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(CMC) – The Court of Appeal has paved the way for people residing here for more than three years to be included in the list of voters as Barbadians get ready to elect a new government on May 24.
Attorney Gregory Nicholls said that the Court of Appeal on Monday threw out long standing rules that barred Commonwealth citizens resident here for three years from voting.
He said the Appellate Court ruled the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) EBC and Chief Electoral Officer unlawfully refused to register his clients on the electoral list.
“What the court did was to examine the Representation of the People Act. Not only must one be qualified to register, one must actually fill out the Form 1 application form. Section 7 sets out the criteria for eligibility, which is you’re either a citizen of Barbados or a Commonwealth citizen who has been residing in Barbados for three years.
“The words of the Court of Appeal were that the EBC is prohibited from relying on their longstanding policy as the criteria to determine eligibility as an elector, and they must rely only on Section 7 and 11 of the Representation of the People Act to determine eligibility,” he said.
Previously, the EBC had stated it was its long-held policy that the agency was not authorised to register anyone as an elector in Barbados, unless that person was a citizen or person having the immigration status of resident or immigrant in Barbados.
In February, Chief Justice Marston Gibson ruled that Commonwealth citizens who meet the requirements under the Representation of the People Act have a right to vote in Barbados after the four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, who have been living here for more than a decade, challenged their exclusion from the voters’ list.
St Lucian-born academic Professor Eddy Ventose, Grenadian Shireene Ann Mathlin-Tulloch, Jamaican Michelle Melissa Russell, and Montserratian Sharon Juliet Edgecombe-Miller had sought to get their names included on the electoral list in time for the next general election, to be held on May 24.
But they said they had been told by the EBC that they were not eligible to be on the list, as they did not enjoy permanent residency, immigrant status or citizenship of Barbados.
But in his ruling, the Chief Justice said that any decision to exclude them would be in violation of the Act, which does not make it mandatory for the applicants to be permanent residents, immigrants or citizens of Barbados in order to vote.
“Only the Parliament of Barbados has the power to insert those conditions,” he said, while explaining that the only requirements needed for a Commonwealth citizen to vote in Barbados was for that person to be a resident here for three years, and live in the constituency in which they are desirous of voting for three months.
Nicholl, who was among a team of lawyers that appeared before judges Kaye Goodridge, Andrew Burgess and Margaret Reifer to argue the case on behalf of four CARICOM nationals, said that the Court also ruled that the EBC had 24 hours to determine if Ventose was eligible to be registered on the voters’ list under Sections 7 and 11.
Nicholls said he did not know if they would be able to get on the list for elections for the upcoming poll since Monday was “the last day to ensure your name made the list.
“If your name is not on the list, and you have applied and meet the criteria, there is a process you can use to appeal to the Chief Electoral Officer for not being on the list.
“So I would invite all Commonwealth citizens whose names are not on the electoral list, who have met the relevant criteria, to go back to the electoral department tomorrow [Tuesday] and protest they are not on the preliminary list,” he said.