Election Law changes urged

The Elections Office expects to file its report on the May general elections by the end of August, Mr. Kearney Gomez said this week.

The report, which goes to Governor Bruce Dinwiddy, will contain recommendations for changes in the Elections Law.

These include provision for mobile voting, penalties for unsuccessful candidates who do not report election expenses and changes in the appointment of candidates’ agents.

Mr. Gomez, supervisor of elections, said some of the recommendations are being made on the basis of debriefings with election workers.

He hoped amending legislation would be brought as soon as possible in the new year.

There is still a lot of innuendo about exploiting older people with postal ballots,’ Mr. Gomez said. ‘The only way to eliminate this is through mobile voting.’

This would not involve a travelling voting booth, he emphasised. A team of election officials would go to the voter’s home at his or her request. The voter would be able to mark his ballot or have someone he trusts mark it in the presence of witnesses.

The team, which would probably include a justice of the peace, could also visit voters in hospital or residential care.

This provision would not cost more money nor would it be more work than the present process of application, issuing and return of postal ballots with all the safety checks at each stage, Mr. Gomez explained.

A mobile unit would also be useful in emergency cases, he said. The cut-off date for receiving postal ballot applications was 12 days before the last election. If someone had an accident or emergency after that deadline, he or she could benefit from mobile voting.

The chapter of the law on election expenses needs to be looked at in detail, he said.

The major defect at present is that there is no penalty for unsuccessful candidates who do not file their expense reports.

The law states that a candidate who is elected and who has not filed his or her expense by the deadline shall not sit or vote in the Legislative Assembly until the return is filed. If that candidate does sit in Assembly he must forfeit $500 for every day he sits without filing.

The law is silent as to unsuccessful candidates.

Candidates are allowed to appoint agents to attend the polling stations and/or counting stations on their behalf.

The appointments must be made at least 10 days before the date of elections.

Mr. Gomez would like to see candidates name their agents from the time they are nominated. That would allow time for agent training and minimise the potential for problems, because agents cannot be witnesses for postal ballot applications.

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