Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says that abolishing the 15-day special voter registration period after general elections are announced does not have to mean that persons turning 18 during that period should not be registered to vote.
Speaking on radio, the opposition leader said exceptions could be made for such persons.
The motion did not go to a debate after being amended by Prime Minster Ralph Gonsalves, and after the expiration of the four hours allocated for its debate amidst counter arguments about whether the rule permit such changes.
Friday said that he would even go further and say that the special registration should also accommodate persons who turn 18 in the 90 days before the dissolution of Parliament.
At Friday’s meeting of Parliament, Gonsalves said the opposition wanted to eliminate the special registration period to deny young people an opportunity to vote.
What the prime minister did not say, however, is that the immediate past supervisor of elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb had also called for the abolition of the special registration period and local, regional, and hemispheric electoral observers have all made similar calls.
Speaking on Hot 97 FM on Monday, the opposition leader said the real issue is the persons who are already registered but asked to be transferred to another voting district during the special registration period.
“… that is what creates a lot of confusion,” Friday said.
He, however, said that the government would not want to close that loophole “because they are playing politics, because they are trying to make the argument to try and ingratiate themselves to say that NDP is somehow opposed to young people.”
The opposition leader, however, said the special registration periods used to be 19 days long.
However, when the New Democratic Party was in office, by agreement with the opposition, it was reduced to 15 days.
“But it still creates problems for the people who are administering the system,” the opposition leader said, reiterating that it should be limited only to persons who just turn 18.
“And if you look at the Commonwealth report, the OAS report, the CARICOM report, all the reports, and even the supervisor of elections report, you will see that this is one of the areas that they were very concerned about.”
He said the reports say that during the period, transfers and registrations cannot be verified.
“The agents and the officials don’t have sufficient time in which to do it. Because, once you put a person on a list, that list, essentially, is published three days before the election. You can’t really challenge that effectively… And we say, let’s amend it to say you can’t do any transfers. Even the prime minister had said, in one clip I heard him, if it is to deal with transfers he has no problem with that. So why don’t we amend it?” Friday said.
He noted that the motion on electoral reform was not debated, so opposition lawmakers don’t know what the government wants.
“I think … that they were just very concerned about perception because we brought the motion to the house and so they have to then decide whether they want to vote for it or not and if you vote for a motion that’s asking for an improvement of the system, maybe they feel that it reflects on their administration of the system,” Friday said.