant him/herself, again on the prescribed form. In this case, the registrant is asking to be placed in a constituency and/or polling division other than the one currently shown. Such movement seems optional, but it is advisable to do so once one has changed address; and especially if one has resided at the new abode for 12 months or more. In other words, after 12 months of continuous residence (please produce proof of address), come into the offices and request the change.
Unlike an objection, a claim for transfer does not result in disenfranchisement, rather the registrant remains registered at the old address until confirmed in the new. It is our intention to void any objection received if during the notification process for the objection, the individual applies for a transfer. This last point will be done for the first time in 2017.
Sometimes a name is inadvertently omitted from the ARV. Anyone who was registered but whose name does not appear should also come into the office with the receipt of their registration for the correction to be made.
It must be emphasised that the aim of the Electoral Office is not to disenfranchise any eligible voter, but rather to ensure that each registrant has one vote in the right place and at the right time.