Citing the Freedom of Information Act, Alister Thomas requests copies of photo list used in last elections from ABEC

Alister Thomas, a former Information Commissioner, has made a request of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) for copies of the photo list that was used during last month’s General Election.

Thomas, who ran on the United Progressive Party (UPP) ticket in the constituency of St. John ’s City West, believes that some mischief might have taken place with the list during the January 18 polls.

He says that his request for two copies of the election document was made under the Freedom of Information Act, and was outlined in a letter dated February 3, which he hand-delivered to the Commission.

The letter was addressed to Dame Lorna Simon, the supervisor of elections, and John Jarvis, the chairman of ABEC.  The law provides that the Commission, or any other agency from which a request is made, has no more than 20 days in which to respond.

Thomas says that, habitually, on the morning of Election Day, a new list is produced and presented for the first time, and it is the only time it is seen by the political candidates.

He notes that the list published in December, as is prescribed by law, is not used; rather, what is employed is a picture list that, oftentimes, is not consistent with the Final List of Electors.

Accordingly, Thomas says, names that no one would have ever seen on the regular list will appear on the photo list.  The political parties and candidates would not have been privy to these names before the day of the election, and so they would not have had an opportunity to verify that these individuals were legally listed.

The UPP Candidate says it appears that this is the first time such a request is being made of ABEC.  However, he says that, as citizens, everyone has the right to request information from any government department or statutory body under the Freedom of Information Act 2004.  Requests can be either written or verbal , he says.

Meanwhile, he says his request for the document is geared towards having a fairer democratic process, particularly during an election cycle.

Thomas says there should no secrets as it pertains to a democratic process such as a General Election.

Therefore, he says, the candidates have the right to be presented with a copy of the photo register if they so request, under the Act, which specifies that only four agencies are exempted, including the courts.