Electoral reform won’t happen before the elections in August

POSTED: 06/19/14 11:57 PM

GREAT BAY – Changes to the ordinances that regulate the elections will not happen before the August 29 elections, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing. “Changes to the ordinances is certainly not something I expect to happen before the elections. Absolutely not,” the prime minister said.

Wescot-Williams said that she did “not get a clear feel” that Parliament was interested in the changes to the electoral system she has proposed previously. Part of these proposals were the electoral law itself, amendments to the ordinance that regulates the registration and financing of political parties,, the rules of order of Parliament, and a covenant between parties and their candidates. Another idea – as proposed by Parliament – was to remove the black curtains from the voting booths.

The purpose of this last measure was to prevent people from taking pictures of their ballots – a sure method to collect cash for a vote from the party they voted for. However, during the municipal elections in the Netherlands in March, when many people, including politicians, suddenly started to make “stemfies” (pictures of themselves with their ballot), it became clear that there is no law that forbids citizens to take such pictures and to share them with others.

Removing the black curtains would require a general decree, but the government has second thoughts about this initiative, Wescot-Williams said. “There is a feeling that removing the black curtains could infringe on the secrecy of someone’s vote.”

Pointing out the lack of a legal basis for a ban on taking pictures in the voting booth, Wescot-Williams said yesterday: “If people feel like making this public with a selfie, then what? The Government of St. Maarten is running behind in these discussions. We have had long discussions, first about putting those curtains up, now about taking them down. While we are looking at the conventional arguments, in terms of secrecy, technology has put up different questions.”

Asked if she would make a “stemfie” on Election Day the prime minister said jokingly, “I just might.”

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