The content originally appeared on: The Barnacle News
Joseph K. Roberts

ByJ. K. Roberts (Sound Public Policies Advocate)

This ‘forthright and forceful’ article deliberates on Voter Registration which is the ‘preliminary and groundwork’ phase of the processes in relation to elections.  The most ‘typical and familiar’ of elections being general elections for members to the House of Representatives which essentially forms the ‘ruling executive’, or the Government as commonly referred to, of the nation; one member “shall be directly elected” from each of the fifteen electoral constituencies into which Grenada has been divided, as provided for under sections 32, 53 and 54 of the Constitution. The other aspect of the processes about elections involves the actual Voting Exercise on an election day which generally attracts much more public ‘anxiety and excitement’ than the occurrences of Voter Registration, even for international political scientists and democracy bodies; this is, though the rigging or setting of ‘the win’ (or attempting to do so) for a particular political party in the elections can be ‘most prominent and effective’ during the point of Registration.  The following Voting phase would be treated otherwise under a different caption.  

Within democratic principles, ‘meticulous and stringent’ measures are deserved and expected to be applied toward both aspects of elections, and thus Grenada’s 07 February 1974 Independence Constitution mandates that elections be managed by an ‘autonomous and unbiased’ Supervisor of Elections (SoE) as reveals under Section 35 which has been developed and detailed in the Representation of the People Act (RPA). Although the SoE has taken and subscribed the constitutional Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office, the execution and situation concerning the registration of voters and the conduct of elections have always been in question, falling short of Electoral Justice; and thus, the motivation for the previous article “Patriotic Grenadians Assist In Suing The Supervisor Of Elections” as for holding the powers-that-be accountable for the defective electoral system and for breach of fiduciary obligations.

The exerted efforts of revisiting the issues regarding elections are meant to ‘sensitize and arouse’ the sovereign constituents for a heightened push with robust agitations for ‘meaningful and thorough’ electoral reforms, beyond the ordinary complaints and calls been expressed. The Grenadian-people as the sovereign constituents, must recognize and demonstrate that they are the ‘real and principal’ stakeholders and custodians of the electoral system, and that it is not the political parties and the powers-that-be as is being practised and led to believe even by the SoE.  In fact; it has been experienced and proven over the years that the parties take pertinent actions (and / or do not act) with the feelings that to establish and upgrade an electoral system for “free and fair” elections would disrupt their egoistic status, governance power and political trajectory for the nation but which may even be to the displeasure and detriment of the nation. The argument though would not be only about the availability of any ‘practical and effective’ recourse(s) to the people for ensuring or for bringing about electoral reforms, but also about what is the extent of the chances to be taken with those recourses, especially when observing the ‘brutal’ struggles which occurs in other countries where similar situation is pursued.

The relatively high percentage of voter turnout at general elections and the relatively stable political atmosphere which exists especially after such elections in Grenada, as well as the declaration by external Elections Observer Teams (EOTs) of relatively “free and fair” elections in Grenada, do not necessarily reflect the ‘healthy and conducive’ state of the electoral system nor the ‘collective wishes and sentiments and expectations’ of the Grenadian-people on elections day? Grenada has also been enjoying from the EOTs much congratulates to its citizens, participating candidates, and authorities for the relative ‘peace and order’ during the conducting of the polls.  Should those referenced factors translate to or mean ‘confidence and complacency’ about the electoral system, despite the synchronizing of the ‘collaborated and correlated’ conclusions of EOTs with the persistent complaints and calls by the people about the defective electoral system including some ‘irregular procedures’ witnessed and / or discovered on elections day? Within what ‘context and expectation’ then should there be agitations for electoral reforms, also considering a ‘comparative analysis’ with what is obtained in the wider Caricom region?  

Although a combination of different reasons, including a mechanism which is attributive to “free and fair” elections, contributes to the outcome of general elections, the principles regarding “free and fair” elections should not be compromised and ignored. In a thriving democracy, what is the minimum qualification for achieving and accepting “free and fair” elections, and how difficult is this threshold to be realized?  What ‘legitimacy and respect’ should be extended to an installed Executive for national governance when “free and fair” elections were not evident? Does the level of complacency and inaction by the Grenadian-people about the electoral system signal and result in having the powers-that-be paying lip-service to any Minimum Qualification, as well as to the ‘assessments, findings and recommendations’ by the EOTs?  The attitude of the powers-that-be to the presence and work of the various EOTs leaves a-lot to be desired, with the official invitations for the EOTs / Missions to observe the local elections being mere ‘routine tokenism’. Review article “How Practical And Valuable Are Elections Observer Missions In Grenada?” which raises a host of concerns as identified by the EOTs / Missions, and postulates as to whether the ‘blunt disregard’ of those issues is as a result of variances of positions and interests of the powers-that-be, including the SoE, with that of the EOTs / Missions, or because of the ignorance and / or the incapacity of the people to advocate and persuade electoral ideals.

