NEWS

Supervisor Of Elections Labels Claims Of Voter Suppression Tactic As Childish

Responding to queries from this newspaper, Mr Saneem said any suggestion of the like is highly irresponsible and made without proper inspection of the 1975 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
13 Feb 2020 12:05
Supervisor Of Elections Labels Claims Of Voter Suppression Tactic As Childish
Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem

Claims made that the decision by the Fijian Elections Office to stop printing married names on Voter Identification Cards is a voter suppression tactic is frivolous, says Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem.

Responding to queries from this newspaper, Mr Saneem said any suggestion of the like is highly irresponsible and made without proper inspection of the 1975 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.

What does the law say

He said the decision made by the elections office was in compliance with Section 15(1) of the Act and FEO would not permit the use of additional names, surnames or alias on voter cards as the name on a birth certificate is the only approved name.

“In 2018, several allegations were made regarding the names on the voter list. This exercise will allow the FEO to make the voter card more accurate,” he said.

“With 644,749 voters already on the Voters Register and more than 8,880 new registrations in 2019 alone, it is rather frivolous to allude that this exercise is aimed at voter suppression or the like.

“Section 15(1) of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1975 clearly states: “Any person who has attained the age of 21 years or is married or has at any time been married may by Deed Poll change his or her name, whether as to his or her surname or as to any forenames.”

“Therefore, as per the requirements of the 1975 law, any person who wishes to include additional names, must first follow the legal procedure and thereafter furnish the FEO with the Deed Poll or a duly issued new birth certificate from the registry.”

He said operationally the FEO had always taken a liberal approach towards the issue.

“However, our experience in the 2014 and 2018 General Elections has resulted in the finding that quite a lot of people who had adopted other names faced difficulties when they use the voter card for their purposes as the names do not match the registered name,” said the Supervisor of Elections.

“This results in the person having to either apply for a correction of details or the person having to provide Statutory Declaration of the alias through a Justice of Peace or Commissioner for Oaths.”

Applications received

Mr Saneem stated that the Elections Office received 11,536 applications for correction of details from voters last year even though it was not an election year.

He further clarified that the birth certificate or a certified true copy of it will be returned to the voter once it was sighted by FEO and details are verified on the Elections Voter Registration System.

“The presence of various other names also makes the task of data matching with birth and death records rather difficult and complex. This presents hindrance in ensuring the Voters Roll can be verified at any point in time.”

Mr Saneem stressed that it was in everyone’s interest to have the most accurate voter roll when it comes to elections.

Edited by Percy Kean

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