TCI News

TCI: Consultation Proposed on Amendments to The Elections Ordinance

#Providenciales, March 14, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – The Supervisor of Elections is inviting the general public to participate in providing feedback on proposed amendments to the Elections Ordinance of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) following reports from Elections Adjudicators appointed by the Governor and the Election Observer Mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands carried out by the British Islands and Mediterranean Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of the (CPA BIRMR) during 2016 General Elections.

The current Elections Ordinance (“Ordinance”) of the (TCI) was revised in 2012 and a new Ordinance which repealed the former Ordinance was enacted and came into force on May 18, 2012.

The consultation on the attached proposed amendments to the Elections Ordinance is in light of experience of general elections conducted in 2012 and 2016. It was discovered that some of the provisions of the Ordinance were insufficient to meet requirements and need to be improved.

The areas of the Ordinance which need improvement are in respect to benefits from practical experience, and to clarify the interpretation of various provisions.

Amendments to the Ordinance would avoid the practice of piecemeal amendment and would permit the enactment of comprehensive amendments better suited to current requirements.

Kindly note that persons are urged to refer to the Elections Ordinance under the recently issued 2018 Revised Laws of the TCI, as there has been a renumbering of some sections due to 2016 amendments which are now incorporated in the Ordinance.

Please submit your feedback on the proposed amendments to the Elections Ordinance by email or hard copy document to Lister Dudley Lewis, Supervisor of Elections, SPPD Office Complex, South Base Grand Turk or email DLLewis@gov.tc. The consultation will commence March 5th 2019 and closes April 5th, 2019.

Lister Dudley Lewis

Supervisor of Elections

THE FOLLOWING ARE THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE ELECTIONS ORDINANCE FOR CONSULTATION.

CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

  1. The Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has not been extended to the Turks and Caicos Islands, however in accordance with the Constitution there is protection against discrimination against any person with disability.

Section 16 of the Constitution relates to qualification to be elected for membership of the House of Assembly and it does not disqualify anyone from being elected because of disability. If a person is of a sound mind and able to understand the act and what they are to do, and if they are qualified to stand for elected office in accordance with the Constitution, then despite their disability, they should have the same legal rights to participate in political life.

In order to comply with requirements of the Convention all persons with disabilities should not be offered a lower standard of service than other voters, but reasonable adjustments should be made so they will not be disadvantaged in any way and they should have the same access to the electoral process as anyone else with designated parking and ramps.

The Supervisor supports the approach that a person who applies for a ballot paper and appears to have some form of mental health problem or have a learning ability should not be excluded from voting or refused a ballot paper on the grounds of mental incapacity if registered as an elector. The standard highlighted in the Convention to be adapted in TCI.

The question is, should the Rights of Persons with Disabilities be implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). If implemented it will enhance the legal rights of persons with disabilities to participate in political life.

STANDARD LAYOUT OF POLLING STATIONS

  • It is proposed that to ensure more consistency in the voting process the Ordinance be amended to incorporate a standard layout of all polling stations for the next general elections.

A standard layout of polling stations will aim to maximize:

(a) The efficiency of the flow of voters through the polling station

(b) The transparency of the voting process

(c) Protection of the secrecy of voting

A standardized polling station layout will further promote an orderly controlled flow of voters through polling stations. Polling stations will have one available entrance and one available exit. The entrance and exit will be at opposite ends of the voting area to allow a one-way progression of voters through the voting area.

The question is, should the Ordinance be amended to incorporate a provision for a standardized polling station layout for all polling stations.

DELETE REQUIREMENT FOR INSERTION OF PRESIDING OFFICER INITIALS AND DATE OF POLLING ON BALLOTS

  • It is stipulated that voting procedures in the TCI could be more simplified if the superfluous requirement for writing the date of the elections on the ballot’s counterfoil and the initials of the Presiding Officer is removed.

Ballot papers for general elections in the (TCI) are printed in accordance with the Elections Ordinance. Ballots are printed with a space on the counterfoil for Presiding Officers to insert the date of polling and a space for the Presiding Officer’s initials.

Research has revealed that ballot papers used by the following Jurisdictions namely, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Montserrat and British Virgin Islands still require the date of polling and Presiding Officers initials to be inserted on the counterfoil of their ballots, however it is not a requirement in Guyana, Antigua and the United Kingdom.

The initials of Presiding Officers and date of polling on ballot papers are not important for the voting process in the TCI. If the amendment is made Presiding Officers will only have the responsibility to put on ballots the number corresponding to the consecutive number on the official list of voters and this will speed up the voting process. The polling date for elections can be inserted on ballots at the time of printing.

