BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- Another meaningful step towards electoral reform occurred on October 15, when the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Administration moved the second reading of the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, is a Bill to provide for the length of stay that would clarify the position of non-national residents’ ability to vote in the Federation.
The mover of the Bill, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said this legislation seeks to introduce some elements of electoral reform in St. Kitts and Nevis. The Bill particularly relates to who can vote and the criteria for determining one’s eligibility or qualification for voting.
“The Bill before us seeks to amend the National Assembly Elections Act Cap 2.01, as to establish new qualifications for voting by a Commonwealth citizen, not being a citizen of St. Christopher and Nevis, of 18 years and upward,” said Hon. Dr. Harris.
Clause 4 of the Bill amends the principal Act Cap 2.01 at section 37 by (a) establishing two categories of Commonwealth Citizens. Those persons from a Commonwealth Caribbean country and those not from a Commonwealth Caribbean country; and (b) by establishing two residency periods. A 12-month period for those of the Caribbean and citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, and a three year residency period prior to registration as a voter for non-Caribbean Commonwealth Citizens.
Prime Minister Harris added that the Bill will also foster greater kinship between St. Kitts and Nevis and Caribbean countries within the Commonwealth.
“The concepts of national treatments — non-differential treatment — between our citizens and those from member states with which we hold that treaty obligation or obligation by law to participate in a common space such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy, those will observe similar requirements of law as those citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis; that is they are given national treatment,” said the Prime Minister.
Moreover, Dr. Harris said the Bill also clarifies the question of voters registering to vote where they live.
“In relation to when there is a relocation from one constituency to another inside the country, the Bill seeks to have such individuals re-register in the new constituency within a 6-month period. Under existing legislation, for example, there was no need for that to happen,” Prime Minister Harris said.
The National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, had its first reading on September 3, 2020.