In the shadows of the 7 November 2019 elections, many voters recently discovered that they had been removed from the ‘Voters Register’. They had all voted in the 2014 elections.
The ‘2014 voters’ (as I shall call them) have resided continuously at the same address since 2014. None of the disqualifying criteria of s43 of the Constitution applies to them.
But the Electoral Office says in effect:
“Sorry…we have removed your Constitutional right to vote (see ss42.43 and 44 of the Constitution) because you did not answer your door in January 2019 when we called. You then failed to ask us to restore your constitutional right to vote. It’s your own fault and negligence.
Nothing can be done because the Representation of the People Act (‘the Act’) requires the ‘Voters Register’ to be finalised by August each year”.
Was There A Way to Restore the ‘2014 Voters’ to the ‘Voters Register’ Before 7 November 2019?
I invite the Electoral Commissioner to comment upon why he could not have used the provisions of ss36A and 39 of the Act to avoid disenfranchising the ‘2014 voters’ from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
Section 36A of the Act, in terms, enables the Electoral Commissioner to ask the Supreme Court to “order insertion in the register of the name of any person which has been inadvertently omitted from it…” (my emphasis).
I am not aware of any Mauritian legal precedent which gives the word ‘inadvertently’ other than its ordinary meaning.
S36A was perhaps intended to remedy any ‘dérapage’ in the voter registration process which spans January to August each year.
In administering the Act, the Electoral Commissioner pays more than 2,500 people to visit every residence in January each year.
The registration process then continues until August each year.
Such a convoluted and archaic process provides ample scope for errors, hence the need for a ‘roue de secours’ which the Electoral Commissioner could use to restore to the ‘2014 voters’ their constitutional right to vote.
The Electoral Commissioner could apply for the order to restore the ‘2014 voters’ to the list on an ‘ex parte’ basis. This means that the ‘2014 voters’ need not appear in Court.
All they should have to do is contact the Electoral Commissioner and ask nicely.
The costs of such an ‘ex parte’ application to be borne by the Government out of the Consolidated Fund: see: s38.
[Query how the Electoral Commissioner deals with our citizens who do not have a roof over their head or are hiding as squatters on someone else’s land?]
I also contend that some provisions of the Act are inconsistent with the cumulative work of the provisions of ss42,43 and 44 of our Constitution.
But that’s a more complicated discussion. Thank you for your attention.
Let’s hope that the Electoral Commissioner will explain his position to the public which he has served so superbly over the years.
by Roger De Robillard
13 NOV 2019
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