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Suggestions aired to improve election rules

Former MP John Barritt joined the Registrar General in calling for an Electoral Commission to oversee the evolution of election rules.

Addressing the Parliamentary Committee on Elections yesterday, Mr Barritt said such a body could make recommendations directly to the House of Assembly rather than going through the cabinet as a way of keeping the party in power from sitting on amendments or cherry-picking them for political gain.

He suggested the commission be modelled after the Boundaries Commission with representatives from both parties but an independent majority.

He argued that such a commission could examine and enforce the rules on advertising and campaign finance and assist the Parliamentary Registrar.

Mr Barritt told the committee that the legislation covering elections is in serious need of an overhaul to clarify several points of contention including the matter of what interests candidates must disclose, saying the 45-year-old Legislature (Qualification and Disqualification) Act doesn't make it clear.

He also said there is a gap in the legislature as to who should investigate and enforce any breaches — a task he suggested should fall on the proposed Electoral Commission.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette following the meeting, Mr Barritt said that the legislation suggests that the Attorney General would be responsible for such investigations, but that post has become increasingly political in nature.

Mr Barritt said he was involved in the UBP's 2007 general election and was a part of the decision to disclose “any and all” potential interests in Government contracts. He said the decision was made to display the party's commitment to transparency and that the act had not factored into the discussion, saying: “We didn't even get down to that.”

Mr Barritt also expressed his support for fixed term elections and establishing a fixed period for election campaigning.

Deputy chair of the OBA, Michael Branco, also spoke before the committee saying there were several points where the election system could be improved from a technological standpoint.

He noted that on election night, the election website crashed because it couldn't handle the number of visitors checking the site for updates, and that there was often a delay between when a voter registers or changes their address and when they appear on the list of registered voters.

“If I had voter A, who had not been registered before, I would give them the form and confirm they had delivered the form to the [Parliamentary Registrar] and a week later, two weeks later, it would appear,” he said. “In some cases, it just wasn't there.”

He also noted that “robo-calling” by both parties had caused complaints from the public, and that it might be possible for voter registration forms to include a “do not call” option.

Mr Branco said he has carried out “proof of concepts” for online voting at the 2011 OBA annual general meeting, and that Government should consider such an initiative as an option for absentee ballots in the future.

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Published September 26, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 26, 2013 at 12:44 am)

Suggestions aired to improve election rules

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