SAN JUAN – As Dominica prepares for general election on Dec. 8, it has been revealed that the number of people on the voting rolls exceeds the total population.
Dominica has a population of 71,293, according to the 2011 Census, while the number of registered voters stands at 72,484, the electoral commission said.
But Chief Elections Officer Steven La Rocque told reporters there is nothing sinister about the discrepancy.
“We register people who are qualified to register and the laws also refer to how one’s name should be removed. One of them is that the person has died and the other is an objection raised to the person being included on the list,” he said.
In the case of “those persons who have died and we have no confirmation of death, the law states they have to remain there until and unless we get confirmation of that,” La Rocque explained.
When a person’s eligibility to vote is challenged, he added, “there is a process involved, in that the person who is being objected to has to be given the right to defend themselves.”
“Once you are registered as an elector, it becomes a right under the constitution,” Dominica’s chief elections officer said.
La Rocque said that while the electoral Commission is in the process of obtaining machinery to issue multi-purpose identification cards, they “will not be ready for this election.”
For now, he said, authorities will stick with the existing system of verification.
“At each polling station you have three election officers and you have agents of the candidates and when people come to the polling station they identify themselves to the presiding officer (and) once the name is on the electoral list, according to the law they are entitled to vote,” La Rocque said.
If there is an objection to a voter, “the law prescribes certain oaths to be taken before the person is issued a ballot,” he said, adding that “we also employ indelible ink to prevent one person voting more than once at this election.”
La Rocque confirmed that 44 candidates have been nominated to vie for the 21 seats in parliament.
The two main political parties – the ruling Dominica Labor Party and the main opposition United Workers Party – have nominated 21 candidates each. There are two independents.
Earlier this week, Atherton Martin of the Citizens Forum for Good Governance accused the DLP of attempting to rig the election by offering “substantial amounts of money” to at least five individuals to become candidates, apparently with the idea that they would siphon votes away from the UWP.
But the DLP, which won 18 of the 21 seats in the 2009 general election, has dismissed Martin’s claim.