BY ORRETTE FISHER
THE Auditor General has raised the issue as to whether or not persons seeking to be enumerated should be required to present a birth certificate as proof of age. This issue has been discussed at the Electoral Advisory Committee and the Electoral Commission over the years, with the full participation of the political representatives. It is therefore common knowledge that the Electoral Office does not routinely ask applicants to present proof of age.
The facts are as follows;
(1) Before continuous registration began in 2002, persons were enumerated house to house on a periodic basis and were not required to present a birth certificate unless objected to or perceived to be underage.
(2) The majority of persons on the current list were registered in the field in 1995/1996 and were not asked to present birth certificates unless objected to or perceived to be underage.
(3) The current lists include members of the political directorate, none of whom were asked to present a birth certificate at the time of registration.
The current situation is that applicants are required to submit proof of age if objected to or have recently attained the age of 18, based on the date of birth given. The Electoral Office will have no choice but to implement the requirement for persons to present proof of age if this is mandated by Parliament. It should be noted, however, that if a new house-to-house enquiry is conducted as is being advocated in some quarters, anyone who is unable to produce a birth certificate would not be eligible for enumeration. Based on experience in the field, this would mean that between 30 and 40 per cent of elderly electors would not be eligible to be added to the list.
It is for this reason that the EoJ is currently guided by the right to vote as outlined in Section 37 of the Constitution which states that "a person shall be qualified to be registered as an elector for elections to the House of Representatives if, and shall not be so qualified unless he is (a) a citizen of Jamaica resident in Jamaica at the date of registration ... and has attained the prescribed age."
The question as to whether or not the Director of Elections is duty bound to request proof of age has been referred to the Attorney General for his opinion.
Orrette Fisher is Director of Elections