The question is, should Section 45(3) and4)(a) of the Ordinance be amended by deleting the requirement for insertion of initials of Presiding Officers and date of polling from the counterfoil on Ballots?

END THE PRACTICE OF MARKING VOTERS FINGER WITH INK OR DYE

  • It was stipulated that there is an urgent need to either end the practice of marking voter’s finger with ink at polling stations on polling day and an elaborate detailed procedure be introduced for checking voters before issuing ballot papers.

Section 45(10) (d) of the Ordinance stipulates (“the Presiding Officer must require the voter to permit his finger to be marked with ink or a dye”). This requirement was introduced and implemented for general elections of 2012 and 2016 and voter’s voiced their dissatisfaction of its use.

The use of finger stain ink for general elections process in the TCI is important and it is accepted and implemented in other Jurisdictions. The use of Ink prevents persons voting in more than one electoral district and it is an important function in the electoral process.

However, Section 45(10) (d) of the Ordinance is flawed it do not stipulate what a Presiding Officer can do if a voter refuses to have his finger stain. The Ordinance only permit the Presiding Officer to require voters to permit their finger to be stained and if they refuse, a ballot paper is still issued.

The question is, should the practice of marking voters finger with ink or dye end and other alternative means be implemented to identify persons who have voted, and should Section 45(10) (d) be repealed or should the section be amended to incorporate a provision that if a voter refuses to have his finger stained, the Presiding Officer should not issue a ballot paper to the voter.

DISPLAY ELECTIONS RESULTS OUTSIDE POLLING STATIONS

  • After tabulation of ballot papers at polling stations and winners declared the results are not displayed at Polling Stations by Returning Officers.

Presently there is no requirement or provision in the Elections Ordinance directing Returning Officers to display election results outside polling stations after counting of ballots and declaring winners for district and All Island District Candidates.

It is believed that displaying elections results outside polling stations will increase transparency and confidence in the outcome of elections.

The question is, should the ordinance be amended to incorporate a provision to direct Returning Officers to display elections results outside polling stations?

ADVANCE POLLING

  • During General Elections and on Polling Day Police and Emergency service personnel may be required to attend emergency situations that may prevent them exercising their Democratic right to vote and in the circumstances, it is proposed that advance polling be introduced in the TCI to facilitate persons to vote the day before polling day.

If advance polling is instituted in the TCI, it is recommended that the polls be open at 8am and closed at 4pm.

The question is, should advance polling be introduced in the TCI and if introduced should this courtesy be extended to persons with special needs, Senior Government officials, Prisoners and Senior Citizens sixty- five (65) years and older?

DOCUMENTS ACCEPTED FROM SELF-SPONSERED STUDENTS

  • Self-sponsored Students studying overseas have difficulty obtaining letters from senior officials at the Institution attending to confirm their enrolment and attendance to support their voter registration applications.

Section 12(6)(b) of the Ordinance is believed may be too restrictive in terms of what documentary evidence the Supervisor can consider and accept to determine whether Students are self sponsored students overseas in considering their registration applications.

The question is, should the Ordinance be amended to permit the Supervisor to accept the following documents in support of self-sponsored Students registration applications studying overseas:

· Institution acceptance letter

· Receipts indicating payment of school fees

· Proof of Residence overseas

· Notarized document from Student/Parent confirming attendance at the Institution.

AMENDMENT TO FORM No. 1 OF SCHEDULE 1

  • There is a clear inconsistency between the requirements in Form No. 4 of Schedule 1 and Section 10(3) (c) of the Ordinance.  Form No. 4 of Schedule 1 forms a part of the Legislation and Section 53 of the Interpretation Ordinance of the TCI, states “every schedule or table to any Ordinance, or part of any Ordinance should, together with any notes there to, be construed and have effect as part of the Ordinance”.   Section 10(3) (c) should take precedence over Form No. 4 and there is a need for clarity and consistency throughout the Ordinance.

Previously in Claims and Objections process persons were only allowed to object to another person if he/she was registered in the same electoral district however, if an amendment is made it will allow a registered voter to object to another person in any of the ten (10) electoral districts.

The question is, should Form No. 4 of Schedule 1 be amended to conform to the stipulation in Section 10(3) (c) so that the Objector in Claims and Objections process need only be “another person” appearing from the Electors Register to be himself entitled to be registered?

RECOUNT OF BALLOTS PAPERS “ALL ISLAND” CANDIDATES

  • The Ordinance is silent on the procedure to adopt when All Island Candidates can request a recount of the ballots after the Returning Officer for All Island Candidates announces the results on the night of elections.

