All members of Central Voting Bureau make position available | THE DAILY HERALD

Jason Rogers


  PHILIPSBURG–The conducting of an election in the short term might be affected as all the members of the Central Voting Bureau have made their positions available over concerns about the planned vote.

  Central Voting Bureau Chairperson Jason Rogers confirmed to The Daily Herald on Tuesday that all members of the Bureau made it known on Monday evening that that they had made their positions available and formally submitted their letter on Tuesday informing Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, Governor Eugene Holiday and the Nomination’s Committee.

  In addition to Rogers, other members who made their positions available are Tamara Richardson, Anastacio Baker, Cindy Marica and Melissa De La Rosa.  

  Rogers said the move was based on concerns of the committee about elections. The move by the Bureau to make their positions available might put a damper on elections as new members will have to be appointed in accordance with the law. This process will take time.

  The Central Voting Bureau is an institution enacted by Government to execute the voting and election procedures as stipulated and regulated in the Electoral Ordinance. The Central Voting Bureau operates independently from parliament and government. Its general function is to ensure that the entire election process, which includes the nomination of candidates, the voting and the determination of the outcome of the election, is conducted in accordance with the applicable laws.

  Rogers had outlined the concerns of the Bureau in a detailed letter to Minister of General Affairs Leona Romeo-Marlin and Chairperson of Parliament William Marlin on Wednesday, September 25.

  In the letter, Rogers said that having parliamentary election on November 25, 2019, can be considered an infringement on the Electoral Ordinance and the Constitution and as a result of this the Central Voting Bureau, “being a guardian of the entire democratic/electoral process, will be prevented and/or unable to properly execute its duties in an honourable manner and as per the oath taken by all members at their appointment.”

  National Decree #2019/1482 of Monday, September 23, 2019, which was published in the National Gazette of September 24, 2019, announced that the current Parliament of St. Maarten will be dissolved effective December 23, 2019, and a new election to elect Members of Parliament will take place on November 25, 2019. As per the decree, nomination of candidates will take place next week Wednesday, October 2. The Daily Herald understands that new dates for elections have been proposed by government and have been sent to Governor Eugene Holiday for signing.

  In the letter, the Central Voting Bureau said it is most of all concerned about the legal timeframes it has to take into consideration, as well as the rights of possible new political parties that may want to run in the election. As per Article 22, Paragraph Four of the Electoral Ordinance, three weeks prior to nomination day, the Chairman of the Central Voting Bureau needs to announce the possibility for candidates to be nominated. “I am unable to meet this requirement as the three weeks prior to nomination day lie in the past,” Rogers had said in his letter last week.

  Only eligible voters are allowed to cast their votes in an election. The voters’ registry is closed 30 days prior to nomination day. Given that nomination day is on October 2, the process of closing the voters’ registry has not been followed, according to the Central Voting Bureau.  Also, the decree indicating the colours that can be used for the lists of political parties participating in an election must be issued 14 days prior to the date of nomination. As there are only nine days between the date of the National Decree #2019/1482 and nomination day, the requirement as per Article 36, Paragraph Two of the Electoral Ordinance cannot be met.

  As new and de-registered political parties need to be registered at least six weeks prior to nomination day it would not be possible for certain new and existing parties to participate in the November 25, 2019 parliamentary election, the Central Voting Bureau said.

  With the recent resignation of one member and one extraordinary member of the Central Voting Bureau, the Bureau would be shorthanded during the November election, as under the Electoral Ordinance the appointment of members and extraordinary members should take place at least 30 days prior to nomination day, Rogers stated in outlining another point of concern pertaining to the November 2019

“The Central Voting Bureau deems the foregoing very worrisome as it would not be conducive to the democratic process of the country. Moreover, this can be deemed as said persons – that were possibly intending to contend in parliamentary election – being deprived of their right to (nominate) themselves, which can be argued is a violation of their constitutional right to postulate themselves. This is an internationally established right of a person,” the letter read.  

  Rogers said the Bureau is cognizant that Article 59 of the constitution demands that the decision to dissolve parliament also entail the obligation to hold new parliamentary elections and that the first meeting of the newly elected MPs be convened three months after the decision to dissolve parliament.

  “We are also cognizant of the fact that the constitution, is a higher hierarchal order than the electoral ordinance. However, the right to (nominate) one-self on a list of choice – which includes on a new list or on an existing list that has been de-registered would now like to reregister, is a constitutional right,” the letter read.

  “In addition, the electoral ordinance is of a higher hierarchal order than the national decree. It should be noted that in the execution of its task as well as in the decision making, the Central Voting Bureau indiscriminately applies the electoral ordinance as well as all other applicable legislation.’

  Rogers said should election proceed at this junction; the country would be placed in a situation whereby its authoritative decision making may be questioned.

  He stressed in the letter that in 2017 when parliament was dissolved, these concerns were also brought forward to the governor which were taken into consideration in the determination of the date of election in 2018.

Source: The Daily Herald