Electoral Office ready for Referendum

The symbols to be used for the October 27th National Referendum have been unveiled.

Supervisor of Elections Alex Phillip - presented the symbols at the meeting

Supervisor of Elections Alex Phillip – presented the symbols at the meeting

The symbols were made known last week Thursday by Supervisor of Elections, Alex Phillip during the launch of the Grenada Constitution Reform Advisory Committee’s (CRAC) one hundred meetings towards Referendum Day at the Grenada National Stadium.

Phillip’s presentation on the role of the Electoral Office in the referendum process, and the constitutional referendum ballot referred to Section 37 of the Grenada Constitution which states that the authority is given to the Supervisor of Elections for the conduct of any referendum.

The Supervisor said that in fulfilling its mandate, his Office is guided by its vision on mission statement.

He announced that the Parliamentary Elections office is vigorously involved in an active outreach programme to continuously register eligible voters.

Phillip disclosed that as of August 25th, some 69,312 persons have been registered to participate in the referendum out of a population of approximately 107,000 people.

However, he called on those who are eligible to vote and have not yet registered to come forward and do so.

Glen Cheong and Dr. Francis Alexis who made presentations at the meeting

Glen Cheong and Dr. Francis Alexis who made presentations at the meeting

The Supervisor of Elections said once the Governor General issues the writ, people wishing to be registered will only have nine days to do so in order to be included on the list of persons to participate in the referendum.

He clarified that those who have already been registered since the last General Elections of February 2013 do not need to come forward.

The Supervisor of Elections also presented to the meeting the ballot paper that will be used for the referendum.

He said there will be one sheet of paper containing seven different ballots, each one representing one of the proposals.

Phillip estimated that his office was about 98 percent prepared to facilitate the referendum.

The question on the ballot paper is: “Do you approve the Bill for an Act proposing to change the Constitution of Grenada cited as….?”

Each of the ballot also carries a symbol for the yes and no vote.

The seven Constitutional Referendum Bills for the Referendum have already been passed in both Houses of Parliament, and on August 5th Dame Cecil La Grenade gave her assent to the Constitutional Referendum Act.

The bills are the Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice-Related Issues, the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Name of State, Bill of Rights and Freedoms, Term of Office of the Prime Minister, Fixed Date for General Elections, and Ensuring the appointment of a Leader of the Opposition.

The October 27 vote is the first time in 42 years that an attempt is being made to change the Grenada Constitution.

In order for changes to be made to the constitution, two-thirds of the people who participate in the referendum would have to vote in favour of any of the Bills.

CRAC Chairman, Dr. Francis Alexis, Senior Legal Counsel in the Ministry of Legal Affairs Robert Branch, and President of the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Ruggles Ferguson gave presentations on the seven Constitutional Bills.

Dr. Alexis provided the meeting with snippets of some of the Constitutional Bills including Name of State, Elections and Boundaries Commission, Rights and Freedoms Bill, and Fixed Date for General Elections.

The CRAC Chairman implored the people to vote with their “good conscious” at the National Referendum, and not according to political party lines.

In his presentation on the Bill of Rights and Freedoms, Branch indicated that it seeks to amend the Constitution for three reasons – refine the provisions of the Chapter of the Constitution protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, to insert in the Constitution a new Chapter on directive principles of State Policy, and to inset a new Chapter on gender equality.

Another of the provision is the right to education.
Branch said every child up to 16 years of age who is a citizen of Grenada shall have the right to public-funded education in an educational institution owned or funded by the State.

Branch believes this is one of the most important provisions to be voted on in the Referendum.

The Senior Legal Counsel believes the outcome of the Referendum will have a profound effect on the life of the people, especially the younger ones.

Ferguson who addressed the directive principles indicated that the revised Constitution speaks to the duty of the State to protect the environment, and its natural resources.

He said it also speaks to promoting family life in the country, and not unduly burdening the country with national debt.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), headed by former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke has signaled its intention to stage a “no vote” campaign against the referendum.

Congress has expressed concerns about the process that was used to arrive at the seven bills to be placed on the Referendum ballot.

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