All Commonwealth citizens who have lived in Barbados for three or more years and are not disqualified under the Representation of the People Act are eligible vote in this country, according to an attorney involved in a case with the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) over voting rights.
The Appeal Court yesterday reserved judgment on a challenge by the state to an earlier ruling by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson which paved the way for Commonwealth citizens, to vote here.
Sir Marston’s ruling came after Grenadian Shireene Anne Mathlin-Tulloch, Jamaican Michelle Melissa Russell, Montserratian Sharon Juliet Edgecombe-Miller and St Lucian Professor Eddy Ventose challenged the EBC over its refusal to place them on the electoral list.
Legal counsel for the Crown, Deputy Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite, QC, yesterday conceded that the policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that only Commonwealth citizens who hold the status of citizen, immigrant or permanent resident can register to vote, was in contravention of the Representation of People Act.
In a letter dated September 26, 2017, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Angela Taylor had informed attorney-at-law Wilfred Abrahams, who along with Bryan Weekes is representing Mathlin-Tulloch, that the department was “currently authorized” to register as voters, Commonwealth citizens who hold the aforementioned status.
Abrahams today told a news conference at the offices of the Barbados Bar Association on Perry Gap, St Michael, that the court’s decision to reserve judgment on the state’s challenge had nothing to do with the rights of Commonwealth citizens who qualify to apply to register to vote.
“It has nothing to do with the ability of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission to process them. So anyone who believes they are qualified, go in and fill out your documents, your form 1 . . . and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission is now duty-bound by law to process your application in the same way that it would anyone that is a citizen of Barbados,” Abrahams stressed.
“Yesterday, in a surprising turn of events, the Crown sought leave from the court to deal with some housekeeping matters. And at that point in time the Crown officially withdrew from the Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s stated position in respect of the qualification of . . . Commonwealth citizens to vote in Barbados,” Abrahams said.
He noted that previously, the commission had publicly stated and had said in correspondence to the attorneys, that it was the EBC’s long-held policy not to register anyone as an elector in Barbados unless that person was a citizen, a resident or an immigrant.
“So with them officially withdrawing that position, the way is now open for all persons who are qualified under the Act. All of the Commonwealth citizens who have been residing in Barbados for a period of three years or more, who are not disqualified under the Act, they can now apply and have their applications processed. They are effectively now in the same position as any Barbadian registering to vote in the upcoming election,” the attorney-at-law stressed.
He contended that the question of the qualification of Commonwealth citizens to register to vote here was therefore now settled and that the EBC was duty-bound to uphold the law as it stands.