Symister says decision on voter-card re-validation or re-registration must be made by the Electoral Commission – not by the prime minister

Leon Chaku Symister, the United Progressive Party (UPP) spokesperson on
legal matters, says any decision on voter-card validation is for the Antigua and
Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) to make – and not for the prime
Symister was responding to statements made by Prime Minister Gaston
Browne on the weekend, during an apparent discussion on the re-registration
of voters.
After 10 years, the current voter-identification cards have expired; and the
precedent is that this would trigger a complete re-registration exercise.
Earlier, Browne suggested that a renewal of the cards would be preferred.
However, the UPP was not in favour of such an alternative, noting that it paves
the way for future fraud and for questionable voter transfers to stand.

Subsequently, the Cabinet agreed, stating that a complete re-registration was
a better option in order to maintain transparency and accountability, and
ABEC announced that this would commence in October 2024.
However, in another of his now-usual changes of heart, Browne says the
Electoral Commission is proposing a revalidation of the cards – which
reportedly would be a cheaper and easier undertaking than the more costly,
lengthy, and painstaking re-registration exercise.
Browne says that members of his Antigua Labour Party have met with ABEC
and stated that revalidation is its preference, since it does not wish to be
accused of disenfranchising anyone living in the Diaspora. He notes that, in
order to be registered, citizens abroad would have to return home and spend
at least one month in a constituency.
If, at present, there are cases in which some persons are not registered in the
correct constituency – as has been suggested by members of the UPP – then
this can be challenged during the re-validation exercise, Browne says.
Symister recalls that, in March, the Electoral Commission announced that it
would undertake a complete re-registration exercise; hence, based on the
prime minister’s pronouncements, he is not sure what is currently taking

On Monday, May 13, a meeting of all the political parties and ABEC took place.
The objective was to come to a final decision on the way forward: whether a
re-validation of the voter cards or a complete re-registration. The outcome of
this meeting is yet to be disclosed.
Meanwhile, Symister says there is no clear-cut provision within the electoral
laws regarding whether re-registration should be carried out every 10 years.
However, he remembers that, leading up to the enactment of the law – which
is over two decades old – that discussion was held, and it was the rationale
behind the voter-ID cards having a 10-year lifespan.

Accordingly, he says, this consideration was among other factors that led to a
complete re-registration in 2013-2014.
Symister says the UPP believes that a re-registration would be the best route
for the sake of transparency.

The Party’s spokesperson says he does not know why the Commission is
backtracking on its earlier decision, but he suspects that Prime Minister
Browne could have his hand in it.

That was Leon Chaku Symister, UPP spokesperson on legal matters.