It should be ‘mindboggling and incomprehensible’ how a ruling party which boasts of at least ‘public popularity and good governance’, is yet reluctant and fearful to effect ‘meaningful and thorough’ electoral reforms which are consistent with the desires and demands of the people, but instead the party retains devious means to sidetrack from the Issue or to put it on the backburner.  Most outrageous about this reality is that quite characteristically, the party when in opposition decries the state of the electoral system and poses areas of ‘reforms and amendments’; a pertinent lesson about this reality should not be missed with the history of the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).  The PRG, which is now being glorified by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), came into being on 13 March 1979 by the guns due to claims of gross electoral injustice inflicted by the Grenada United Labour Party and was eventually self-exploded with the guns on 19 October 1983, has been ‘widely castigated’ by a variety of entities for not keeping its promise to reinstate the Constitution and to hold general elections; although PRG headed for a new Constitution by forming a Constitutional Commission a few months earlier its end. 

It appears that the NDC with Dickon Mitchell as its leader has recant its resolve to undertake electoral reforms, despite when in opposition Dickon threatens the SoE claiming to be “on behalf of the people of Grenada”, to “take all steps deemed appropriate” in escalating the matter regarding the “persistent deficiencies and flaws” of the electoral system, in a 10 May 2022 Open-letter publicized as “Dickon Mitchell writes Supervisor of Elections”.  The ‘serious and consequential’ ploy in the name of the people by Dickon should not be ignored as was hinted in the article “Is The 2022 Elections Manifesto Of NDC Complete?” which indeed questions the extent and in whose interest that NDC is ready and hopeful “to lead a path of Transformation that will change Grenada positively for the benefit of all”, with its failure to include (‘and to effect as priority’) constitutional reforms and electoral reforms as prominent transformational features in the manifesto. Is it any ‘good faith’ excuse by the NDC that, initiatives for electoral reforms reside within the ‘non-interference’ domain of the SoE who “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority”; and thus its (NDC) position about such Issue?

Considering Dickon as a successful Corporate Lawyer and who may be well-acquainted with clients associated with the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme, and that NDC has been in the political wilderness which has shamefully featured its two consecutive ‘no shows’ in the House of Representatives and with its plague of Leadership Conspiracy leading to the choice of Dickon, the ‘good faith burden’ is on NDC-government to inform or to reconcile with the public especially NDC’s stalwarts, about any compromises reached for reneging on constitutional and electoral matters.   Review the past article “NDC Badly Injured Or Well Cured For Elections And Governance?” which gives relevant pointers about the ‘vulnerability and desperation’ of the party when in opposition.  It would indeed be comforting for the public to know the extent to which Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell is convinced that the scenario at the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) has drastically improved since the 10 May 2022 Open Letter to the SoE.  Or; is it that NDC is contemplating the approach to be taken to outdo the New National Party (NNP) which has been faulted for its (NDC) failures at the polls and so, Dickon would speak and / or act on electoral matters with amendments, to its ‘whims and fancies’ on the verge of the next elections?

The first episode of this article raises that it would be awful for the SoE to focus on merely installing a new computerised voter registration system for the electronic documentation, processing and storage of the data in relation to elections, without attending to the outstanding imperative matters of the electoral boundaries and citizenry enumerations, all at the same time.  In fact; this ‘inherent undertaking’ should be logical, since the issues of constituency boundaries and citizens enumerations and voter registration are all ‘fundamentally and functionally’ related, and with an idiom in Computerization Processing / Artificial Intelligence being ‘garbage (corrupt data) entered into the system would generate garbage out’. This reasonable democratic undertaking of those three collective issues is a means towards delivering Electoral Justice in Grenada, demonstrating respect for the sovereign constituents of the nation, fostering ‘equity and efficacy’ in its governance representation, and towards cultivating political ‘balances and goodwill’. On this note, an appeal was made to the 07 February 2024 launched Grenada Monarchist League, in proving its ‘weight and worth’, to have serious representation to the powers-that-be on those electoral matters.  It should be very gratifying to behold thereafter, the article “Open Letter to Governor-General on convening Constituency Boundaries Commission” by the League appearing in the press, and thus the Grenadian-people should follow and participate in this gesture of the League.

The Grenadian-people also were specifically called upon to respond to the SoE on the “Addendum to List of Electors at 31 March 2024” advising ‘everyone and particularly those who were registered during the quarter, January–March 2024, to inspect the List to ensure that his or her name is properly included so that the List should be checked to establish whether there is any name included in it that should not be there’.  Apart from the issues of inadvertently having errors, in terms of inaccuracy with names and addresses and polling divisions, there could be possibly corrupt practices resulting in the appearances of ghost electors and other illegal registrants for voting. What are some other grievous issues about the ‘content and notification and scrutinizing’ of the List, especially on the criteria for ‘domicile and residency’ with respect to migrants / CBI-holders.  Notably; the official Inspection Information about the List is not featured on PEO’s official website and the time stipulated for SoE to receive ‘queries and claims and objections’ are not sufficient, based on the depth of investigations and verifications to be done.