Electoral laws saga – Changes subject to public consultations, says Apted

former supervisor of elections and constitutional lawyer Jon Apted. Picture: RAMA

A change to electoral laws that affect voters should always be fully explained and subject to public consultations in a democracy says the former supervisor of elections and constitutional lawyer Jon Apted.

“With all due respect, I don’t understand why the use of a birth certificate name is suddenly necessary to ensure free and fair elections after decades of elections, and when it is not required in any other country with which we share legal traditions,” he said.

Mr Apted said the current electoral system already requires people to provide another official identification card, their thumbprints and to be photographed.

He said the chances of an unqualified person being registered were negligible.

“Computer software must also be able to identify any double registration. The system requires voters to produce a Voter ID and to be marked with indelible ink when voting, so someone should not be able to vote in someone else’s name or vote twice.

“I don’t think postal voting makes a difference, as you still need to be registered to get the ballot paper. The law and administration are supposed to enable people to exercise their rights, not impede them.

“Contrary to what many think, your birth name is not your legal name. It was just the name that was given to the registrar when your birth was registered.

“Your legal name is actually the name that you use every day. This is why married women can use married names without registering any change, why indigenous Fijians with long names often use a short version and some people use their middle names or their mother’s name.

“If birth or naturalisation details are really required for verification or removal or dead voters, then they can take the birth registration or naturalisation details as additional information while allowing people to use the name that they identify with.”

Meanwhile, Parliament yesterday passed amendments to the Voter Registration Act, the Interpretation Amendment Bill and the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill.

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