Section 55(13) (c) of the Ordinance stipulates “Any of the Candidates or their agents who is not satisfied with the accuracy of the count may, on completion of the count in the case of an election for the All Islands district, at the central location, demand a recount which shall thereupon be carried out in the same manner as the original. The section only permits Count and re-count of All Island ballots to be carried out at the central location in Grand Turk.

However, when Section 55(13) (c) was introduced in 2012 it was intended that after close of polls the All Islands ballot boxes would be transported to the central location Grand Turk and the original counting conducted, and for general elections 2012 and 2016 ballots for the All Island districts were counted at each polling station and results communicated to the Returning Officer appointed in Grand Turk on election night at the central location. The Returning Officer would tabulate the results from each electoral district and declare the five candidates with the largest amount of votes as winners via radio.

It is proposed that Section 55(13) (c) of the Ordinance be amended to stipulate that after the Returning Officer declares the five All Island Candidates elected, Candidates must immediately request a recount which shall be communicated to a Returning Officer in any of the electoral districts and his/her request shall be communicated to the Returning Officer appointed.

The Returning Officer upon receiving the request shall instruct the Supervisor to transport the All Island ballot boxes to the central location Grand Turk where a recount shall be carried out.

The question is, should the Ordinance be amended to reflect when and at what stage can All Island Candidates request a recount after the Returning Officer on the night of elections declares the five All Island candidates as winners?

AMENDMENT TO VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION FORM NO. 1

  1. The present voter registration application Form No. 1 of Schedule 1 is inadequate for efficient voter registration process.

If the Form is Amended, it will require applicants to produce additional information for a more efficient voter registration process. The amended Form should include the following:

· Proof of Applicants completed address

· Email address

· Place of employment and address

The question is, should Form No. 1 of Schedule 1 of the Ordinance be amended and a new form introduced? (See proposed new voter registration application Form for implementation).

NEW FORM TO FORM PART OF SCHEDULE 1 OF THE ORDINANCE

  1. It is recommended that an additional Form be implemented to form part of Schedule 1 of the Ordinance.

The new Form will form part of schedule 1 and be created as Form No. 23 and include the following:

· Notice of change of name

· Notice of change of occupation

· Notice of change of residence

The question is, should a new Form be implemented to form part of Schedule 1 of the Ordinance? (See new Form attached for implementation).

TRANSFER OF ELECTORS MOVING FROM ONE ELECTORAL DISTRICT TO ANOTHER

  1. Registered voters in the TCI move from one electoral district to another and there is no process in place to facilitate their transfer. During Claims and Objections process numerous objections are submitted objecting to Persons name on the register in various electoral districts and this is a challenge for the Supervisor in deciding whether to remove persons or allow them to remain in the district where their name appear in the Register.

Presently the only procedure to facilitate transfer of electors is the making of a Claim if an elector believes that he or she is wrongly listed in the Electors List or Electors Register. The question is, given the itinerant nature of the TCI’s population, particularly as it relates to employment and movement of persons between Electoral Districts should the Ordinance be amended to accommodate a transferal process for electors moving from one electoral district to another? (See attached propose Form for Electors change of residence).

RESIDENCY PERIOD FOR PERSONS TRANSFER BETWEEN ELECTORAL DISTRICTS

  1. There is no provision in the Ordinance stipulating a required residency period for persons who may have transfer from one electoral district to another. The only provision in the Ordinance which speaks to a period of residence is Section 3(1) (a) that stipulate the following “a person is resident in a place if, for more than 6 months in the period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for registration as an elector, the person used the place as a home (whether or not continuously).

There is also no stipulated time for determining the correct electoral district in which to place an elector when a change of residence has occurred and the practice that has developed and accepted over the years as part of the electoral process is to use the 6 months of the time period stated in section 3(1).

The question is, should the ordinance be amended to accommodate a residence period and should the practice of 6 Months residence period be also legislated to fill the present lacuna that exists in the ordinance?

FIX TIME FOR RESERVE DECISION OF THE SUPERVISOR

  1. There is a standardized practice for transmitting decisions made by the Supervisor during Claims and Objections process, and persons appearing are given verbal decisions and advised of their right of appeal to Adjudicators in accordance with section 18(3) of the Ordinance. This is subsequently followed by written notice to Claimants and Objectors stipulating the decision of the Supervisor. It is proposed that the Ordinance be amended to allow a period of seven (7) days for the Supervisor to make and notify Claimants and Objectors of his reserved decision arising out of Claims and Objection hearing.

The question is, should the Ordinance be amended to incorporate a fixed time of seven (7) days for the Supervisor to make and notify Claimants and Objectors if his decision is reserved?

Press Release: TCIG

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