Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
February 27, 2008 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis‘ Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Leroy Benjamin says the electoral reform process in the twin-island Federation is moving forward satisfactorily.
Mr. Benjamin also told BBC Caribbean on Tuesday that the Electoral Office is being run independently.
He disclosed that hundreds of persons have responded so far to the confirmation process that is now underway at the Electoral Offices in Basseterre and Charlestown involving a new Voters Registrar. That process is expected to continue until September and will result in a New Voters list.
In the BBC interview, Pastor Benjamin denied reports that the reform will cater to overseas voting and that while Kittitians and Nevisians residing overseas can participate in the confirmation process at embassies and consulates, voting will actually be restricted to the country on Election Day.
“No matter how long you have been away, while you are a Kittitian or Nevisian you have the right to come back and register as voters wherever they came from. You cannot stop them because that is what the law says. We are talking about persons coming back home, but in this new process, these same persons who are registered will be confirmed at Embassies and Consulates overseas. That has not started as yet,” said Benjamin, who added: “For voting, they will have to come back home and for registration for the first time. If you are registering for the first time, you cannot do it overseas.”
Nationals of St. Kitts and Nevis residing overseas were given the right to register and vote in elections as a result of electoral laws enacted by the PAM/NRP Government in 1983.
The Supervisor of Elections said that the National Identification Card, which can be used as a Voter ID, has not been issued by the Electoral Office as yet.
“There was a particular sample of paper which came and we have verified the type that we want for this particular purpose. It has been ordered and when those cards come”¦ I do not think it is going to much longer, we will begin to issue the cards to those persons who made no changes at all immediately. Those who made changes, we are going to verify those changes and then issue the cards afterwards,” Benjamin told BBC Caribbean.
Responding to concerns by the opposition that the government was driving the process, the Supervisor of Elections told BBC:
“If you are going to have a system like this which is totally new, I cannot take it up and begin driving it. There is going to be hardware and software to be bought for the various equipment. The law has been passed in Parliament and the government has to say what needs to be done and we would now have to get them (equipment) to the office,” said Mr. Benjamin.
He scoffed at suggestions that the Government was involved in the daily operations of the Electoral Office.
“The government hands are off. The Electoral Office is being run independently by me and therefore no one in the Government sends to tell me what I must do, how I must do anything. The office is run independently,” said the Supervisor of Elections.